Developmental Milestone: Social Skills for Children | Ivy Rehab (2023)

Developmental Milestone: Social Skills for Children | Ivy Rehab (1)

09-7-22 - Pediatrics

Social skills are a way of communicating with others that creates healthy and positive interactions. Children with age-appropriate social skills can communicate clearly, calmly, and respectfully with adults and their peers. They also show consideration for the feelings and interests of others.

It’s important that social skills for children are built on and developed from early childhood. Of course, they’re not learned at once but refined throughout child development milestones.

The importance of social skills

Good social skills provide many benefits to young children in many social situations and interactions. Additionally, such skills can often lead to success in many areas from school settings to personal lives.

Social skills help children:

  • Form positive relationships
  • Have conversations
  • Develop body language
  • Cooperate
  • Share
  • Play together

Having well-developed social skills also leads to improved mental capacity, cognitive abilities, and overall mental health.

Basic social skills start to develop in a newborn between birth and four weeks old when a child is learning how to interact with their caregivers and environment. Social communication for a young child at this age may look like:

  • Smiling
  • Making eye contact
  • Imitating
  • Crying

How family members react to their child’s social skills will teach them how to respond in the future to meet their wants and needs. Social milestones may be affected or enforced by how a parent reacts to a situation because children will observe others to learn behaviors. How adults model behaviors when responding to fear, surprises, other adults, children, and more will be processed by a child and influence the child’s responses.

(Video) Developmental Milestones: Steps for Childhood Success

Social emotional learning in child development

These basic social skills learned early on are also related to a child’s emotional development as they learn how to respond to:

  • Conflict resolution
  • Active listening
  • Empathy
  • Relationship management
  • Self-control
  • Basic etiquette like when to say “please” or “thank you”
  • Making eye contact
  • Learning the names of casual acquaintances
  • Apology
  • Asking questions during a conversation
  • Reading body language
  • And more

Social and emotional development are connected by a child’s experience, reaction to the experience, and how to regulate their response depending on their experience. This is important for building relationships with their peers as they enter school-age and into adolescence.

If a child does not express age-appropriate social interaction or emotional regulation, it may affect their relationships with others and their ability to self-regulate.

All children are unique and may not reach these milestones at the same time as other children; however, if you are concerned about your child’s social and emotional development, please consider how Occupational Therapy could benefit your child.

What are the milestones of social development during childhood?

Social development in childhood often looks like play. It considers how a child interacts with their caregivers and later their peers. A child is also developing emotionally while developing their social skills.

You may notice some emotional responses present in social settings that are new to your child or possibly overwhelming for your child. You can encourage social development by talking to your child and facilitating socializing with other children as soon as you feel comfortable.Here’s what social behavior can look like for different milestones:


Toddlers begin to learn how to interact with others. As they develop and perceive their individuality within their community, they also gain skills to communicate with others and process their actions.


Preschool-aged children begin regulating emotions, sharing with others, and following directions. These skills in early childhood lay the foundation for developing literacy, numeracy, and other cognitive abilities critical for success in school and life for a young child.


School-age children are advancing toward adolescence, and peer friendships become very important in their social and emotional development. Their sense of independence increases, along with their confidence to solve problems and perhaps take risks. In adolescence, healthy emotional development is marked by a gradually increasing ability to perceive, assess and manage emotions. This biological process is driven by physical and cognitive changes and is heavily influenced by context and environment.

(Video) Developmental Milestones 0-2 years | शिशु का विकास-जन्म से लेकर 2 साल तक| Pediatric Physiotherapy

Examples of places you can take your child to socialize include:

  • Play Groups
  • Sports or Tumble Classes
  • Library
  • Camp
  • Local Activities
  • Parks or Playgrounds
  • Children’s Museum
  • Relative’s house or family gatherings

This will build up their social behavior skills in an age-appropriate setting and increase their confidence in their ability to communicate and play with others. By encouraging these interactions when age-appropriate, you can also promote positive experiences and model behaviors appropriate in these settings.

This may look like:

  • Teaching a child how to introduce themselves
  • Interacting with appropriate manners
  • Following instructions
  • Asking for help

As a child ages, these social interactions and settings will look different, but encouraging an independence-seeking child to join clubs or school programs they are interested in will continue to form their social skill development.

Social Skills Development Delays

Social interactions and skills can be categorized by different milestones reached throughout childhood. Many factors can impact your child and the development of their social skills, and others should be considered before addressing any potential delay.

