Babies: from birth to 18 months

How children express and manage their emotions, and how they interact with others and when alone, is generally what is meant by social and emotional development. 

Social and emotional development is concerned with feelings, expectations of others, identity, sense of belonging, personal development, secure relationships, celebrating difference and so much more. From the very moment every child is born, their social-emotional development is affected by the quality of nurturing and positive experiences and relationships around them, and, social-emotional development immediately begins to affect all other areas of development – cognitive, motor and language development.

“Self-regulation is a set of critical skills for preschoolers that affects children socially, behaviorally and academically.  Unfortunately, children often begin (school) without important skills, such as being able to follow directions, stay on task with focused attention and regulate their own emotions using concrete strategies…poor development of self-regulation is linked with aggressive behavior, low academic achievement, delinquency and higher dropout rates. Fortunately, self-regulation skills can be taught during the preschool years and development of these skills happens rapidly.  Children can learn the behavioral strategies  such as regulating emotions, controlling and resisting impulses and exerting self-control – skills essential for social-emotional competence and academic success.” (


Who am I?

  • During his first year, your baby focuses mainly on discovering what he can do such as grabbing, picking up objects, walking and interacting with you. He’ll enjoy seeing other people but will definitely prefer you and your partner for company.

Tip: Have soft, big toys and objects that can keep the baby busy and always make sure that they are clean and not chewable so that explorations can freely happen.

  • Around the time they turn two, babies begin to enjoy playing with other children. But as with any other skill, they will need to learn how to socialise by trial and error. At first, they will be unable to share toys. Later, they will become a better friend as they learn how to empathise with their playmates. An active social life helps your baby make and keep friends.

Tip:  Give your baby a chance to be with other children of the same age and slightly older. Expand their social circle beyond just family and close friends by visiting people you do not see regularly or join a playgroup.

Who loves me and looks after me?

  • Even newborns are social creatures! Babies love to be touched, held, cooed to, and smiled at. During the first month, babies begin to experiment with making faces at you. You will eventually also see their first smile.

Tip: Stick out your tongue and make other fun faces. Enjoy as baby does the same.

  • By two months, babies spend lots of time watching what goes on around them and they listen to and tune in to their primary caregivers.

Tip: Move around regularly in the home, changing what they can see. Stimulate their world view. Remember to talk to them as you do so.


Who do I love and look after?

  • At four months, baby becomes more open to new people, greeting them with squeals and glee but still, no one comes close to the primary caregivers. Babies also love visitors, young and old alike.

Tip: If he cries when you put him in an unfamiliar relative’s arms, take him back and try this process: First wait until he is comfortable in your arms while the other person is around. Then, have the person talk and play with your baby while you hold him. Then, hand him over to the other person for a short time, and stay close, preferably talking.

Special Note: Separation anxiety often peaks sometime between 10 and 18 months, but can appear anywhere between 6 and 20 months. 

  • As babies become more mobile, they may start to take an interest in other babies. They will happily play alongside another baby, and once in a while, they will smile, coo and imitate each other’s sounds.

Tip: Toddlers can benefit from having peers around, so arrange to have friends over to play. Make sure you have plenty of stimulating and safe objects or toys if possible. Have enough for everyone because children this age have difficulty sharing things with others!