Tips to Foster Healthy Social-Emotional Development in Toddlers

The establishment of social relationships starts at birth. Parents, early educators, and care providers, by helping babies feel safe and secure, lay the groundwork for healthy social and emotional development. This critical process has effects on how children grow into adults and view the world around them, express emotions, and establish relationships with others.

According to the US Department of Education, “Research shows that a strong social and emotional foundation in early childhood powerfully impacts children’s later positive attitudes and behaviors, academic performance, career path, and adult health outcomes!” Here are some tips to help educators, daycare providers, and others help foster healthy social and emotional development in toddlers:

Create a predictable, nurturing environment

  • Provide, at child-level, age-appropriate books, and toys to allow independent exploration
  • Set, and stick to, daily routines
  • Be aware of how different children respond to different environments
  • Find ways to celebrate the cultures of children’s families

Support the development of social skills

  • Offer children opportunities to make choices
  • Allow children to play in groups, even if that means side-by-side or parallel play
  • Encourage sharing by providing active, guided opportunities to do so

Recognize and discuss emotions

  • Identify emotions during play or reading time
  • Model how a toddler can express emotions
  • Help children express their feelings with pictures or guided conversation
  • Consider ways different children may cope with or manage their emotions and provide strategies

Practice positive discipline to encourage positive behaviors

  • Model positive behavior
  • Set your expectations to be sure they are age and developmentally appropriate
  • Praise positive behaviors
  • Speak in a manner that focuses on what children can do and not what they can’t

These are just some ways you can help the toddlers in your care to develop healthy social and emotional relationships with the world around them.

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