Toddler Milestones

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Social Emotional

This area of development involves learning to interact with other people, and to understand and control your own emotions. Babies start to develop relationships with the people around them right from birth, but the process of learning to communicate, share, and interact with others takes many years to develop.

Developing the ability to control your emotions and behavior is also a long process. Children continue to develop their social-emotional skills well into their teenage years, or even young adulthood.

Below are some of the typical developmental milestones for social-emotional skills. After each age group, you can find some “red flags” that might indicate a concern.

Please also see Communication Skills for more information about early development because speech and language skills are so important for effective social development.

Between the ages of 1-2 years, your child will:
  • Recognize herself in the mirror or photograph and smile or make faces at herself
  • Begin to say ‘no’ to bedtime and other requests
  • Imitate adults’ actions and words (e.g. chores)
  • Understand words and commands, and respond to them
  • Hug and kiss parents, familiar people and pets
  • Bring things to “show” other people
  • Begin to be helpful around the house
  • Begin to feel jealousy when she is not the centre of attention
  • Show frustration easily
  • May play next to another child, but will not really share until 3 or 4 years of age
  • Be able to play alone for a few minutes
  • React to changes in daily routines
  • Share a piece of food
  • Develop a range of emotions (may have tantrums, show aggression by biting, etc)
  • Start to assert independence by preferring to try do things “by myself”, without help
Red Flags for Social-Emotional Development (2 years)
  • Doesn’t imitate other people
  • Constantly moves from one activity to another and is not able to stay at an activity for brief periods
  • Requires constant attention to stay at an activity
  • Doesn’t show any interest in other children
  • Doesn’t “show” things to other people
  • Extremely “rigid” about routines, becoming extremely upset when they are changed
  • Too passive, and doesn’t want to try things other children her age are doing
  • Has extreme difficulty waiting for items he wants
Between the ages of 2-3 years, your child will:
  • Be assertive about what he wants, and say no to adult requests
  • Start to show awareness of her own feelings and others’ feelings
  • Have rapid mood shifts
  • Show more fear in certain situations (e.g the dark)
  • Become shy, and may start to whine
  • Possibly become aggressive and frustrated easily
  • Not like change
  • Want independence, but still need security of parents
  • Need an ordered, predictable routine (ie: when saying good-bye to parents)
  • Watch other children in play, and join them briefly
  • Defend his possessions
  • Begin to play “house”
  • Begin to separate more easily from parents
  • Begin to show empathy to other children (respond to their feelings)
Red Flags for Social-Emotional Development (3 years)
  • She is not interested in pretend play
  • She has extreme difficulty separating from you
  • He is not starting or responding to simple interactions with other children
  • She is showing abnormal aggression
  • He shows extreme fears that interfere with daily activities
  • She is extremely “rigid” about routines