By Gordonia Cundiff

ECMH kidsIt is a well known fact that social and emotional learning starts at the very beginning of life from bonds formed with parents and caregivers. But, did you know that infant to infant play gives infants an opportunity to develop compassion?

At a play group, infants are able to have playful interactions with peers.  This form of interaction ignites youngsters’ social and emotional development.  As the infants sit on their parents’ laps facing one another they are able to study facial expressions and emotional reactions and learn from this experience.

Have you ever been in a room filled with infants when one begins to cry and suddenly they all join in?  While this may seem spontaneous, it is actually a developmental milestone. Empathetic infants are not only in tune to their personal needs and emotions but to the emotions of others around them.  They themselves may not be experiencing any sign of distress, but knowing that someone else is crying can cause an infant to respond in kind.  This is an early display of compassion.

The benefits of play groups extend beyond infant development. Playgroups also allow parents to exchange stories in a welcoming space. The additional support helps when raising a happy healthy baby, so be sure to ask your pediatrician about playgroups in your community.

Gordonia Cundiff is the family outreach coordinator for Boston Project LAUNCH/ MYCHILD, a program of the Public Health Commission. This blog is part of a series in recognition of Children’s Mental health Awareness Month.