Social & Emotional Growth

Toddler smiling ear to earOne minute they are giggling, the next, in tears. Such is a day in the life of a toddler. Are you wondering how they can have such a range of emotions that seemingly change so quickly?

It may be easy to see the physical changes your toddler is experiencing. They are also changing rapidly in terms of their social and emotional growth.

What is social and emotional growth?

Social growth speaks to the ability of your toddler to relate to others in the world around them. This may include people, as well as animals and even objects. Socially, toddlers are learning that they are independent creatures, separate from their mom or dad.

Emotional growth includes the ability of your toddler to understand and express their emotions.

Key emotional and social development milestones for toddlers include:

  • Toddlers begin to want to achieve tasks independently. This may result in the frequent use of such phrases as “I can do it” and “no.”
  • Toddlers begin to understand their role as people; they begin to define their place and role within their community. They like to help.
  • Toddlers may have dramatic mood swings. Some of their outbursts are the result of their frustration to complete a task that they may not yet have the skill to complete successfully (i.e. putting on their shirt or shoes).

How can you support your toddler's social and emotional growth?

  • Provide positive social experiences for your toddler. Large group experiences may be overwhelming to a toddler, especially when first entering into the situation.
  • Comfort your child and provide support. Your toddler may need you to hold their hand and need time to observe before they begin to participate.
  • Take time to introduce your child to new people and things. Equip your child with words to understand who, what, where, and when. If your child sticks close to your side, don't be discouraged. Enjoy the moment – it won't be long until they are off and running on their own.
  • When your child expresses an emotion (happy, sad, mad, frustrated), empathize with your child and provide them with the word(s) to describe their feeling. Remember, we all have our moments and your child will have them too. Sometimes our outbursts are greatest for those we trust the most. When your child reacts negatively (temper tantrum!), work to remain calm. Your child needs you to be in control when they are not.

Toddlers…it's a roller coaster of emotions…enjoy the ups and downs! It's all part of the ride called parenthood.

What do you think?

Social & Emotional Growth

Tell us what you think!


  1. great article!! love it

  2. Profile photo of Amanda Amanda says:

    it’s the smarter ones who are more demanding…

  3. Profile photo of Grace Grace says:

    my daughter (3) so has mood swings…. but she is just the smartest little girl….

  4. Profile photo of Amy Amy says:

    My now three year old definitely goes on an emotional roller-coaster every couple days. She is mostly happy go lucky, but sometimes her frustration with her limited communication skills lead to some tears and temper-tantrums!!

  5. Profile photo of Mary Mullard Mary Mullard says:

    i hope my child doesnt cause alot of trouble

  6. Profile photo of Lois Lois says:

    my daughter has so much empathy, if a child is crying at the store she will tell me…oh no baby crying why can i do?

  7. Profile photo of jenfreeze jenfreeze says:

    My son is a big "observer before participating"! Agree with this article!


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