Photo: Maree Vesseur
Did you know that our social skills start developing from the moment we’re born? Babies learn very quickly how to pay attention to the world around them. They begin to navigate interaction with others and learn how to communicate.
Social skills are the skills we use daily to interact and get along with others. They are the ways we talk, play and work together that facilitate communication and underpin our relationships.
What are the early social skills your baby will be developing?
Birth to 6 months
Your baby will startle when they hear loud sounds
They will respond to voices and sounds around them
She will turn her head towards the source of a sound
He will watch your face when you are speaking to him
Your baby will be able to distinguish between strangers and familiar people
She will stop crying when you talk to her
He will give a variety of responses to different people in different situations
They will smile when you speak to them
Your baby will show a social smile
They will make babbling sounds to get your attention or express their wants and demands
Early on, your baby will establish eye contact with you
6 to 12 months
Your baby will start to listen and respond to you when you say “no”
They will react when you use their name
She will pay attention to herself in the mirror
He will point to objects and people and will begin to learn new words
Your baby will try to “talk” with you, making sounds, noises, eye contact and facial expressions
They will be making lots of cooing noises and squeals to get your attention
You will enjoy the sound of their laughter when they play with objects
She will be communicating effectively with you using actions and gestures
He will recognise and smile at himself in the mirror
They will enjoy social games like peek-a-boo and pat-a-cake
Your baby will begin to copy the simple actions they see others do
By now, your baby will be shouting to attract your attention
How can you help your baby develop their social skills?
Spend lots of time getting face-to-face with your baby so they can see your facial expressions and make eye contact with you
Copy the noises and sounds that they make, pause and wait for them to ‘speak’ again
Take time to have conversations with your baby. Remember that they are listening to you and love to hear your voice. Pause and give them time to respond.
Use animated facial expressions and gestures to hold their attention
Spend time with your baby in front of the mirror. Help them to recognise their image
Play cooperative games like peek-a-boo, Row Row Your Boat, Round and Round the Garden
Talk to them face to face when you are changing them
Play tickle games - tickle them or blow raspberries on them, then wait for a reaction. Show a look of anticipation on your face and in your body. When they react, tickle them again
Sing songs and nursery rhymes to them while you’re face-to-face
Make the most of all the face-to-face time you have while feeding, changing them, putting them in car seats, and sitting in the high chair. Get down on their level so they can clearly see your eyes and facial expressions and hear your voice.
Why worry about social skills?
Social skills are essential for engaging appropriately with others. They affect our conversations and interactions with others during work, play, in the classroom and social settings. Social skills are crucial for building all levels of relationships.
Children and adults who find it challenging to understand pragmatic language and navigate interactions may have difficulties:
Building relationships in the community, such as in sporting groups
Developing working relationships
Collaborating with others at work or school
Responding appropriately during interactions with family, friends and unfamiliar people
Developing an understanding and awareness of social expectations in given situations and mastering the appropriate social skills
They may be perceived as rude or inappropriate
What to do next?
Check out our related blogs for more information about social skill development in adults and children.
If you are concerned that your child is not developing social skills, it’s never too early or too late to chat with a speech pathologist. We can ease your mind about your child’s abilities and create a tailor-made plan to support your child in developing their social skills.