Developing social skills is an important part of your child’s growth. He needs to learn how to share his things, consider others, communicate well, and have a positive self-image in order to grow into a mature, emotionally balanced adult. Your child also needs to learn how to feed, wash, and dress himself and go to the toilet.
You can do lots of things to aid your child’s progress. Get him to socialise with other children, expose him to new environments on holidays and at playgroups, give him lots of love and affection, and praise and encourage him. All of these help him develop confidence, sociability, and independence.
From birth to 24 months
For the first month, your baby’s totally dependent on you. He communicates through touch, his eyes, crying, and smiling. He learns how to interact with you by watching your facial expressions.
By 3 months, your baby expresses his happiness and discomfort through different facial expressions. He enjoys touching and being held by you. At 5 months, he may be a little clingy and anxious about being separated from you or having to deal with strangers. He may play alongside other children, but not necessarily with them – this is known as parallel play.
By 6 months, your baby may be more accepting of other children. At 9 months, your baby’s familiar with his family and may still be wary of strangers. At 1 year, he’s affectionate towards you and enjoys playing with you. He may demand his own way. At 15 months, he’s keen to get out into the world and explore his environment – as long as you’re close by! He begins to use single words to communicate and points to express his meaning. He starts to develop a sense of himself as a person. He knows that he needs the toilet, but he isn’t yet able to control his bladder.
By 18 months, your child’s vocabulary has increased and he communicates more easily. He may express stronger emotions such as fear or anger. He signals that he needs to go to the toilet, and he can undress himself.
From 2 to 4 years
At 2–3 years, your child’s a lot more independent and able to feed himself with a fork and spoon, use the toilet, and wash and dress himself without your help. He may be prone to temper tantrums. He likes to pretend play – act out ideas and copy what you do – and parallel play – play alongside, but not with, other children.
At 3 years, your child is more aware of other children and more likely to interact with them – known as cooperative play – by sharing roles and activities. He may have a special friend and be less egocentric.
By age 4, your child forms longer-lasting bonds and friendships. He may have friends of the same sex. He can wash his hands and face and clean his teeth. By age 5, he can tie his shoelaces.
From 5 to 7 years
By school age, your child has more awareness of a special or ‘best’ friend and knows who he likes to play with – although this may change from day to day. He begins to be more social, as he’s now interacting with teachers, other children, and other adults. As a result, he start to develop values and becomes aware of what is and isn’t socially acceptable. He gains independence and confidence. Play time becomes more complex and competitive, with games such as hide-and-seek and school sports. Being popular with his peers is very important and has a huge impact on his self-esteem. This is an important and scary time in your child’s life, so talk to him regularly about school, his friends, and his feelings.