• baby sign language: a set of conventional signs designed to make it easier for older infants and young toddlers to communicate with their caregivers
  • expressive language/communication: the words and phrases a child speaks and/or the specific, mutually-understood signs and gestures she uses to communicate meaning
  • joint attention: a shared focus on an item; an older baby and an adult pay joint attention when they notice where the other is looking or pointing (by one year, babies should be able to point, gesture, or vocalize to get an adult to pay attention to something)
  • parallel play: playing near another child and noticing each other but without interacting
  • receptive language: the words and phrases a child understands
  • social referencing: the process by which young children check with trusting adults to see how to react to new situations and people, including whether new people can be trusted

Help Children Connect with Each Other and Make Friends

Before watching this video, read the text below. When instructed, watch the segment of video beginning at 4:50 and ending at 7:39.

To start the video in the middle, click the play arrow. Then move your cursor along the progress bar. Click the progress bar when you reach the time you'd like to start.

Older infants develop an awareness of others. They are drawn to other children and want to play near them, see what they are doing, and sometimes imitate their actions. They want to join in simple group routines. When you encourage parallel play (when babies play near each other and notice each other, but do not interact) and imitation, you allow older babies to develop their social emotions, social skills, and sometimes preferences for certain children—their first friends!

Older infants can show remarkable sensitivity. When an older baby hears another baby cry, she may cry in sympathy or try to help. At the same time, older babies can be quite unaware of others’ feelings. An older baby doesn’t hurt others on purpose, but her exuberance, curiosity, or frustration can sometimes cause problems.

  • Arrange (and rearrange) the environment so that children can practice emerging motor skills and explore interesting spaces and materials without interfering with each other.
  • Stay alert to prevent hurt feelings and accidental injuries. You can’t prevent every bump or toy snatch, but you can help an older baby notice that he hurt another child.
  • Teach empathy and kind behaviors. Recognize and label children’s emotions, model how to help or console another child, and teach “gentle touch.”

In this segment, you’ll see Maria and her colleague help ten-month-old Rafaela participate in older children’s routines and imitate their actions. You’ll see how an opportunity for parallel play in Demetria’s infant classroom goes awry, and how Demetria acts quickly to comfort a younger infant who got knocked over and to help an older infant learn to empathize and be gentle.  

Now watch the video segment. Begin at 4:50 as Professor Villegas-Reimer begins to speak and watch until the end. As you watch, look for effective strategies used by the educators in the video and jot down answers to this viewing question in your Learning Log.

  • What do you notice about how Maria and her colleague help Rafaela to participate in the older children’s circle time?
  • What do you notice about how Demetria helps Evan learn to empathize and be gentle?


How can you facilitate social awareness and beginning friendships for older infants?

  • You can:
    • Give babies well-supervised opportunities to play near other children.
    • Offer just a few objects for children to play with.
    • Offer duplicate or similar toys so that children can imitate each other.
    • Notice which children like to play near each other, and encourage their friendship with your words, reassuring presence, and nonverbal communication.
    • Offer two older infants a large toy that they can use together, such as a ball to roll back and forth, a large surface to bang on, or a large block to push. Show them how to play together.
    • Include an older infant in group songs and rituals for brief periods. Feature his name in songs you sing frequently. Help him participate by imitating other children’s actions, such as bouncing and clapping.

It is common for older infants to knock others over, snatch toys, pull hair, and sometimes bite. How can you help older infants to learn to empathize and be gentle?

  • You can:


    • Be mindful of “teachable moments”: respond quickly when a child hurts another child or hurts someone’s feelings.
    • Comfort the hurt child and let the hurter see what’s happening.
    • Gently include (and if necessary comfort) the hurter, and let him know that the other child needs comforting.
    • Use a calm voice to model comforting behavior.
    • Help the hurter practice gentle touch and comforting.
    • Teach words such as gentle, sorry, and feel better.
    • Put words to children’s feelings and actions.
    • Express affection for both children.
    • Help children practice gentle touching with dolls, objects, and pets.
    • Model kind behavior toward children, colleagues, and family members. Remember that older infants sense an educator’s positive relationships and look to trusted adults to see who they can trust (social referencing).


  • What strategies do you use to help babies become more aware of other children, enjoy their company, and treat them kindly?
  • What did you learn that you will take back to your learning environment and put into practice?
Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on LinkedIn Email this page Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on LinkedIn Email this page