The Emotional and Social Development of children, a guide to comfort, play and teach

The Emotional and Social development of children, a guide to comfort, play and teach.
Social and emotional learning is a lifelong process that begins at birth.  Caregivers play a pivotal role in this arena and should therefore be equipped with a loving and caring heart as well as knowledge of  typical and emerging emotional and social skills of children as they grow.

 Here is a guide for parents and caregivers of children 0-5 years.

Emotional Development, your Baby at l to 3 months:

Typical Emotional Skills:

*  Enjoys/needs a great deal of physical contact and tactile stimulation
*  Demonstrates different moods (e.g., distress and excitement)
*  Shows  happiness with squeals; frustration with whimpers; and hunger with smacking lips

Emerging Emotional Skills: 

*  Recognizes and calms down to a familiar voice
*  Makes appropriate facial expressions in response to emotions (e.g., fear, joy, anger).
*  Starts to laugh.

If a Caregiver will do this:                                     Your Baby will:


*Respond quickly to your baby’s cry                * Feel his needs                                                                                are being met
* Provide comforting soft materials                  * Begin to quiet
                                                                             down on his own

*Provide soft, lullaby music                              * Enjoy new                                                                           comforting sounds
*Copy the faces your baby makes                      * Respond with his
                                                                                own expressions 
* Talk to your baby                                            * Turn toward your
                                                                               familiar voice
* Create routines                                                * Learn to                                                                                         anticipate what
                                                                             comes next.                                   
Social Development, your Baby at l to 3 months:

Typical Social Skills:
*  Fixes eyes on your face in response to your smile
*  Studies faces alertly and is more oriented to his surroundings
*  Enjoys socializing and playing with other people

Emerging Social Skills:
*  Listens to voices and coos
*  Becomes more expressive with her face, body/muscle tone and voice
Knows difference between family members and strangers.

If a Caregiver will do this:                          Your Baby will:

    * Make eye contact with your             *Become familiar with          baby                                              your face
   * Spend time with your baby daily      *Enjoy relating to 
                                                                   loving adults.


* Speak using different pitches               *Show interest in the                                                                sound of the caregiver’s                                                                      voice
* Read and sing to your baby                 * Discover language and
                                                                   music through enjoyable

*  Pause, observe and respond                  * Become engaged in
appropriately to your baby’s reactions      the interactions.
* Give your baby time to react and           * Learn about the basics
  then respond to him                                of taking turns in a

Emotional Development, your Baby at 4 to 6 months

Typical Emotional Skills:
*  Stops cooing and smiling or fusses if a new person moves toward him
*  Shows fear, anger and disgust
*  Responds sometimes to the emotional tones of parents” voices

Emerging Emotional Skills
*  May differentiate between mother’s image and his own in the mirror
*  Is content to pay alone for a while with a few toys in the crib or playpen
*  Shows attachment to special toy or object and uses it for comfort.

If a Caregiver will do this:                             Your Baby will:


* Learn to soothe your baby’s distress         * Feel his emotions are
* Describe your baby’s emotion to him       * Begin to learn about 


* Add tickles or finger plays to                     *Feel reassured about
    daily routines (e.g., feeding)                        what to expect at
                                                                          these times
 * Sing action songs such as                          * Begin to become
     "If you're happy and you know it"               with different 


* Hold your baby around new people            *Feel a sense of 
                                                                          security even in
                                                                          frightening situation

*Read books showing pictures of people       * Learn about 
with different expressions                                 different expressions

Social Development, your Baby at 4 to 6 months

Typical Social Skills:

*  Makes social gestures such as waving or kicking when he sees a familiar person
*  Distinguishes familiar and unfamiliar adults
* Smiles at and enjoys patting mirror image, differentiates self from mirror image

Emerging Social Skills:

* Demonstrates delightful openness and friendliness
* Observes adults’ facial expressions intently
*  Starts to cooperate in games with others, (e.g., ball games, building blocks)

If a Caregiver will do this:                        Your Baby will:


   *Sing and talk to your baby                  * Take comfort in the songs 
      as much as possible                                and sounds he knows

    *Call out to your baby in                      * Begin to call out to you
      a fun voice from another room               to get your attention
                                                                      when he hears your voice


      *Sit or hold your baby in front             *Love to look at your face
        of a  mirror and make faces                   and his own.



