The Road to Friendship
Most experts agree that children don't start showing special feelings toward peers until they're at least a year old. But even babies are capable of some of the behavior that leads to friendship. Here's an age-by-age guide to friendly behavior:
Birth to 11 months
- Babies begin reaching for each other.
- When one baby cries, another often will join in.
- Children may single out another baby who appeals to them and smile back and forth, almost as if the other child is a favorite toy.
- Babies begin to understand the concept of interaction -- the idea that you do this, I do that, you do this, I do that.
12 to 24 months
- Babies 12 and 13 months old are attracted to people who are doing the same thing they are.
- Children begin to be interested in people outside their own families.
- Babies create similarities where none exist to initiate an interaction. A baby might pick up a red ball if he decides he wants to interact with another baby holding a red ball.
- One toddler will often approach another and stare, touch, make a weird noise, or even land a punch.
- You can see the baby's whole body change to convey her excitement at the sight of her friend.
- Toddlers can interact in "companionable silences," reminding you of old married couples who don't need words to communicate.
- As toddlers reach this "possessive" stage, the objects they play with become very important.
- Conflict is inevitable, since children this age are not yet capable of seeing another person's point of view and don't understand social niceties.
- Toddlers play at copying what they see other people doing.
- Children interact in more sophisticated ways, play together with toys or games, and learn to take turns.
- Language development takes off and social skills become more refined, letting friendships reach a new level.
- Friendship changes from "doing things together" to "being together."
- Pretending and role-playing are a large part of 3-year-olds' play.
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