Ages & Stages: Social Development

Milestones to guide you in Children's Socialization

social development

It’s important to consider your child’s age when developing expectations for socialization. Here are some milestones to guide you. Please keep in mind that kids develop at different paces.

Infants and Toddlers

Infants are already developing social skills. Your interactions teach them that, if they smile, you smile back. Your responsiveness sets the stage for fostering empathy.

One-year-olds are normally more interested in playing with toys than playing with other people. It’s not unusual for them to prefer one parent over the other at this point, so try not to take this personally. Between ages 1 and 2, your child may experience separation anxiety, which may continue beyond this age depending on your child and his or her temperament.

As they begin playing with others, it’s normal for 2-year-olds to prefer adults. By 2½, toddlers may be more engaged in playing with other children, but they lack problem-solving skills and the ability to regulate their emotions. Sharing is a challenge.

Three-year-olds start to play and interact more with other children, and conversation often centers on play. Sharing and taking turns are skills that can be developed as long as turns are short.

Preschoolers and Kindergarteners

As children begin kindergarten, they generally feel more secure, although they may still feel apprehensive. They’re often more comfortable with kids they already know and may prefer playing with skills and may still have trouble with self-control.

Elementary-Age Children

By the time they enter elementary school, children are becoming more aware of their friendships and social interactions. They begin facing challenges like changes in friendships and being left out. These challenges provide opportunities for children to learn how to interact in positive ways.


Middleschoolers are increasingly aware of how they’re viewed by others. They want to “fit in” and will modify their social behavior to do so.

Pre-Adolescents and Adolescents

Tweens and teens are heavily influenced by peers. They may feel socially awkward and suffer greatly if they lose friendships.