Socialization for Your Baby
Socialization plays an important role in a baby’s development. Exposure to others – other children and other adults – can help children learn, even from a very young age, about voices, conversations, facial expressions and emotions. Even just hearing two other adults talking can help babies learn language and turn taking!
What is Socialization?
You may not have realized it, but from birth, socialization is happening. Holding your baby, feeding your baby and talking to your baby are all ways we socialize newborns starting on day one. Learning about family is part of how children learn that they are part of a larger community.
Around three or four months old, infants are ready to socialize with larger groups. Especially when supported by a parent or trusted caregiver, babies are interested in exploring new environments. They can check out other babies and interact with new toys. As they get more mobile and start to crawl and walk, they’ll be interested in exploring even more.
Whether you choose playdates, structured play groups, classes or day care, babies learn socialization skills best when exposed to a variety of people, places and stimuli. Socialization skills often vary between small quieter groups or larger, more active settings. While they are young, children usually engage in “parallel play,” meaning that children play independently side-by-side instead of interacting with other children. Interactive play usually doesn’t occur until toddlerhood.
Not sure how you can socialize your baby? Here are some great ideas:
- Find a parent support group near you. When your baby is an infant, socialization often occurs for babies while parents find support networking with other moms and dads.
- Work out at Mommy (or Daddy) and Me exercise groups or yoga classes.
- Start a neighborhood playgroup.
- Join a baby music or art class.
- Visit playgrounds and museums.
Your Role as a Parent
Spend time face to face with your baby. Even when your baby can only babble and coo, talk to your baby. Make faces and watch as your infant learns to imitate them. Expose your baby to other family and friends. However, don’t be concerned if your child eventually develops stranger anxiety and/or separation anxiety. Many babies do exhibit these fears around 7 months old, and they usually peak when a child is a little over a year old.
It’s also your role as a parent to guide your child through socialization. Help your child with his emotions, especially as he grows from a baby into a toddler. Talk about emotions you feel yourself, that you see in your child, and that you notice in others. If your child becomes overwhelmed or frustrated with new situations or people, find ways to help your child calm down, including stepping away from the stressor for a few minutes.
If you’re not into organized socialization, that’s perfectly fine. Your baby can develop social skills just by accompanying you in your daily routine. As you interact with the world, your child will be watching and learning. Until approximately age three, your son or daughter can get plenty of socialization just from family. After that age, preschool is a great option for increased socialization and structured learning through play.