From infancy through school age, your child goes through various important stages of social development. Every child is different, but most reach the same milestones near the same time as their peers. Your child's social development may be more difficult to track than his physical development, but it is equally important because it affects his self-esteem and relationship skills throughout his life.
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In the Beginning
Your baby responds to you from the moment she is born, but it will be a while before she masters the necessary social skills to form relationships. According to the BabyCenter article "Your Child's Social Timelines," as early as 3 months, your infant may be making faces at you and imitating your facial expressions. Eye contact will increase during the birth to 3-month stage. Between 3 and 6 months, she may be smiling frequently and responding to her name. At this stage, she's realizing she's an individual -- not part of her mom. By the time she reaches her first birthday, she may be interested in observing other babies and children and mimicking their actions, although she's still too young to play with them.
Toddler Talking and Tantrums
During the toddler stage, your child's language skills will be improving, which helps him form relationships. However, he may still prefer playing alone, says the article "Social-Emotional Development: 12 to 24 Months," on the Zero to Three website. When he does begin to reach out to other children to play, his style will be unsophisticated. He doesn't understand how to share or cooperate, meaning hitting, yelling and crying are all common aspects of toddlers' social interaction. Some toddlers begin to show a preference for particular friends around the age of 24 months, BabyCenter reports.
During the preschool stage -- 3 to 5 years old -- your child is better equipped to verbalize her emotions, instead of communicating through physical gestures or aggressive behavior. Greater confidence and independence allows her to explore relationships on her own terms, says PBS Parents. She is learning to share, take turns, show empathy and display patience when socializing with other children.
From around the age of 6, your child may have a best friend -- although who that is may change on a regular basis. According to PBS Parents, he may have the social skills necessary to handle longer play dates and sleepovers -- respect, patience and kindness. The early grade schooler may still require a lot of parental guidance, supervision and reassurance, but the need for this will decrease as he moves toward adolescence.