Infant Milestones

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Social Emotional

This area of development involves learning to interact with other people and to understand and control your own emotions. Babies start to develop relationships with the people around them right from birth, but the process of learning to communicate, share, and interact with others takes many years to develop. Developing the ability to control your emotions and behavior is also a long process. Children continue to develop their social-emotional skills well into their teenage years, or even young adulthood.

Below are some of the typical developmental milestones for social-emotional skills. After each age group, you can find some “red flags” that might indicate a concern.

Please also see communication skills for more information about early development because speech and language skills are so important for effective social development.


Between the ages of 0-3 months, your baby will:

  • See clearly within 13 inches from her face
  • Be comforted by a familiar adult
  • Respond positively to touch
  • Quiet when picked up
  • Listen to voices
  • Smile and show pleasure in response to social stimulation
Between the ages of 3-6 months, your baby will:
  • Give warm smiles and laughs
  • Recognize faces
  • Cry when upset and seek comfort
  • Show excitement by waving arms and legs
  • Notice a difference between two people based on the way they look, sound, or feel
  • Smile at herself in the mirror
  • Enjoy looking at other babies
  • Pay attention to her own name
  • Laugh aloud

Between the ages of 6-9 months, your baby will:

  • Express several different clear emotions
  • Play games like Peek-a-boo
  • Show displeasure at the loss of a toy
  • Respond to you when you talk to her or make gestures
  • Start to understand your different emotions (for example, your baby might frown when you speak in an angry tone of voice)
  • Show more comfort around familiar people, and anxiety around strangers
  • Possibly comfort herself by sucking thumb, or holding a special toy or blanket

Red Flags for Social-Emotional Development (9 months)

If you notice some of the following things by the time your baby is 8-9 months old, you may want to talk to your doctor, or to another health professional such as an Infant Development Consultant, speech-language pathologist, or occupational therapist.

  • Your child is not responding to sounds
  • Your child is not smiling or responding to you the way you expect
  • Your child avoids close contact or cuddling
  • Your child is inconsolable at night
  • Your child can’t seem to self-soothe or calm herself
  • Your child has no interest in games like peek-a-boo

Between the ages of 9-12 months, your baby will:

  • Show happiness to see her parents’ face, her toys, or a mirror
  • Know strangers from his family, and cry when his parent goes away
  • Give affection and love
  • Pay attention to simple commands such as "no" and "give it to me"
  • Respond by turning to look when you call her name
  • Imitate some of your actions (e.g. waving, pretending to talk on the phone)
  • Have fear with new situations
  • Understand the word “no”, but will not always obey

Red Flags for Social-Emotional Development (12 months)

If you notice some of the following things by the time your baby is 12 months old, you may want to talk to your doctor or to another health professional such as an Infant Development Consultant,  speech-language pathologist, or occupational therapist

  • He is not showing interest in other children his age
  • She does not respond to you the way you expect her to
  • He has extreme difficulty waiting for something he wants
  • She is very rigid about her routine, food items, clothing, etc
  • He has limited or fleeting eye contact with others
  • She does not imitate any of your actions
  • She does not respond when you call her name
  • He does not follow your point when you try to show something, or bring attention to something
  • She doesn’t take turns in a simple turn-taking game like chase or peek-a-boo
If you have concerns about your child, please feel free to contact us to speak to a professional. You can also make a referral to our program at anytime.

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