 *Talk about what you hear                         * Learn to listen and
    (e.g., "The phone is ringing.")                    begin to recognize
                                                                        household sounds

  * Create a book with pictures of                 *Learn about the 
      familiar people for your baby                    people in his world

Emotional Development, your Baby at 7 to 9 months

Typical Emotional Skills:

   Feels strongly about what he does or does not to do

*     Laughs because he now knows he can laugh whenever he wants

     Displays fear of separation, (e.g., is clearly attached to familiar caregivers)

Emerging Emotional Skills:

*      Shows clear like or dislike for certain people, objects or places

 *     May be more sensitive to other children and will cry if they cry

*     Begins to think about people’s moods and motives

If a Caregiver will do this:                              Your Baby will:


  Watch to see what behavior                   *Learn to cope with
      helps your baby soothe emotions             himself and encourage
      in his own way (e.g., using a                    it.
      special blanket or a toy)

   * Make sure to always respond                  *Understand that he can 
      to your baby’s “calls” for                             depend on you.


 *  Play some physical games that energize          *Learn how to                your baby, without making him anxious            be excited and to

                                                                         calm down again
*  Enjoy one-to-one games like showing              *Show his feelings      baby his eyes, nose and mouth in                        by making faces
     a mirror.                                                           and body movements



*Tell your baby about the routine                     *Feel safe, secure
   (e.g., “It’s time to change                                 and respected as
    your diaper")                                                    an individual.             

 *  Create routines for all regular                   * Begin to learn what
     activities, like                                                is happening next

     diapering, bedtime, feeding or playtime.      and feel control over 
                                                                            his emotional 

Social Development, your Baby at 7-9 months:

Typical Social Skills:

·   *   Plays social games such as peek-a-boo, pat-a-cake, and ball games
*   Resists pressure to do something he doesn’t want to do (e.g., pushes spoon away when feeding)
*   Shouts for attention and breaks into conversation with his voice.

Emerging Social Skills:

·        Demonstrates sense of control (e.g., extends toy to show you, but won’t give it to you)

·        Tests caregiver or parental reactions during feeding and bedtime

·        Able to concentrate on other people’s actions (e.g., likes to watch people scribbling on paper)

If a Caregiver will do this:                                                      Your Baby will:


·     * Sing a song about looking
          for your baby                                    *Feel sure you will always
  (e.g.“Baby Marco where are you?”)       find him.                                                                                       
 *  Gently explain turn-taking if your      *Knows you are there to
      baby gets upset playing with others       help with his emotions
                                                              when others are around


·        Make time for your baby to be with                           *Try to communicate to    

other  babies                                                                them using sounds or


·        Follow your baby’s lead instead of always                 *Enjoy the sense that

deciding what game to play                                          she has control over

                                                                                       his actions and wishes


·         Slowly encourage your baby to go to                          *Learn to warm up to a

someone new, never forcing                                                stranger and approach

                                                                                                                       others on his own terms

·        Play and invite others to play, peek-a-boo                   *Realize that you and

with your baby                                                                others are still there

                                                                                        even when you can`t

                                                                                         be seen.

Emotional Development, your Baby at l0 to 12 Months:

Typical Emotional Skills:

·        Is able to seek comfort when upset (e.g., reaches up to be held)

·        Expresses many emotions and recognizes them in others (e.g., sad, happy, mad, scared)

·        Displays affection in hugs, kisses, pats and smiles

Emerging Emotional Skills:

·        Displays independent behaviour (e.g., refuses food, resists napping, may have tantrums)

·        Communicates specific preferences for certain people and toys (e.g. by crying, laughing)

·        Able to communicate discomfort when fearful or stressed

If a caregiver will do this:                                     Your baby will:


·        Do finger and toe plays and bounces       * Enjoy receiving your special

     with your baby                                              attention and affection                                  

·        Ask your baby for hugs and kisses           * Feel very loved


·        Provide opportunities to play with           *Try out ways to communicate

other babies                                                 and engage with other babies

·        Turn everyday routines into playful          *Look forward to daily routines

moments by adding tickles, giggles            and enjoy fun times with you.

and fun interactions.


·        Look at books with pictures of                   *Begin to label emotions and

people’s different emotions and                    and enjoy looking at books

talk about these

·        Say all the things you love about                *Become familiar with words

your baby                                                      for expressing affection.

Social Development, your Baby at l0 to 12 months:

Typical Social Skills:

·        Knows when parent approves or disapproves of behavior

·        Tries to help when being dressed (e.g., by putting arms out for sleeves

or feet for shoes.