Some factors that impact social skill development include:

  • Trouble understanding social cues
  • Communication with others
  • Carrying on a two-way conversation
  • Difficulty with self-control
  • Language barriers
  • Mental health issues
  • Genetic or hereditary condition
  • Learning disabilities
  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Stressful situations
  • Sensory processing
  • Sensory regulation

These factors can be addressed through Occupational Therapy. The therapist can understand what may be impacting a child’s ability to socialize appropriately and can help implement the appropriate strategies to help. Getting a head start on this will help down the line with other important language developmental milestones.

It is also crucial to understand that your child may not be experiencing a delay in social skills. They may be using other methods of socialization and communication due to how their brain processes information in their environment. This will also be considered when providing strategies to encourage social skills outside of Occupational Therapy.

What social milestones should my child have?

Some social milestones, and related emotional milestones, by age, include:

Infants and Babies

Birth to 2 months

  • Smiling
  • Looking at caregiver
  • Crying to have their needs met
  • Self-soothes by sucking on hand or fingers

4 months

(Video) Developmental Milestones for Gross Motor 0-12 Months | OT Miri

  • Begins to imitate facial expressions
  • Smiles more spontaneously
  • Develops awareness of surroundings

6 months

  • Crying, laughing, or smiling in response to the caregiver’s emotions
  • Can differentiate familiar faces and strangers
  • Likes to look at their face in a mirror

9 months

  • Shows stranger danger
  • May cry if their caregiver leaves the room
  • Learns the meaning of a few words

12 months

  • Shows preference of people they want to be with
  • Enjoys games like “peek-a-boo”
  • May show fear in new environments or anxiety to new people
  • Imitates sounds or actions

Toddler and Preschool age

18 months to 2 years

  • May become upset when trying to communicate
  • May assert independence
  • Engages in pretend play, will imitate what adults or other children do during this play
  • Engages in side-by-side, or parallel, play with other children
  • More frequent temper tantrums
  • Does not understand what others think or feel (empathy)

3 to 4 years

  • Can be spontaneously kind or caring
  • Engage in cooperative play (child playing with others and showing interest in the other children and the activity)
  • Uses words to communicate needs
  • May still have tantrums if there is a change in routine or not getting what they want
  • Begins to express a broader range of emotions
  • Separate from caregiver more easily
  • Begins to share toys with others

Elementary school-age

5 to 6 years

  • More aware of following rules
  • Enjoys cooperative play
  • More conversational and independent
  • Can understand embarrassment
  • Understands other’s feelings
  • May test boundaries

7 to 8 years

  • Tries to fit in
  • Expands their vocabulary, including emotional vocabulary
  • May complain about other children’s reactions
  • Greater awareness of their surroundings
  • More aware of the perceptions of others
  • Wants to behave appropriately but may not attend to directions
  • They try to express feelings with words, but if they are unable to they may resort to aggression or tantrums

9 to 10 years

  • Concerned about rules and could lead to bossiness
  • Cooperative play in group games or settings
  • Uses problem-solving, negotiating, and compromising skills with their peers
  • Begins demonstrating sportsmanship
  • Begins to develop their own identity
  • May narrow their peer group to close friends
  • Are more affectionate
  • May change emotions quickly

Ivy Rehab for Kids Can Help

Early Intervention is key to getting your child the support they may need. If you notice your child is behind with some of these social skills, it may be due to a developmental disability. At Ivy Rehab for Kids, we offer pediatric Occupational Therapy, where our Occupational Therapists will listen to your needs as a parent and the child’s needs to create a unique plan of care for your child.

(Video) குழந்தைகளின் எந்த problemக்கு(Autism,ADHD,CP, LD,DDM) Occupational therapy தேவைப்படும் (Dr.L.vishnu)

At the time of your evaluation and throughout your time with Ivy, your therapist will offer strategies to help your child reach the goals you have discussed. They are experts in approaching challenging social skills activities and working through any social or emotional situation they may experience during their treatment session.

Our therapists will also provide you with information and resources, so you can advocate for your child and use their recommended strategies at home.

If you have any concerns regarding your child’s social or emotional skill development, do not hesitate to contact your nearest Ivy Rehab for Kids clinic for more information. Visit our website to request an appointment online or contact the location nearest you for additional information.

Article By: Hannah Ardelean, PTA

Hannah began her Physical Therapist Assistant career just over one year ago. Hannah loves working with the Pediatric population and believes in the importance of providing evidence-based, quality, direct care to her patients. She currently holds certification to provide Serial Casting at her clinic. Hannah enjoys working with children of all ages and watching them achieve their goals and educating their parents on how to be an advocate for their children. She currently treats patients at Ivy Rehab for Kids in Davison, MI.

