Expert Articles

Play and Social Development Milestones

Author: Karen KEI
Speech and Language Therapist

By 6 months, babies usually
  • make sounds such as cooing, gurgling and babbling to themselves and others
  • make noises to get someone’s attention 
  • look at your face when you are interacting with them 
  • smile and laugh when they see
  • show their excitement by kicking, waving their arms or make noises when they hear or see someone coming
Checking point
  • Are they looking at you when you are taking them?
    • Get close and make sure they can see your face. 
  • Are they cooing and gurgling to themselves
    • Listen and pause so that they can join in and make ‘conversation’ with you 
  • Do they smile and laugh with you?
    • Play ‘peek-a-boo’ or tickling game 
By 12 months, babies usually
  • making talking noises, babble string-like sounds, like ‘ba-ba-ba’, ‘ma-ma-ma’ and point at you for attention 
  • take turns having ‘conversation’, babbling back to people
  • respond to their name 
  • enjoy being around familiar people
Checking point
  • Are they babbling?
    • Make sure you get face-to-face and talk about things you are doing together – changing nappy, mealtime etc.
  • Do they respond to their name?
    • Get face-to-face and call his name. Give them praise when they look up and make eye contact. 
  • Do they enjoy being around others?
    • Sing action songs like ‘The Wheel on the bus’ and play games like ‘peek-a-boo’ to encourage communication and concentration.
By 18 months, babies usually
  • enjoy pretend play with toys, like feeding teddy bear, driving car
  • follow and respond to adult’s body languages such as pointing, gestures and facial expressions
  • mostly play alone, but enjoy adult’s company 
  • become frustrated when being misunderstood or things did not go their way
Checking point
  • Do they enjoy pretend play?
    • Encourage them to copy everyday actions such as pretending to talk on the phone, cooking, feeding one another. 
  • Do they like playing and exploring?
    • Show them different ways to play and add playful sounds to make it fun and interactive.
  • Do they join in and play together with you?
    • Play ‘Ready-steady-go’ game using bubbles or rolling a car down a ramp. Play a few times and wait for them to join in by passing them the car.
By 24 months, toddlers usually
  • being to have conversation with familiar adults, mostly short and jumpy 
  • interested in other’s play and try to join in 
  • being to use feelings and emotions words 
  • engage in one or more steps pretend play sequence
Checking point
  • Are they interested in others?
    • Set up regular playdates and encourage your child to join in as much as possible. You can ask your child to bring their favourite toy or food and share with others. 
  • Do they enjoy simple pretend play games?
    • Get them involved in daily routines such as preparing a meal and cleaning.
  • Do they enjoy simple posting games and  puzzles?
    • Put the toy pieces in a bag and give them one at a time. Or put the pieces around the house and encourage your child to look for them.
By 36 months, children usually
  • understand turn taking, might have difficulty waiting for their turns 
  • initiate conversation with others 
  • enjoy playing with peers
  • follow what others are doing
Checking point
  • Are they taking turns?
    • Use visual cues or pointing to indicate whose turn it is. Model turn taking  by saying ‘It’s Jasmine’s turn’, ‘Now it’s Sam’s turn’. 
  • Are they playing with other children?
    • Set up regular playdates and encourage your child to join in as much as possible. You can ask your child to bring their favourite toy or food and share with others. 
  • Can they follow simple game rules?
    • Practice playing in a small group. Join in and explain what is happening.
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Play and Social Development Milestones