Ways to Stimulate Emotional Development in Infants

Emotional development, typically referred to as social emotional development, is learning how to experience and demonstrate emotions in a healthy way. Social emotional development is the foundation for everything from altruism and generosity to trust and affection 1. Like other areas of development, much of what your baby learns occurs through daily interactions with parents and caregivers. As ZerotoThree.org explains, approaching your interactions with your infant in a sensitive and consistent way can help ensure his sense of emotional security and self-esteem.

Responsive Care

Responding sensitively to your infant's efforts in a developmentally appropriate way reinforces security and models generosity and thoughtfulness. When he's trying to crawl toward a toy, instead of swiftly delivering it to his lap, respond sensitively by removing any large obstacles between him and the toy so he can crawl to it. When you see he's trying to hold the bottle himself, lift up just the end for stability. Your support and encouragement validate his efforts while building his confidence and self-esteem, explains ZerotoThree.org.


Helping your infant recognize and learn her body and surroundings stimulates her self awareness, explains Minnesota Parents Know website. Looking in a mirror together while pointing out your nose and her nose, your ears and her ears is one of the earliest forms of self-awareness. Playing "Head Shoulders, Knees and Toes" with an older infant also helps her understand the similarities between herself and others.


Self-regulation is the ability to regulate emotions and responses. It's what prevents children from saying mean things or hitting a peer who stole their toy. For a newborn, this means soothing him when he's upset and keeping him physically comfortable. As your infant gets older, he'll use this model to soothe himself and communicate when he's feeling uncomfortable, explains ZerotoThree.org. He can't learn to regulate what he doesn't recognize, which is communicating when he's uncomfortable, tired or overstimulated.

Affectionate Affirmation

Baby talk and kitchy-kitchy cooing actually serve an important purpose in your baby's emotional development 1. Even though she can't talk, lovingly describing what you're doing, whether it's changing her diaper or giving her a bath, tells her she's valued and loved. Waiting for her reciprocating coo or vocalization as you gently babble with each other tells her what she has to contribute is valid and that interacting with people is a positive experience. When your infant experiences these feelings of respect, love and patience, explains ZerotoThree.org, she's also learning to treat others the same way.

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