·        Imitates adult movements as well as the actions and play of other children

Emerging Social Skills:

·        Shows familiarity with rituals and routines of the day; knows what comes next

·        Experiments with ways to get attention, enjoys being the center of attention

·        Respons to request (e.g., generally gives up toys on request).

If a Caregiver will do this:                                 Your Baby will:


·        Describe your baby’s emotion                 *Know you are responding to his

(e.g., Lily is crying. She feels sad.)            feelings

     *   Create a routine for daily events               *Feel safe and secure because he

           and talk about it before it                            knows what is happening next

           starts and as it is happening.


·        Look at family photos and talk about        * Try to say some of the names

what the people in the pictures

are doing.

·        Provide a safe place where your baby        * Communicate his interest in

can crawl and explore                                   objects by gazing, reaching

                                                                        or pointing


·        Talk about upcoming events                       * Learn about what is happening

                                                                        and how events affect him

·        Ask your baby to give a toy to you              * Begin to respond to requests

                                                                         and practice sharing and

                                                                          taking turns.

Emotional Development, your Baby at l3 to l8 months

Typical Emotional Skills:

·        Is more confident, exploring new things and taking risks when a trusted adult is present.

·        Identifies self in mirror or photograph, becomes more of an individual.

·        Hugs and kisses parents and other very familiar people and pets.

Emerging Emotional Skills:

·        Shows jealousy when attention is given to other family members

·        Shows frustration easily

·        Display a sense of ownership over toys and people.

If a Caregiver will do this:                                   Your Baby will:


·        Encourage your child to safely                     * Explore his environment

explore his surroundings                                 in a self-directed way.

·        Give your child opportunities to                    * Develop a sense of

Feel successful (e.g., play a game                     competence and feel that

That he has initiated)                                         he can influence others


·        Use stories, songs or toys                               * Express emotion in response

(e.g., teddy bears) to explore  feelings                   to what he sees or hears

·        Provide opportunities for your child               * Learn to be self-reliant for

to play on his own                                             small periods of time


·        Teach your child simple words to                    * Learn to connect words to

express his feelings (e.g., “I’m sad”)                   how he feels

·        Inform him when a routine will be                   * Become better prepared to

different and what will be happening                  deal with any changes and

                                                                              experience less anxiety

Social Development, your Baby at l3 to 18 months

Typical Social Skills:

·        Begins to show sense of humour

·        Plays best on his own, doesn’t want to share toys with others,

shouting, “Mine, mine!”

·        Enjoys imitating adult tasks such as dusting, sweeping floors, setting the table

Emerging Social Skills:

·        May be able to cooperate at times but may not respond quickly or will do the opposite of the request

·        Play alongside another child

·        Tries to dress/undress himself (e.g., pull up pants, undo Velcro shoe fasteners)

If a Caregiver will do this:                                     Your Baby will:


·        Have a good-bye routines when                     * Be comforted by routines

you and family members leave                           which means that people

                                                                              always return

·        Invite your child to join in some                     * Enjoy imitating adult tasks;

daily chores                                                       feel a sense of independence


·        Create time for your child to play                    * Begin to learn the give and

with others his age                                               take that comes with being

                                                                             in a social group.

·        Provide pretend play props                              * Recreate familiar actions

                                                                            he has experienced himself


·        Share a toy with your child, taking                   * Begin to learn what’s

turns with it                                                          expected when he plays

                                                                                with others

·        Use “Yes” and “No” to clearly set                      * Begin to understand what

limits and explain why, always                            actions are acceptable or

respond warmly                                                    not acceptable

Emotional Development, your Toddler at l9 to 24 months

Typical Emotional Skills:

·        Is developing a range of emotions (e.g., may have tantrums, show aggression by biting

·        Is pulled between needing to show independence and still feeling dependent

·        Still cautious around unfamiliar adults (e.g., will play with a new adult in the presence of a familiar person)

Emerging Emotional Skills:

·        Uses words such as “no” a lot

·        Shares a piece of food

·        Familiar with routines and the order of the day, is unhappy about any changes in routine

If a Caregiver will do this:                                        Your Toddler will:


·        Recognize and name your child’s                      * Learn the words to use

Emotions (e.g., “Your crying tells me                   when talking about

you are sad”                                                          feelings

·        Suggest ways to deal with his feelings               * Feel comforted and

