27 Effective Social And Emotional Development Activities From 6 to 36 Months

Whether you are a parent, a caregiver or a teacher, it becomes absolutely critical to learn about the social and emotional development activities from 6 to 36 months along with related practices, as the brain of your child is growing at an incredibly rapid pace at this stage.

This stage is similar to the foundation to be laid for a building with great architecture, whose blue-print is designed by a leading architect. In a way therefore, you are the ‘architect’ for the kind of personality the child will become as he/she grows up into an adult.

In this article:

  1. Understand the socio-emotional developmental milestones from 6 months to 3 years
  2. Gain knowledge of the developmentally appropriate practices involved from 6 months to 3 years
  3. To apply the knowledge gained to real life situations

Social and Emotional Developmental Milestones from 6 months to 9 months

  • Able to imitate sounds and gestures
  • May become attached to specific toys
  • Will be very clingy to familiar adults
  • Can understand when said “No
  • Crying as a form of expression takes backseat
  • Uses gestures to communicate needs and wants
  • Expressions like anger, sadness, irritability and joyfulness are clearly expressed
  • Socially very interactive and can play simple games
  • Shows signs of separation anxiety sometimes

Developmentally Appropriate Practices and Activities from 6 Months to 9 Months

The following are some of the practices and activities appropriate for social and emotional development for 6-9 months old babies.

  • To overcome separation anxiety, make the child feel safe with others.
  • Be along with the caregiver or other adults for some days. Start by not being around for half hour. Progressively make it one hour, one-and-a-half hours and so on.
  • Play simple games like rolling the ball and keep conversing and encouraging the child as you play.
  • Set certain limits, so that the child should gain the understanding that everything is not accessible.
  • Play games where you make many different expressions and encourage the child to mimic it.

Also Read : 19 Best Activities for Social and Emotional Development from 0 to 6 months

Social and Emotional Developmental Milestones from 9 Months to 12 Months

  • Often seeks attention by repeating actions and sounds
  • Can follow one or two-word directions like “Come here” and “No
  • Shows fear in new situations or surroundings
  • Would often prefer to be independent and could resist a caregiver’s help as well
  • Will be involved in solitary play

Developmentally Appropriate Practices and Activities from 9 Months to 12 Months

The following are examples of social emotional development practices and activities for 9 to 12 month old babies.

  • Prepare the child mentally if the child has to be taken to a new surrounding
  • Start playing games which has 2 to 3 words’ instructions like “Catch ball”, “Where Papa” and so on
  • Start encouraging the child to do things independently, like putting toys back into the basket, learning to wear cap or pants, etc.
  • Give child the freedom to explore things around
  • Make toys and other safe items accessible to the child
  • Repeat the actions and sounds the child does, as it makes the child feel proud that an adult is copying its actions

Social and Emotional Developmental Milestones from 1 Year to 2 Years

This phase of the life of a child between 1 year and 2 years is also popularly known as the “Terrible 2s”. Needless to mention, ‘Terrible’ here refers more to the child displaying hyper energy and being all over the place than anything else.

  • Exploring the environment independently
  • Child may exhibit behaviours like being stubborn, throwing tantrums and doing things at will
  • Both symbolic play and imitation play are prominently observed
  • Is often involved in parallel play

Developmentally Appropriate Practices and Activities from 1 Year to 2 Years

The following are some of the practices and activities appropriate for social and emotional development for 1-2 years old toddlers.

  • Give importance to symbolic play
  • This is the time to introduce the child to other children of same age, as parallel play automatically sets in when the child is with peers
  • Encourage the child to imitate play, like driving a car, cooking, riding a bike, dressing the doll, etc.
  • Involve the child in treasure hunt games, hide and seek and instruction-based activities as following simple sentences is easy at this stage
  • Give a lot of importance to allowing the child to be independent
  • Allow the child to choose dresses to wear, choosing games and going around exploring

Note: Symbolic Play is when a child uses objects as a stand-in for other objects. Imitation Play is the ability to mirror, repeat or practice the action of others.

Also Read : Role of Parents in Emotional Development during Early Childhood

Social and Emotional Developmental Milestones from 2 Years to 3 Years

  • Is becoming more capable of showing a wide range of emotions
  • Feels empathetic towards others
  • Feeling of pride, embarrassment, independence is more prominently seen
  • Seeks attention of adults, especially parents and often strives to please them
  • Role Play and Cooperative Play is observed
  • Participating in simple household tasks gives pleasure
  • Sense of Self is an outcome of what others tell about the child
  • Being in the world of fantasy and having imaginary friends are very common at this stage
  • Change of routine can cause uneasiness
  • Very curious and self-directed
  • Incidences of stranger anxiety and separation anxiety is relatively reduced
  • Begins to understanding about the concept of privacy but is very minimal at this stage
  • Reduced incidences of emotional outbursts as the ability to control emotions is increasing

Note: Role-playing means pretending to be someone else. Cooperative play is when children play together with shared goals.

Developmentally Appropriate Practices and Activities from 2 Years to 3 Years

The following are examples of social emotional development practices and activities for 2 to 3 years old toddlers.

  • If another child is crying, ask the child to go and stand next to the child and pat the back
  • Simple acts like saying “My hand is aching. Can you please stroke my hand?” can help enhancing empathy in children
  • Appreciate the child for all the work he or she does and also reprimand behaviours that are not appropriate
  • Never use the word “bad” to a child but if you have to, say it without using that word
  • Start helping the child in learning to express and how to control emotions
  • Teach them by being an example and encourage the child to express emotions verbally
  • Have Smileys Flash Cards and play a game of picking one smiley card every day which expresses the child’s feeling at that specific point in time
  • Cooperative play sets in at this stage and the child must therefore be prepared to handle wins and defeats
  • Play games with the child where sometimes you deliberately lose and purposively win
  • Never give in to temper tantrums a child shows when they lose any game, as the child must understand that throwing tantrums will not help in winning and getting anything

Also Read : 4 Powerful Strategies to Build a Strong Emotional Foundation in a Child

Some Additional Notes

Teach good manners like saying “Sorry” “Thank you” and “Please” as they help in a constructive and healthy social development process.

Curiosity and questioning sets in a big way at this stage.

Praise and appreciate the child as it encourages him/her to do the same for others (detailed article here).

There’s nothing to be concerned or worry if the child has imaginary friends.

It is important that you allow the child to make mistakes and learn from it.


Lev Vygotsky, a Russian born psychologist known for his work on psychological development in children, believed that effective learning is observed when the child is in active interaction with the social world. In that world-view of the child, adults need to act as a guide and help children achieve things which will make them become confident and strong individuals.

This is where the social and emotional development activities from 6 to 36 months and its related practices become a critical responsibility for parents, teachers and caregivers alike. After all, socio-emotional development is key to survive when the child completes high school and college and ventures into the real world.

Disclaimer: The content in this page and across this website are for informational and educational purposes only. In case of any concerns about your child’s growth and development, please contact your professional child healthcare provider.