Social skills aren’t all about small talk and knowing which fork to use. The way babies and toddlers develop socially has an impact on the way they interact with the people around them and what they learn from those people. This means that social skills can have an effect on every other type of skill young children pick up. Young children whose social skills develop in different patterns from most children may need help learning some of the basic skills that can help them develop further socially as they get older, and it can be helpful to keep these children’s specific needs and tendencies in mind as they grow.
What missing certain milestones can mean
When it comes to missing social milestones, whether they’re specific (like waving, pointing, and gesturing) or more general (like showing an interest in other children), there are a number of different things that might be going on. Babies and toddlers do develop on their own timelines, and it isn’t always easy to tell whether the absence of a milestone means that a child can’t do something, or just that he is less interested in doing that thing. This means it can be helpful to look for the reasons doctors and experts use these milestones, as well as the specific milestones.
For example, experts don’t look for pointing or waving as milestones in young children as a way of looking for nonverbal communication. If your little one doesn’t like waving specifically, but there are other gestures he uses to communicate greetings or other types of nonverbal communication, that’s something it’s important to notice, too.
Waving at a developmentally expected point proves that young children are able to and interested in mirroring gestures adults make, and it shows that they’re interested in interacting with other people.
Experts also look for pointing because it’s usually a good way of figuring out if a young child is developing shared attention – if he wants to share the things he is looking at, or is interested in, with you or with other caregivers. Shared attention is a sign of a toddler’s engagement with the people around him, and it’s a building block that helps him learn about the world around him, so if it’s something he is developing at a different pace or in a different way from his peers, he may be able to benefit from a little extra attention to help him develop those skills.
Knowing why experts look for these milestones means you’ll be able to better talk to Baby’s caregivers about the way he does interact with the world. For example, maybe your little one doesn’t point to show shared attention, but he does show off a favorite toy to you, or makes sounds that go with the pictures on the right pages of a favorite picture book. Wanting to share experiences with parents and caregivers can happen in many different ways, and pointing is just one easy one to point out, for many children.