Babies start socializing even before they are born. While in the womb, they listen intently to your voice and know it to be yours and can recognize as being different from others. Their first smiles and constantly changing facial expressions are a practice to what comes next in social interaction. They use their expressions to convey their feelings to others and you can assess a baby’s temperament for the rest of his/her life by noticing the baby’s activities and how restful, calm and cheerful he/she is in general. Babies start learning to interact with others the moment they are born
According to a research, newborns show strong preference to photos of people rather than photos of objects. At that time, they have blurry eyesight and can only see facial outlines. It has been noted that even one year olds can tell the photo of their mother from those of strangers by noticing just the hairline. Within 2 months, they start intense study of facial features, especially of the eyes and mouth. They start marking the differences between facial expressions related to anger, surprise, happiness and fear. However, they still can’t understand them properly and need time to learn proper reactions to particular expressions. One can see how kids love to see other kids at play, stare at faces of other people intently and even lead towards playful kids as if they want to play with them too.
Within 6 to 8 months, babies start reading face better and the bond that has strengthened between you and the baby day-by-day makes them stare at you constantly. Staring into each other’s eyes is perhaps the best-loved stage of moms and their babies. This encourages moms to have more interaction with the babies and in turn makes the baby more eager to socialize. Staring games such as ‘Peekaboo’ are common at this stage, where moms hide their faces behind their hands or a cushion and then pop back in front of baby’s eyes and baby gives a chuckle and a smile as a reward to their moms, to show they are happy to have her back. This also helps the baby to cope with separation anxiety as they start understanding that once Mom is ‘not’ there, she will pop back soon enough.
Tickling games help babies to learn humor and how to distinguish serious human interactions with playful ones. When parents talk with their babies and respond to baby babble, as if they are responding to something they have spoken such as in response to a chuckle saying, “Having fun, sweetie!” or to crying with “I know this medicine has a dreadful taste”, they are actually teaching them to speak and how to have polite conversation when they get older. Babies also show empathy towards you and other children. You can often see that your baby responds to your feelings and start crying when there is another crying baby nearby, even if they are strangers. They even learn to pass smiles at complete strangers who give them a smile.
However, in later stages, when baby is about 7 months old, child prefers his Mom or Dad to strangers and may even develop separation and stranger anxiety. They start understanding that they are a separate person rather than an extension of you and are scared of this independence at first. Thus, they try to cling to their parents, especially from 12 to 15 months. Female babies mature a little earlier than baby boys and are thus, easily soothed and make more eye contact. Thus, baby boys may cling more to their moms than girls of their age. Stranger anxiety can be lessened if the stranger stoops down to baby’s level, do not tries to touch the baby and does not block baby’s view of Mom or Dad. Some babies can be shyer than others but with gentle persuasion, a reserved baby can be more adaptable once they learn to manage their fears.