Baby’s Emotional Development and Milestones

Nothing beats the first time your baby looks at you and smiles – a huge one, ear to ear, and you know it’s not just gas.Although newborns have poor vision, studies suggest that their favourite thing to look at is the human face. Especially the eyes.

When you hold your baby in your arms and they stare up at you, the distance between them and your face is just right for their visual attention.

This isn’t a coincidence; it’s the newborn’s inherent instinct to bond and learn the social and emotional world around them.

Basic emotions are genetically encoded, and they exist in all societies around the world. However, it is learned when we become sad and how we display that distress, as well as when we become joyful and how we exhibit that happiness.

Our children look to us for guidance on how to react. We are, for better or worse, their emotional barometers as parents.

While parents tend to focus a lot of time and energy on our children’s cognitive growth, social and emotional development is just as crucial, if not more so.

Emotional Development: When will my baby smile?

Babies are born with basic emotions such as sadness, interest/ excitement, and disgust.

Your kid will start smiling real, genuine, enormous, heart-warming smiles about 6-8 weeks of age, so anytime in the second or third month.

Babies can express delight, rage, grief, and surprise as early as 3 or 4 months of age. Fear doesn’t appear until the baby is approximately 6 or 7 months old, and the baby who was cheerfully handed from person to person can acquire stranger anxiety and separation anxiety all of a sudden.

All of these emotions are natural to babies, but they learn when and how to express them from adults in their lives.

toddler distressed when changing nappy

Should I be upset, Mom?

At the age of six months, babies begin to seek to adults for guidance on how to respond to various situations. Their trust is implicit at this young age.

Researchers placed neonates on a table that appeared to have a drop-off in the famous visual-cliff experiment. It’s actually a plexiglass top with a design underneath to give the appearance of a drop.

The mother was asked to stand on the other side of the table and either smile pleasantly at their infant or present a terrified attitude to the researchers. The majority of newborns would crawl right over the supposed cliff when their mothers smiled cheerfully. When the mothers were afraid, every single one of those babies stayed still, and several of them cried.

What an incredible sense of trust our children have – they rely on us to communicate danger instinctively, possibly before their own fear is completely grown. Even young babies can read their mother’s expression and adjust their behaviour based on it.

This is referred to as social referencing in developmental psychology. Babies as young as 6 months old (and even 2-year-olds) look to adults for guidance on how to react to different situations.

The way we react when our child falls down is one of the clearest illustrations of this. When children first begin walking, they frequently fall. The majority of the time, these result in minor bruises and bumps. They will have big reactions to every fall if we have big reactions to every fall. And this can make your child afraid to try new things, which is the exact opposite of what you want for learning.

When your child falls, she will seek to you for guidance on how to handle the situation. If she is upset, you can and should console her – but only in a little way.

“You did get a slight bump,” says the speaker. It will recover. Let’s brush the dirt off your face and wipe it away. There. It’s much better now.”

You want to acknowledge their emotion (pain) rather than ignore it, for as by stating “you’re OK” when they aren’t. However, you want to console them in a way that encourages them to work through their feelings and emerge from the experience eager to learn more.

This is a huge obligation!!! You are the cornerstone of your child’s emotional world! So, what can you do to assist them in their learning? To begin with, merely being aware that they are so sensitive to your feelings is crucial. That’s a major deal; just knowing how much they’ve entrusted us with helps us create a healthy emotional intelligence foundation.

Emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to perceive and understand emotions, as well as the ability to use emotional data to navigate the world.

Before toddlerhood, the most crucial thing for babies to learn is how to recognise emotions and begin to learn how to react to different situations. Babies are unable to self-regulate their emotions, yet they can begin to understand what emotions are. The first step in comprehending emotions is to recognise them. All of these activities assist babies in learning to recognise emotions.

Emotional Intelligence Development Activities for Your Baby

1. Allow Your True Feelings to Be Heard (mostly)

Are you scared about that time you lost it and yelled now that you know how much your kid is studying your emotions? Or are you scared of instilling an unreasonable fear of balconies in your children? (And yes, I have an unreasonable fear of balconies – not of heights, but of balconies!).

First and foremost, do not be scared to show your kid your so-called bad feelings. Growing up with a mother who was never angry or unhappy would be strange. Or those who pretended they didn’t.

Children raised in that environment would learn to be wary of their emotions and to be terrified of them.

This is the exact opposite of what we desire.

Feel whatever it is you’re feeling! It must be expressed!! It is to be lived!! Work your way through it.

Parenting, on the other hand, pushes us to the limit of our ability to regulate our emotions. We don’t want to react rashly in front of our children; instead, we want to demonstrate both expressing and regulating our emotions.

We want to convey our feelings, but in a conscious manner. Our children do not need to know about all of our fears, particularly the illogical ones. So, show your children how you truly feel in a way that keeps them feeling safe and comfortable in their relationship with you.

Your baby will learn more from watching you negotiate the emotional world than you or I will ever know.

2. The Name-That-Emotion Game

This is a large one. Name all of your emotions.

When you’re reading a book to your youngster and there’s a picture of a joyful child, exclaim, “Look at how happy she is!”

When you’re feeling stressed, say, “Mommy is stressed right now.”

“Wow you are so uncomfortable in that dirty diaper!” says your infant when he or she is displeased about anything. You’re enraged!”

Name them all: happy, mad, sad, annoyed, stressed, astonished, joyful, stupid, and proud.

Your infant won’t know the difference between mad and frustrated when they’re a toddler, but they might when they’re older!! When my son was two years old, he came in and told me he was “fruswated” because his block construction didn’t go as planned.

The cornerstone for emotional expression is naming emotions, both your own and your child’s. If kids can say, “I’m upset!” while they’re toddlers, that’s the first step in working through their anger.

And, at younger ages, being able to identify and express a sensation is sometimes all they need to be able to let it go.

3. With your baby, read books on feelings

Babies enjoy looking at photos of faces because they understand that this is where they will gain the greatest knowledge about the world. They’re wired to desire to analyse people’s faces.

These books are fantastic for two reasons: one, they will keep your baby’s attention, and second, they will teach your infant to recognise emotions in situations where they aren’t, so it’s more of a thinking exercise.


  1. What activities promote emotional development in infants?

    Babies learn about their emotions and how to express them through play.
    Play ideas to encourage baby emotions
    – Make music together with your child. Singing or producing sounds with toys or simple instruments can help children express their feelings through music.
    – Play in a sloppy manner.
    – To demonstrate simple emotions, use puppets or toys.

  2. What are the 6 basic emotions babies feel?

    Around this age, babies begin to display facial expressions that reflect all of the main emotions: curiosity, joy, surprise, anger, sadness, disgust, and fear. These feelings can be felt one at a time, but they’re more likely to be mixed together in a variety of ways.

  3. When should I teach my baby emotions?

    Most toddlers begin to experience feelings such as guilt and shame by the age of three. Listening to your child when they want to communicate and providing lots of comfort and support will help them comprehend their new feelings.

  4. What activities promotes social and emotional development?

    Start by being supportive.
    – Show your affection for your child by loving him or her.
    – Encourage your youngster to take risks and try new things.
    – Allow your child to interact with other children his or her age.
    – Don’t be afraid to express yourself….
    – Create daily habits….
    – Recognize your child’s emotions.