Social and Emotional Development

Social and emotional development is the foundation for successfully building relationships.

As babies grow into toddlers, and toddlers into young children, there are many complex nuances at work, helping the early developers express their love and friendship.

At 12 months of age, children develop social and emotional capacities that prepare them to be self-confident, trusting and caring. They learn to recognise their feelings and experience a wide range of emotions. They may hit, bite, scream or cry seeking autonomy and independence but moments later may cling to an adult asking for help.

Ways to encourage social and emotional development...

In infants and younger toddlers:

  • Hold, carry, rock, and touch your baby often
  • Respond promptly and calmly to crying
  • Make routines enjoyable
  • Repeat sounds that your baby makes (sing, talk and listen)
  •  Respond to your infant’s individual needs
  • Never threaten to harm, shame or scare your baby At two years of age, toddlers start to play alongside other children. They begin to label feelings they recognise. Controlling emotions is difficult and frustration may trigger emotional meltdowns. Children at this age often use objects like their own blankets or teddy bears to help cope with new situations or strong emotions.

In two year olds:  

  • Give your child individual attention whenever you can
  • Read aloud to your child and talk about the pictures in the book
  • Talk with your child and ask questions that reflect a real interest and provoke thinking
  • Provide toys for stacking, blocks, jigsaws puzzles, toy cars, dolls for your child to share/explore their emotions
  • Provide opportunities for outdoor fun
  • Encourage children’s attempts to explore the world to develop self confidence

At age three, children develop more independence. They begin to have real friendships with other children. When conflicts arise with peers, they are most likely to seek adult assistance to sort out the conflict. Three years olds can better manage their emotions, but may still have a meltdown under pressure.

In three year olds:

  • Allow plenty of outdoor physical activities to release tension and any unwanted behaviours
  • Provide opportunities for creative play and incorporate pretend play, drawing and painting to encourage social encounters and emotion sharing
  • Give your child lots of love and encouragement At age four, children continue to learn the cause of certain feelings. They know how to manage intense emotions and can develop strategies to cope (using words, pretend play or drawing). Four year olds demonstrate clear progress in their social interactions with peers and show further interest in developing friendships with peers even if they do not last for long.

In four year olds:

  • Talk to your children about what they do and where they have been. Listen with interest when they talk to you and join the conversation when possible. This will boost your child’s self esteem
  • Read books to your children and talk about the emotions in the pictures
  • Tell stories about when you were a child. Present your child with a positive role model
  • Make opportunities for outdoor physical activity- make some time for a walk around the park to release tension, negative feelings and unwanted behaviours
  • Encourage painting and drawing whenever possible to express feelings and emotions
  • Encourage your children when they play well with others