Page 1 Created with Sketch.

Recommended reading Becoming a social being Stages: Birth to 2 months Stages: 3 to 6 months

Communicating and being social

Right from birth, babies are motivated to become social beings. They’re looking for human contact, and are responsive to the ways people communicate with them.

From birth to 6 months, development is focused on senses, speech, motor and face recognition.

Communication in the first month

In the first month or so, touch is the main vehicle for communication. Parents hold, stroke, touch and rock baby to convey soothing and communication. Babies recognise and pay attention to maternal odour, voice and eyes.

Communication in the second month

By 2 months old, babies have a strong desire to respond socially. They hold eye contact and exhibit intentionally social behaviours such as smiling, and making gestures and noises.

Testing their environment

A baby at this age can discriminate between smiling and frowning facial expressions, and

they’re learning whether they can trust their environment. They test to see what happens, and test again to see if it happens again. Baby is relying on another human being to help baby to understand the world.

Being attentive to baby

An attentive parent will recognise baby’s attempts to engage them. By responding to the baby’s expressions, sounds and gestures in a careful and well-paced manner, the parent will encourage baby’s attempts to be part of the conversation.

Baby’s expanding focus

In the next couple of months, baby’s vision improves and they begin to reach for and grab objects. The conversation moves outwards — it’s not just about face-to-face communication anymore. Previously the interactions have been about ‘being together’. Now, other objects and parts of the body become part of the focus.

Interaction now takes the form of playing with objects and games that involve the body — for example, songs or finger games.

Social time with books

Sharing books with a baby also gives them an opportunity to learn some social skills. They’re being held and talked with, and the adult is sharing about what they’re looking at together. Baby is taking their cues from the trusted adult — ‘If he’s interested in it, I might be too’.

Tips for Whānau supporters

For more information, please visit the Whānau Supporters page.