Social-Emotional Milestones to Watch For: Months 7-12

The healthy development of your child sets the stage for their future success in school and in life. Many factors will contribute to his or her development and interest in learning—health, nutrition, vision, and hearing—but above all, your and other caregivers’ support and stimulation, starting at birth.

As Dr. Harold Ireton acknowledged decades ago when he first identified a child’s developing skills from infancy to school age, children are social beings. They have a strong interest in being with and being accepted by others.

A child’s social-emotional development creates the context in which they develop and exercise all of their other abilities, e.g., motor skills and language skills. That’s why it’s so important for parents and caregivers to help foster their child’s social-emotional development whenever and however possible.

We’ve identified four important social-emotional milestones for you to watch for, promote, and celebrate during months 7 through 12.

7 months: Your little one gets upset if left alone

Before baby learns object permanence—the realization that things exist even when they disappear from view—he or she is less likely to cry when left alone. But, with a grasp of object permanence comes separation anxiety. And with separation anxiety comes upset when baby is left alone. Reassure baby by popping back into the room frequently until he or she calms down. Letting baby “cry it out” is not an appropriate option.

If your little one starts crying in the next room, try calling out with assurances that you are nearby to see if he or she settles down. If crying continues, check on baby to make sure all is well.

8 months: Your little one learns to play peekaboo

Once your baby begins looking for objects that have fallen from the highchair tray or that are partially hidden by a blanket, it’s clear that his or her memory is improving and that a grasp of object permanence is emerging. Thus, it’s understandable that baby’s favorite game may now be peekaboo. Rather than being startled or scared by your disappearance and sudden reappearance, baby finds it fun and funny.

Remember that you cannot force your little one to learn object permanence—baby must come to that realization on his or her own. Encourage this understanding by playing peekaboo and other games involving hidden items.

10 months: Baby learns to play patty cake

Most babies delight in repetition, and it’s good for their developing brains, too. That’s why playing patty cake is such a great social activity. At first, seat baby facing you in your lap and take his or her hands in your own. Clap hands to the rhythm, and make patting and rolling motions for “pat it” and “roll it”; use baby’s finger to “draw” a “B,” or to point at baby. Once baby can clap independently, sit facing each other and try cross-clapping. Simply alternate clapping your hands together and then clapping baby’s hands with your hands.

11 months: Your little one waves ‘bye-bye’ for the first time

When you’re holding your little one while waving goodbye to a visitor, you might turn to baby and say, “Wave ‘bye-bye.’” Baby may not yet comprehend what you’re saying, but may imitate your actions just as he or she imitates sounds you make. This imitation occurs because baby learns early on that you respond positively when he or she imitates you. Eventually, baby will realize that “Wave ‘bye-bye’” means to wave goodbye to someone who’s leaving.

Each time you reinforce your little one’s wave by responding warmly to his or her actions, you’re helping baby gain a grasp of language. Consider teaching baby sign language that uses gestures to communicate.