The medical information contained herein is provided as an information resource only, and does not substitute professional medical advice or consultation with healthcare professionals. This information is not intended to be patient education, does not create any patient-provider relationship, and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis, treatment or medical advice. Please consult with your healthcare provider before making any healthcare decisions or for guidance about a specific medical condition. If you think you have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately. IvyRehab Network, Inc. disclaims any and all responsibility, and shall have no liability, for any damages, loss, injury or liability whatsoever suffered as a result of your reliance on the information contained herein.

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What is social development milestones in children? ›

Social-emotional development is a child's ability to express their emotions effectively, follow rules and directions, form positive relationships with others, and build confidence.

What are some social development milestones? ›

Knows familiar faces and begins to know if someone is a stranger. Enjoys playing with others, especially family (such as “peek-a-boo”). Likes to look at self in mirror. Responds to other people's emotions and often seems happy.

How do you help children develop social skills? ›

How can I teach my child social skills?
  1. Practise talking. Practise talking through role play, puppets and storytelling. ...
  2. Listen and take turns. ...
  3. Show the importance body language. ...
  4. Teach them about personal space. ...
  5. Develop their emotional skills. ...
  6. Find moments for learning in play.

How do developmental milestones influence social development in childhood? ›

Social and emotional milestones are centered on children gaining a better understanding of their own emotions and the emotions of others. These skills also involve learning how to interact and play with other people and the development of empathy.

What are developmental milestones in health and social care? ›

Developmental milestones are used to measure whether the child is developing as they should do at a particular age. Developmental milestones include physical, intellectual, emotional and social milestones.

What are the 5 stages of social development? ›

This Article Contains:
  • Stages of Psychosocial Development.
  • Stage 1: Trust Versus Mistrust.
  • Stage 2: Autonomy Versus Shame and Doubt.
  • Stage 3: Initiative Versus Guilt.
  • Stage 4: Industry Versus Inferiority.
  • Stage 5: Identity Versus Role Confusion.
  • Stage 6: Intimacy Versus Isolation.
  • Stage 7: Generativity Versus Stagnation.
Aug 5, 2020

What are the 5 aspects of social development? ›

Healthy social development can help your child:
  • Develop language skills. An ability to interact with other children allows for more opportunities to practice and learn speech and language skills. ...
  • Build self esteem. ...
  • Strengthen learning skills. ...
  • Resolve conflicts. ...
  • Establish positive attitude.

What is a social development milestone for a 5 year old? ›

Emotional and social development

Want to please and be liked by their friends, though they may sometimes be mean to others. Agree to rules most of the time. Show independence. Are more able to distinguish fantasy from reality but enjoy playing make-believe and dress-up.

How can social development be improved? ›

To achieve healthy social development, children and young people need to form social bonds with others who can model and encourage positive social values and behaviours.
  1. opportunities for social interaction.
  2. active participation and meaningful engagement with others including family members, educators and peers.

What is social skills training for children? ›

Social skills training is not a specific curriculum, but rather a collection of practices that use a behavioral approach for teaching preschool children age-appropriate social skills and competencies, including communication, problem solving, decision making, self-management, and peer relations.

What helps to develop social skills? ›

How can I enhance my social skills?
  • Improve your emotional intelligence. Put yourself in their shoes. ...
  • Look inwards. ...
  • Practice effective communication skills. ...
  • Fake it 'till you make it. ...
  • Ask more than you speak. ...
  • Give compliments. ...
  • Be polite. ...
  • Use open body language and non-verbal communication.
May 16, 2022

How to improve a child social skills and relationship with peers? ›

Seven Ways To Improve Your Child's Social Skills
  1. Encourage eye contact.
  2. Learn to ask questions.
  3. Teach them emotions.
  4. Practice with role playing.
  5. Know your child's limits.
  6. Prepare them for higher level social skills.
  7. Be a good role model.
  8. Learning Links Can Help.

How to promote personal social and emotional development in early years? ›

Best practice and activities
  1. Routines. Routines reassure children as they begin to understand the structure of the day and predict what is coming next. ...
  2. Feelings. Children need to learn to recognise their feelings and learn the words to label them. ...
  3. Role model. ...
  4. Talking and listening. ...
  5. Modelling. ...
  6. Independence.

