Most of us would like our toddlers to make friends easily or to voice their opinions better, this is all dependent on their social and emotional development.

While physical development, as well as language development (which we will look at in the next segment when we talk about the cognitive development of a toddler), is important. Furthermore, it is also important for a child to learn how to interact with others as well as to understand their emotions. Furthermore, it is important to be able to control one’s own emotions, something even difficult for us adults to do.

This will largely determine how many positive relationships the toddler would be able to maintain growing up. Mastering these skills is a long process, and/ children continue to develop in this area well into their teenage years or even until young adulthood.

At the age of 12-24 months, the young toddler understands that they are independent beings and also that others have thoughts and feelings just like themselves. It is during this time that we should make them feel safe and loved while they deal with new challenges. as well as being able to develop important components such as a sense of conscience which they will carry on towards adulthood.

If the toddler is not taught right from wrong and also provided a nurturing, loving environment, they are more likely to develop conduct problems and antisocial behaviours later in life.Parents play a vital role during this time, as to how you respond to your toddler would determine how confident they become and how much of trust they place in others.

Following are a few things to help support your toddler’s social and emotional development include;

  • Giving your toddler enough time to try and figure out a problem on his/her own (such as tying their shoelace). Only provide support when/if you see them frustrated
  • Encourage and support toddlers in their efforts, offer praise while they are attempting to do something
  • Develop the concept of sharing by showing them how to share. Introduce games where they need to wait their turn
  • Demonstrate polite ways of asking for what they want as well as for asking permission to use what does not belong to them
  • Try distracting them in order to reduce conflict (such as showing them a different object or drawing their attention to something more interesting)
  • Create an environment where they know they can depend on you and feel safe
  • Establish routines which will help your toddler to prepare for the challenges they may face

At the age of 24-36 months, toddlers start to really engage in interactive play with others which may also include imaginative play like pretending to play house and/or looking after a baby doll

Their understanding of other’s feeling will also tend to gradually increase, you might notice them always wanting to be right in an argument. It is therefore important to focus on helping toddlers understand their feelings. How can you help your toddler do this?

  • Creative methods could be used such as reading story book or even using puppets. Some other aspects of how you can help your toddler
  • Help them understand healthy and non-harmful ways to express feelings, especially negative ones such as anger. For example, it is not ok to hit when you’re angry, rather express feelings by using appropriate words.
  • Try to avoid always directing your toddler. Let them come up with play ideas so that they are not always dependent on you. Support older toddler’s developing skills by empathizing with their frustration, asking if they know what caused the problem and if they have a solution, offering your observation and if they would like to hear your suggestions etc.
  • Talk about rules and limits you would like to set in a language your toddler can understand.
  • Give consequences to help your toddler understand the cause and effect involved in a rule. If a punishment is being given this should be done immediately after the undesirable behaviour has occurred so that your toddler understands what you are punishing them for

Other Important Aspects to Remember

Remember that consistency in your parenting is of utmost importance. A common mistake parents tend to make is to adapt two different parenting styles. This will create confusion in the toddler’s mind.

Another common mistake is the lack of stimulation. Allowing a child to simply sit in front of a TV will not help them in their development. There have been many instances where parents come to consultation stating their child is not engaging with other children or is finding it difficult to sit in Montessori.

More often than not these problems can be traced back to the lack of appropriately supporting them in their social and emotional development. If a child is not allowed the opportunity to play they might struggle with not knowing how to play and how to interact with other children.

If there is no structure provided for a young toddler, they would tend to struggle when put into a setting that demands structure. Therefore, supporting them appropriately early on in life would help them be more prepared for challenges they would face not only in childhood but also in later life. If you would like to know more tips on how you can support your developing toddler with their social and emotional development, leave us a comment and we will be able to support your individual queries.