                                                                               supported to learn ways

                                                                               to deal with his emotions


·        Sing songs that use emotion words                    * Begin to associate certain

(e.g., “If you’re happy and you know                    emotions with behaviors

 It, clap your hands”)

·        Read stories that explore different                     * Begin to see what can make

emotions  and discuss the                                  others sad, happy, angry, etc.

character’s  perspective


·        Notice when your child is frustrated                 * Know you will help him 

and help him deal with his emotions                   cope with challenging


·        Offer your child different choices                      * Begin to develop some

to help him cope with his feelings.                      strategies to deal with his



·        Notice when your child is frustrated               * Know you will help him cope

and help him deal with his emotions.                 with challenging feelings.

·        Offer your child different choices                    * Begin to develop some

to help him cope with his feelings.                      strategies to deal with his


Social Development, your Toddler at l9 to 24 months

Typical Social Skills:

·        Enjoys playing alone for a few minutes (e.g., building blocks, drawing, looking at books)

·        Shows ownership or possession of objects and cannot share easily

·        Says “no” and likes to do things without help

Emerging Social Skills:

·        Distinguishes himself as a separate person, contrasts himself with others

·        Begins to be toilet trained

·        Puts on simple clothing without help.

If a Caregiver will do this:                                        Your Toddler will:


·        During every day routines, talk                     * Enjoy talking about people

about family and friends                                  he knows and loves

·        Follow your child’s lead rather                      * Learn that his ideas are valued

than direct the play yourself                             and that people will listen to



·        Look at family photos so your                      * Learn to recognize and name

Child can find himself and identify                 family members; think about

Familiar people                                                his relationship to them.

·        Set up a water play activity with                  * Develop and practice social

a friend, give them dolls, sponges                  skills like sharing and turn

and towels                                                       taking while enjoying a

                                                                         soothing sensory activity.                                                      


·        Prepare your child ahead of time                * Anticipate what will happen and

For new social events                                     think about what he might like

                                                                        To do at the event

·        Let your child help with chores                   * Learn to feel responsible as he

(e.g., wiping spills, putting clothes                  as he participates in daily

in drawers)                                                       family or daycare routines

Emotional Development, your Toddler at 25 to 30 months

Typical  Emotional Skills:

·        Wants independence but still needs security of parents

·        Needs an ordered, predictable routine (e.g., when saying good-bye to parent)

·        Expresses feelings through language and pretend play (e.g., roaring like an angry lion)

Emerging Emotional Skills:

·        Separates more easily from parents

·        Responds to other children’s feelings and begins to show empathy

·        Becomes less upset by limits and discipline

If a Caregiver will do this:                                            Your Toddler will:


·         Encourage your toddler to show his                   * Feel comfortable expressing his feelings

Emotions and talk about them

(e.g., “It’s OK to cry.  Can you tell me

What’s making you sad?”)

·         Model coping with emotions (e.g., talk               *  Learn strategies for dealing with

through frustrating problems with                          emotions

your toddler.


·         Provide the chance for pretend play                      * Express different emotions through

with dolls and teddy bears in order                          using toys

to explore emotions                                                                                                                                                                              

·         Read books that illustrate how children                 * Begin to understand another person’s

or animals experience a range of                             emotions and what might have

emotions                                                                   caused them


·         Encourage your toddler to understand                    * Begin to be aware of the feelings

how others may feel in situations                              others may have

·         Help him understand how his behavior                   * Begin to understand how other

affects others                                                           children might feel in certain situations

Social Development, your Toddler at 25 to 30 months

Typical Social Skills:

·        Establishes self as separate from parents by saying “No! Me do it!”

·        Displays shyness around strangers and in outside situations

·        Likes to play near other children but not yet able to play cooperatively

Emerging Social Skills:

·        Approaches new person after you have talked to them

·        Begins to show more readiness for cooperative play

·        Knows own gender, and that of others

If a Caregiver will do this:                                      Your Toddler will:


·        Provide safe opportunities                             * Know he is a separate person

To assert independence                                     but that you are there to help

                                                                           him if needed

·        Read stories about ways people                      * Begin to understand the

care for each other                                             caring behaviors and how to

                                                                            get along with others.