Why are social milestones important? ›

Social and Emotional Milestone Checklists

Developing strong social and emotional skills can help child feel confident with building relationships, taking initiative to get their needs met, expressing how they feel in safe ways and asking for help when they need it.

What are social development indicators examples? ›

Some examples of social indicators of development include:
  • Education levels – for example how many years of schooling children have.
  • Health – often measured by life expectancy.
  • Employment Rates.
  • Gender equality.
  • Peacefulness.
  • Democracy.
  • Corruption.
  • Media freedoms.
Aug 18, 2017

What are the 3 aspects of social development? ›

Development pace and scope varies according to the stage society is in. The three main stages are physical, vital (vital refers to the dynamic and nervous social energies of humanity that propel individuals to accomplish), and mental.

What are the 4 areas of development health and social care? ›

There are four areas of development; they include, physical development, intellectual/cognitive development, emotional development and social development.

What are the 4 types of developmental milestones? ›

Children develop in certain predictable ways, referred to as developmental milestones. Milestones cover four areas of a child's development -- cognitive, communication and language, social and emotional, and motor.

Why is understanding a child's developmental milestones so important? ›

They are categorized into 5 domains: gross motor, fine motor, language, cognitive, and social-emotional and behavioral. Understanding and identifying the developmental milestones can help the provider more adeptly recognize delayed development, facilitating earlier interventions and improving outcomes.

What are the 8 stages of social development? ›

Erikson's eight stages of psychosocial development include:
  • Trust vs. Mistrust. ...
  • Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt. ...
  • Initiative vs. Guilt. ...
  • Industry vs. Inferiority. ...
  • Identity vs. Role Confusion. ...
  • Intimacy vs. Isolation. ...
  • Generativity vs. Stagnation. ...
  • Ego Integrity vs. Despair.

What are the 7 stages of child development? ›

  • Infant Development.
  • Toddler Development.
  • Preschooler Development.
  • Middle Childhood Development.
  • Adolescent Development.
  • Adult Development.

What are important developmental milestones? ›

Rolling over, crawling, walking and talking are considered developmental milestones and provide important information regarding your child's early development. Milestones are different for each age range.

What are the 4 objectives of social development? ›

Social development it is generally understood to comprise of a set of objectives including equity and social justice, which subsume additional objectives including social inclusion, sustainable livelihoods, gender equity, increased voice and participation.

What factors affect social development of a child? ›

The parent-child relationships, the language used by the parents, the educational level of the parents, and the socio-economic status of the parents, and availability of leisure to spent with the parents, number of members in the family are the other factors influence the social development of the child.

What are the social needs of a child? ›

To be safe and secure. Children need to feel that they are living and learning in a safe environment and that the adults in their lives are working to keep them from physical and emotional harm. They need parents to protect their feelings and not put them in situations in which they cannot succeed.

What social skills should a 5 year old have? ›

Interacting - Social and Emotional Development
  • Wants to please friends.
  • Wants to be like friends.
  • Agrees to rules more easily.
  • Likes to sing, dance and act.
  • Knows the difference between fantasy and reality.
  • Knows who is a boy or girl.
  • Expresses likes and dislikes.
  • Shows increasing independence.

What are the social development milestones for 5 8 years? ›

At this age, children are becoming far less egocentric and are beginning to be able to more reliably see things from another's perspective. They are also becoming more social beings; they begin to adopt a more social 'world view', becoming more genuinely interested in others and in the world around them.

What are the social milestones for a 4 year old? ›

Social and emotional milestones
  • Wants to please friends.
  • Wants to be like her friends.
  • More likely to agree to rules.
  • Likes to sing, dance, and act.
  • Shows more independence and may even visit a next-door neighbor by herself.
  • Aware of sexuality.
  • Able to distinguish fantasy from reality.
Nov 2, 2009

What is social skills training for ADHD? ›

Social skills training for ADHD seeks to improve and maintain social interaction and prevent interpersonal difficulties. Programs tend to focus on problem solving, control of emotions, and improving verbal and non‐verbal communication.

What kind of therapy helps with social skills? ›

Social skills training (SST) is a type of behavioral therapy used to improve social skills in people with mental disorders or developmental disabilities. SST may be used by teachers, therapists, or other professionals to help those with anxiety disorders, mood disorders, personality disorders, and other diagnoses.

Can therapy help with social skills? ›

To answer the question - can therapy help with developing social skills? Absolutely yes! Therapy can be highly beneficial in cases of people living with social anxiety disorder. With the help of a licensed psychologist, you will be able to explore ways through which anxiety related to social settings can be lessened.

