How babies develop relationships with one another.

By Deborah J. Waldman
October 03, 2005
Credit: ElenaStepanova/

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.

Age 2

  • 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.

Age 3

  • 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.

Copyright © 2001

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

American Baby

Comments (1)

December 3, 2018
Quick tip for all you parents all out there: My baby never slept well (especially through the night) until I started using the website >>>>SleepBaby .org<<<< - that website has been by far one of the best things I've ever got my hands on to get him to fall asleep quickly. Best time is 45 seconds from awake to asleep! I heard about it through a kindergarten teacher who uses it to put to sleep a group of 30 children. Check it out! Sorry, you can't post links here so you'll have to turn it into a normal link. >>SleepBaby .org<< Best of luck to you and your family! :)