The first interaction that your baby will choose to have with you is a simple one. He will stare at you.
Then he’ll follow you with his eyes. Within a couple of months, he will smile. At you. On purpose. While he’s awake.
That is called the “social smile.” And it’s a big deal when he decides to lay one on you.
The social smile is such a huge milestone because it brings together many other elements of your child’s development.
Cognitive Development and Body Awareness
Let’s review: Your baby smiles at you, on purpose, while he’s wide awake — he clearly recognizes your visual representation (aka “face”). He has been carefully observing your mouth and facial expressions, then pairing that information with the sounds of what you say. The rhythms, too. A baby who smiles socially, or smiles back at you when you smile, knows how to take turns.
Your prompt, consistent attention to his needs means that as the newborn develops into a settled baby, he can stress less about his problems, and enjoy life, his body, his family, his home a lot more. Your smiling tot with the good memory enjoys the experiences he associates with you, and knows that the love fest goes both ways. His smile is the product of your investment in plenty of pleasurable face-to-face time.
Your amazing baby instinctively knows what adults need to research in order to realize: that a large part of our communication is non-verbal. A baby capable of the social smile is a baby who has the maturity to ask for what he wants (more face time!), in a positive way. He has outgrown his 100% reliance on the earlier strategies of cries and cues.
For babies, “smile” is a big word, and a big part of their growing language and social skills. The baby who learns to take turns will be able to make “conversation.” The toddler who takes turns will be able to make friends.
Read more Language Development posts