It’s clear that even infants have a great range of nonverbal behaviors – as they smile, crawl, and laugh their way into our hearts.
Further nonverbal behaviors evolve with the child’s development. For instance, babies expand their range of nonverbal skills when they start to walk.
Their new mobility allows for posture, position, and spatial relations to develop.
Gestures become part of a child’s nonverbal repertoire around one year of age. Pointing is a common response to new events.
It always involves the child observing her mother, standing still, and orienting her body and face halfway between her mother and the narrative object. When a year-old child waves spontaneously, she is usually signaling imminent interaction, not “Bye-bye.”
If you spend any time in accordance at the grocery store, you’ll also see toddlers engage in coy behavior. This naturally includes a child smiling, then looking at you and averting her eyes (alternating eye contact), turning her body away, and maybe burying her head in her mother’s legs or chest.
The nonverbal message here: “I want to interact with you, but it’s a pretty complex social skill and you’re a stranger. But I still want to engage.” This kind of approach avoidance behavior frequently emerges among boys and girls toward the end of the first year and continues all through the second.
Young children also begin to develop self-adapters – those touching behaviors we all use to soothe and comfort ourselves.
You may observe kids twirling or pulling their hair or an ear, sucking their thumb, or rubbing on the satin part of a blanket.
Children Have No Boundaries
At this age, children have no boundaries. Actually, toddlers have almost no sense of personal space. They climb all over us, and we let them.
How often have we witnessed a toddler or preschooler climbing over a booth at a restaurant to see what we’re eating? Young children lean up against strangers.
Over time, however, children are exposed to steady increasing distances for various communication situations. They learn suitable conversational distances by about age eight.
Generally, youngsters express their emotions with more body parts and in a less restrained fashion than adults; few are the adults who would jump up and down in excitement or stomp a foot in rage and get away with it.
With increasing age, we develop finer muscular control. Our cognitive abilities become more complex, and we learn and act in response to various social norms and pressures.
Because of this, kids steadily increase their ability to simulate facial expressions and emotion. Sudden shifts from one emotional display to another decrease as youngsters get older.