search Menu

Social development in babies and toddlers

Teddy bear

Our babies are sociable little things and their development in personal and social skills starts right at the beginning of their lives. From a tiny age, babies and children learn to develop trust for their parents and caregivers and other important people in their lives. They also learn self-care in looking after themselves and the ability to care for others too.  

Seeing other people 

Your baby has most likely spent a lot of time lately with just your household. So one thing you may notice is that she may seem reluctant to go to granny or auntie if she's not seen them for a while. This is a normal reaction and will improve as her memory grows. You are her main caregiver and the person she sees every dayEncourage simple and gentle interaction with important people in her life so she begins to develop positive associations. Just tell granny it doesn’t mean she doesn’t like her! 

The hesitant behaviour can continue through the first year and into her second year too. Again gentle, calming voices and slow steps to help little ones gain confidence. 

Separation anxiety 

Your baby may cry when you leave the room or if you go out for an evening. Although we’ve all been there when our baby cries when we just go off to the loo..! Leaving your baby or toddler with someone else can be difficult for you both. Remember this does helps to develop confidence around other important people in her life, but it should be taken slowly. Talk and reassure your little one, letting her know it’s ok and that youre there for her still.  

Communicating with you 

Your baby has many ways to communicate with you before she learns to speakYou may be presented with a book – this is a strong sign that your baby wants a story! She may keep bringing you books too but what she’s really asking for is that close time with you. Take time to read the story she’s chosen, even if she wants to skip through the pages at a fast pace!  

She may continue bringing you toys to show, games to play and activities to do as she grows older. They learn how to share, take turns and be patient by doing this. Thinking of language development, it’s great to have a conversation about that spoon she has brought to show you and that pretend pie from her little kitchen! 

Being independent 

Soon she will want to be feeding herself too. Encourage this skill and let her get messy! Make sure you are always close by when she’s eating though.  

Getting ready or getting dressed may become slightly more of a game too – she will want to help by putting her arms through clothes or trying to do up zips and buttons. Reward her self-care and give lots of praise. 

As she gets older you’ll notice she’ll happily move away from you to explore a little more independently, but will be checking back to see you are there all the time. Giving eye contact and recognition that she is exploring safely and doing a good job will encourage those skills further.  

Toddler tantrums 

In social situations such as toddler groups or at the park, you may notice your 2 year old being especially happy in the company of other children and may also want to copy what they are doing too.  

You may also notice the tantrums and the defiant behaviour (sorry!). I think we’ve all seen it haven’t we? 

Your toddler is learning at a fast rate and is trying to make sense of her place in the world. She may see older siblings or friends doing things she wants to do but you know she is too young. So what do they do? Throw a tantrum. And it always seems to be in a really busy supermarket or park. Remain calm and measured. Your child is simply pushing her boundaries. Reward positive behaviours once she comes out of her tantrum, but make sure you and other family members all do the same thing as consistency is key.  

For more information on your baby or toddler’s development, visit our support and advice pages. If you have any concerns about your child’s development, you can contact your health visitor. 

About the author

Kirstie is the Professional Development Lead Health Visiting and Infant Feeding Lead for Berkshire Healthcare