What are social skills interventions? ›

Social skills interventions support individuals in making and maintaining relationships, for example with peers or family members. Social skills interventions can be of particular benefit to children or young people with an autistic spectrum condition (ASC) or social communication difficulties.

What are the most important social skills? ›

Listening. Listening isn't just about staying quiet—it means really absorbing what someone else is saying. Listening also is a critical component of healthy communication. After all, much of the learning in school depends on a child's ability to listen to what the teacher is saying.

What are examples of social activities? ›

Social activities that involve doing for others or providing a service in order to help. Social activities that involve imagination and the creation of different realities. Examples: watching theater, singing, painting, crocheting, learning about arts and craft, traveling and sightseeing, and bird watching.

How do you plan to support children's social interactions? ›

  1. Strategies to Encourage Peer to Peer. Interactions in Early Childcare Settings. ...
  2. Set up Small groups. • ...
  3. Create a physical environment. that promotes small groups. ...
  4. Set up collaborative tasks with. one other peer. ...
  5. Direct conversations away. from yourself. ...
  6. Encourage interaction during outdoor play. • ...
  7. Set up dramatic play themes. •

How can practitioners support children's social development? ›

Practitioners can enable children to learn to empathise with each other through telling stories and giving scenarios of emotional situations and asking a child how that would make them feel. This gives the child the opportunity to recognise and understand others feeling the same emotions that they do.

How does a key person support a child's social development? ›

The key person is an important role model for the child who they can relate to and rely on. The key person observes your child to identify how they learn through their play, their next aspect of development, what their interests are and whether there is any cause for concern or need for extra support.

What activities promote social and emotional development give at least five activities? ›

Social emotional learning activities for elementary school
  • Encouraging positive self-talk. SEL skills: Self-awareness, self-regulation. ...
  • Learning about student interests. Click to download! ...
  • Random acts of kindness. SEL skills: Relationship skills, social awareness. ...
  • Writing a story together. ...
  • Morning questions. ...
  • Playing games.
Feb 15, 2023

What is the most important social development? ›

Positive social and emotional development is important. This development influences a child's self-confidence, empathy, the ability to develop meaningful and lasting friendships and partnerships, and a sense of importance and value to those around him/her.

What are the social and emotional development milestones for a 6 year old? ›

Emotional/Social Changes

Show more independence from parents and family. Start to think about the future. Understand more about his or her place in the world. Pay more attention to friendships and teamwork.

What are the 4 stages of social development? ›

Stage 1: Trust Versus Mistrust. Stage 2: Autonomy Versus Shame and Doubt. Stage 3: Initiative Versus Guilt. Stage 4: Industry Versus Inferiority.

What are the milestones of social development of a three year old? ›

Interacting - Social and Emotional Development

Shows concern and affection for others without prompting. Copies adults and friends (for example, runs when other children run). Takes turns in games. Separates easily from parents.

What are the major milestones in a child's development? ›

Rolling over, crawling, walking, and talking are all considered milestones. The milestones are different for each age range. There is a normal range in which a child may reach each milestone. For example, walking may begin as early as 8 months in some children.

Why is social skills important in child development? ›

Social skills help children interact with the world around them through relationship development, verbal communication, and body language. The right set of social skills will make it easier for a child to make friends, share with their classmates, and cooperate in social environments.

What is the most important age for social development? ›

The first five years are especially crucial for physical, intellectual, and social-emotional development. Keep your child's personality and age in mind when looking for child care experiences and activities.

What are some key developmental milestones and social skills for ages 2 3? ›

At 2-3 years, you can expect strong feelings, tantrums, pretend play and independence. Toddlers are developing new skills in many areas, including language, thinking and movement. Development activities include talking and listening, reading, playing outdoors, playing with others and cooking together.

What are some social emotional developmental milestones for children ages 3 4? ›

During this year your child really starts to understand that their body, mind and emotions are their own. Your child knows the difference between feeling happy, sad, afraid or angry. Your child also shows fear of imaginary things, cares about how others act and shows affection for familiar people.

What is a developmental milestone chart? ›

This developmental milestones chart is. designed specifically for Children Services staff. It includes normal expectations of developmental milestones for children birth through adolescence, and information about the possible effects of maltreatment.

What are the 5 stages of child development? ›

What Are the Five Stages of Early Childhood Development?
  • In general, the five stages of early childhood development are as follows:
  • Newborn.
  • Infant.
  • Toddler.
  • Preschooler.
  • School-age child.
Jul 8, 2022


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