During the first three months of a child’s life, caregivers can respond to the child by holding her, smiling at her, looking lovingly at her, singing to her and talking to her. She may respond back with a social smile, a coo, a cry or silence when being picked up. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, at around three months of age newborns are more communicative with their facial expressions and body movements and they may even imitate some movements and facial expressions during interactions.
From four to seven months of age, caregivers can respond to the infant by holding her during feedings, by reading to her, by responding to her smiles, laughs and cries and by paying attention to her. She may respond back by smiling, showing excitement or laughing. At this stage of development, infants tend to enjoy social play and look into mirrors, respond to expressions of emotion and appear joyful, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
When a child reaches about eight to 12 months of age, caregivers can respond to the child by attending to her cues, meeting her needs and by being predictable and consistent. At this stage of development, the child may respond back by showing interest in familiar objects, by showing preference for familiar things and people and by exhibiting stranger anxiety. The more a caregiver learns about a child’s personality, wants and needs, the better she can respond to the child.
During this period, the child will begin to look to her parents and caregivers to gauge how she should respond to new situations. If parents and nannies approach new situations with confidence and joy, the child is also likely to. This process is called social referencing and helps a child learn what to trust in her environment. Since we tend to communicate more quickly and dramatically when we want a child to avoid something, such as a hot stove or open door, negative reactions in new environments seem to have a more powerful impact on children and send the message to the children to stay away.