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Sensory/social skills: birth to 2 years

Sensory and social skills: Birth to 2 years 

Sensory development relates to our senses (vision, hearing, touch, taste, smell) which allow us to explore the world around us.

Social skills refer to our interactions with other people. (For an infant or child, social skills generally center on behavior in play situations.)

Here are general guidelines for sensory/social development for children newborn to 2 years. 

3 months  

  • Cuddles and relaxes when held 

3-5 months 

  • Responds with baby sounds when caregivers talk and smile 

3-6 months 

  • Able to be calmed by a caregiver when upset 

5-7 months  

  • Knows their own name and responds by looking when called 

7-12 months  

  • Has toy preferences and explores a variety of toys 

12-18 months 

  • Likes attention from others and will do behaviors to get reactions 

15 months 

  • Shows liking for affection and will hug/kiss familiar people 

18 months 

  • Plays with other children; seeks interactions with other children 

Skill development 

You can help your child develop SENSORY SKILLS by: 

  • Positioning... Senses of vision, hearing, touch, taste and smell are all developing in a young infant. We also have a "positional sense"; this helps us to define if our body is moving, and where we are in space (sitting up or lying on our stomach). This positional sense is why babies like to be rocked. To help them have an enriched environment, alternate rocking with swaying, try different rocking chairs and change the baby's position - swaddled in a blanket, upright on your shoulder, or lying on his/her stomach across your lap. Go for walks with your baby in a snuggle pack or backpack for stimulation.  
  • Massaging... For development of touch sense or tactile awareness, provide your infant with massage to arms, legs and trunks. You can use baby lotion or oils if you like. Many YMCA's and other organizations offer great classes for infant massage. This activity is great for bonding time with your child. 

What if I am concerned about my child's sensory and social skill development?

This information is a general guide to help you determine if your child is progressing at the rate expected for his or her age. Please keep in mind that each child is unique and develops skills at their own rate. If you are concerned about your child's development, a physician or therapist may be able to assist with an evaluation.  

To make an appointment with a pediatric therapist, call one of these locations: 

Note: Occupational Therapy addresses problems related to cognitive, daily living, motor, sensory processing, social and visual/perceptual skill development.  

Information provided by Sallie Tidman, OT/L, Director of Therapy Services, and Melanie Koch, Occupational Therapist. 

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