Toddlers: from 18 months to 36 months


How children express and manage their emotions, and how they interact with others and when alone, is generally what is meant by social and emotional development. 

Social and emotional development is concerned with feelings, expectations of others, identity, sense of belonging, personal development, secure relationships, celebrating difference and so much more. From the very moment every child is born, their social-emotional development is affected by the quality of nurturing and positive experiences and relationships around them, and, social-emotional development immediately begins to affect all other areas of development – cognitive, motor and language development.

“Self-regulation is a set of critical skills for preschoolers that affects children socially, behaviorally and academically.  Unfortunately, children often begin (school) without important skills, such as being able to follow directions, stay on task with focused attention and regulate their own emotions using concrete strategies…poor development of self-regulation is linked with aggressive behavior, low academic achievement, delinquency and higher dropout rates. Fortunately, self-regulation skills can be taught during the preschool years and development of these skills happens rapidly.  Children can learn the behavioral strategies  such as regulating emotions, controlling and resisting impulses and exerting self-control – skills essential for social-emotional competence and academic success.” (

Who am I?

  • Toddlers know their names and surnames; they also know their close relatives and friends and feel comfortable around them even when you are not around. You will notice that they like imitating their siblings, relatives and friends and like spending lots of time watching what they do.

Tip: Toddlers will play beside one another, but usually not together. This is a normal stage for toddlers and is called “parallel play”. As they grow and become more experienced at play, they will learn to play with other children. This is called “cooperative play”, and usually happens after age three.

  • Toddlers want to assert their independence at this age and may refuse to hold your hand when you walk down a street, or throw a tantrum when you say no to something they want to do.

Tip: Giving toddlers choices helps them feel like they have a bit of control in their life. Limit the choice to two things, as long as you can accept both options. For example, you can give the choice of wearing a red hat or a blue hat (as long as both are available), or reading a book or singing a song before bed.

  • They want to participate in routines such as dressing up, tidying up and a routine of brushing teeth and washing hands.

Tip: Toddlers learn by doing. They want to try everything, but not everything is safe. Know what your little one can do and encourage him to try what he can. When you stay close by, you can quickly help if needed.

Who loves me and looks after me?

  • Between the ages of two and three, your toddler will better understand love and trust. He can also show affection now. However, sympathy and empathy are too advanced; he is not yet able to put himself in other people’s shoes or understand that other people have feelings too.

Tip: Teach them about respect and treating them with respect. For example, solve problems with non-violent solutions, talking in simple ways about a problem or cleaning up spilled water together, rather than yelling and smacking. Remember they will copy what you do and not just follow what you say they should do.

  • Toddlers are willing to do things on their own provided trusted adults are close by to support them.

Tip: Encourage safe exploration around a playground or in the home. Stay close. Allow a little struggle as they move around but respond if they fall/etc so they can trust you will always be there.

Who do I love and look after?

  • At around 18 months, he will be fiercely protective of his toys. This can be hard for parents who think their child should be learning to share but as they reach 30 months, toddlers become better at sharing their toys, and are likely to label all their playmates as friends. As the toddler grows, he will learn how to share and take turns, and may even have one or two special friends he prefers over others.

Tip: Create lots of opportunities to meet varied friends and when favourite friends are made, plan for them to spend plenty of times together but not exclusively; other friends should still be met and played with.