Social emotional development: Kid’s Milestones at Different Ages

Does your child imitate your actions and expressions? Is your kid smiling at you for the first time? Does your kiddo feel happy/upset at times?  Did your child enjoy being around other kids? Does your kid expand his/her friend circle? The process by which kids begin to realise who they are, how they are thinking, and what they anticipate while communicating with others is known as social emotional development. This article gives more details about the social-emotional developmental milestones of children.

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What is social emotional development?

Social emotional development of kids starts from birth. From their birth to 5 years of age, children learn and adapt quickly in each of the four developmental domains which includes verbal and communication skills, motor skills, cognitive skills and social-emotional skills. The child’s understanding, interpretation, and handling of emotions as well as their capacity to build healthy relationships with others are all components of social emotional development. Also, all other developmental domains are influenced by social emotional development of kids. The strongest impact on a child’s social emotional development is exerted by their parents and also other primary caretaker since they provide the most secure interactions.

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Concepts of social emotional development

Attachment (with others) and Temperament (with self) are the two concepts of social emotional development.


The temperament can be referred to as a child’s “character” or “taste,” and it is unique to them. It affects a child’s attitude and social interactions. According to researchers, temperament has three different divisions,

  • Easy or adaptable- Calm, carefree and companionable kids
  • Energetic or spunky- Cranky, exhibit strong emotions, and become easily disturbed.
  • Sensitive or conservative- Timid, pessimistic responses

This can influence a kid’s behaviour and help them fit in well with their surroundings, which is exactly what is meant by “goodness of fit.”

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Parental attachment to the child is the first step in the child’s social emotional development. This connection enables the mother to comfort her baby and quickly respond to his/her demands. When parents are available all the time for the baby during their first year of life, the kid will  gain “trust”  in the parents. This eventually makes the kid search for their parents all the time. These aspects are termed as “attachment” and it influences the child’s interactions with others.

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Importance of social emotional development in kids


A big element of social emotional development is communication skill. Babies start communicating through emotions even before they learn language. Your child’s verbal and nonverbal communication skills, vocabulary, and pronunciation all grow with social emotional development. People are more open to what your child says when they communicate effectively, which is crucial for their future professional and personal lives.

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Social emotional development for kids aids in their social adjustment. Additionally, it gives kids the confidence they need to face difficulties like finding friends, dealing with bullies, asserting themselves, and coping with peer pressure and social anxiety.

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Social emotional development can give a positive personality to kids which can eventually boosts one’s self-confidence. It is simpler for your youngster to be less worried when meeting new people when they are well-groomed, aware of what to say and how to act.

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Milestones for social emotional development in kids

Social and emotional development requires patience and a lot of time. However, our experiences will tend to mould us throughout our lifetime. Early interactions with parents, siblings, close relatives and classmates also have a significant influence on social and emotional development. Here is the social-emotional developmental milestones of kids according to their age:

0-3 month old babies
  • A mother’s attention may very well be recognized by the baby.
  • The baby soon begins to observe his mother’s face.
  • The baby reacts to light touch and recognises the voice and scent of his mother.
  • After two months, babies can employ different facial expressions to
    convey emotions in the right situations.
  • Babies will begin to manage their physiological activities.
  • He gradually gains the ability to control his emotions and calm himself. Example: Thumb sucking to sleep

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4-6 month old babies
  • The babies will develop stress-management skills.
  • Babies will start to make sounds.
  • Improve the attentiveness to their environment
  • Try to imitate the moves of parents.

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6-12 month old babies
  • Discomfort and fear begins to develop  when strangers are around as they differentiate between the familiar and unknown faces.
  • The baby develops emotional connection with parents
  • Babies will seek their parents for safety and support and for involving them in playtime.
  • When the baby is separated from parents, he will become sad.
  • They will find delight in seeing themselves in the mirror.
  • Recognize word meanings and respond to them.
  • Like to play games like peek-a-boo and they will wave their hands at us.

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12 to 18 months old kids
  • Interested to play with other kids
  • Begin to roleplay. For example, cooking like mom.
  • Attempts things for the first time around close relatives.
  • Gives stuff like toys to other people while playing.
  • Express their emotions by throwing tantrums, being affectionate with family members and friends, being afraid of strangers.
  • They will start to point out things to their parents.

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2 year old kids
  • Kids start to develop their personal identity after 18 months of their age.
  • Increasingly expresses independence
  • Act against our instructions.
  • Mimics other adults.
  • They will get to know how to control their emotions in a socially appropriate way.

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3 year old kids
  • The kid is more engaged in playtime, has learned to control his anger, is developing teamwork and sharing knowledge and skills. 
  • They have a strong imagination but they are not able to differentiate between fact and fiction.
  • They will be scared of dark, ghosts, monsters etc 

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4 year old kids
  • They acquire the ability to tell the difference between fact and fiction at the age of 4.
  • They love performing pranks on people.
  • Their creativity will be enhanced.
  • They will interact actively with others while playing and occasionally resolve issues.
  • They will convey their preferences.
  • Discuss to one another rather than yelling, pushing, or crying.
  • They will do their daily task on their own.

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5 year old kids
  • Understands the difference between fact and fiction.
  • Knows to differentiate between boy and girl.
  • They would like to have more friends.
  • They will enjoy dancing or singing.
  • The kids are able to follow simple rules and instructions. 
  • They start to pick up some social skills like complimenting others and expressing regret for accidental faults. 

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6 to 10 year old kids
  • They will have a strong knowledge about family relationships and are able to handle simple tasks.
  • He gains more effective coping strategies and continues to grow morally.
  • Kids at this age experiment with novel approaches and interests, and their friends might question their opinions.
  • Kids will have best buddies.
  • Children of this age will develop confidence in making decisions.

Kids can gain self-confidence and flourish in school, the workplace, and also other areas of their life by developing social-emotional skills.

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Tips to improve social emotional development in children

Parents are the first teachers of their kids. They can try some tips to improve the social emotional development of their kids by following methods.

  • Be a role model
  • Support your kid’s feelings and actions
  • Ask more questions to them 
  • Tell them stories to make them understand about the social and cultural norms.
  • Motivate your kids to explore their talents and attempt new stuff.
  • Start to play with your kids to educate how to accept failures and celebrate success.
  • Talk with your kids when they feel sad.

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