·        Go to the park and play in the sand                 * Feel a sense of belonging

with other children                                             in a group

·        Invite one friend over to play for                    * Begin to develop social skills

a short time                                                       and become more able to play

                                                                           with others


·        When conflicts occur, explain how                  * Begin to learn positive ways

his behavior makes the other                              to interact with other

person feel                                                           children and how to    


·        Encourage taking turns                                     * Develop important social

                                                                             skills while doing an

                                                                              enjoyable activity

Emotional Development, your Toddler at 31 to 36 months

Typical Emotional Skills:

·        Objects to major changes in routines

·        Recognizes and responds to other children’s feelings

·        Becomes more comfortable with new people

Emerging Emotional Skills:

·        Explains feelings when asked about them

·        Is more able to understand the feelings of other children, and talk about them

·        Gets excited about activities he does

If a Caregiver will do this:                                       Your Toddler will:


·        Try to maintain regular routines;                      * Feel a sense of security

tell him when a change is coming                      and predictability

·        Acknowledge his feelings and                          * Learn to understand his own

talk about them                                                    feelings and respond

                                                                               appropriately to those

                                                                                of others


·        Find people pictures showing                            * Begin to think about what

different emotions; talk about the                        causes people to have

person’s feelings and why they might                  different feelings and

feel that way                                                         recognize words that match


·        Encourage your child to do small                       * Become more comfortable

excursions with other  familiar                              being away from parents



·        Read books with your child about                      * Have a chance to ask about

different feelings                                                    emotions and learn about

                                                                                his own

·        Create a picture chart of his day                       * Have a comforting reminder

                                                                             of his routine and learn

                                                                            about the sequence of events

Social Development, your Toddler at 31 to 36 months

Typical Social Skills:

·        Uses social conventions like “please”, “thank you” and greetings

·        Is more able to play cooperatively and take turns

·        Plays make-believe games

Emerging Social Skills:

·        Imitates adult behaviors, for example, shopping in make-believe grocery store

·        Helps other children to do things

·        Develops pro-social skills like turn-taking, sharing, using words to resolve conflicts

If a Caregiver will do this:                                  Your Toddler will:


·        Introduce your toddler to familiar               * Learn to recognize people

neighbors and community workers                and feel safe with them

·        Acknowledge his positive behavior             * Know his behavior was

(e.g., “The way you shared was so                  appropriate and be motivated

polite”)                                                             to repeat it.


·        Provide many dramatic play props                 * Recreate his experiences in

like food containers, play money,                      pretend play situations

 basket, etc.                                                         (e.g., shopping)

·        Invite two of your child’s friends                    * Be able to practice his

Over for a cooking or craft activity                    social skills as he shares

                                                                            materials or take turns in

                                                                            an activity


·        Provide puppets and dolls for                          * Expand his language skills

dramatic play                                                      and use his imagination

·        Play simple turn-taking games                         * Practice waiting his turn

llke “I spy with my little eye”                            while developing his

                                                                            observation skills.

Emotional Development, Your Preschooler at 3-4 Years

Typical Emotional Skills:

·        Experiences a broad range of feelings (e.g., jealousy, excitement, fear, happiness, anger).

·        Is more able to express anger verbally rather than physically

·        Is becoming less egocentric and more able to understand the point of view of others.

Emerging Emotional Skills:

·        Expands pretend play into rich, connected themes

·        Is more even tempered and cooperative with parents

·        May show attachment to one playmate

If a Caregiver will do this:                               Your preschooler will:


·        Model coping with emotions                 * Learn acceptable ways to cope

·        Help your preschooler deal with            * Feel supported when experiencing

tantrums by talking to her about              negative emotions

what makes him feel better when

angry or sad.


·        Arrange special play dates with              * Feel supported in his social needs

His friends

·        Provide opportunities for him                  * Develop a sense of mastery and

to make choices about play                        positive self-esteem in areas he

activities.                                                    likes


·        Engage in activities that please                 * Feel respected when you engage

Your preschooler (e.g., reading                    in his favorite activity

Books, doing puzzles)

·        Encourage him to choose his                     * Develop confidence in his ability

Clothes and get dressed independently      * to be responsible.

Social Development, Your Preschooler at 3-4 Years

Typical Social Skills:

·        Enjoys playing with other children and socializes well

·        Imitates mom or dad in play

·        Likes to talk and carry on conversations

Emerging Social Skills:

·        Participates in interactive games like “London Bridge” and “Farmer in the Dell”

·        Complies with requests from parents more often

·        Enjoy dramatic play with others

If a Caregiver will do this:                                    Your preschooler will:


·        Give your preschooler a special                * Feel that he has a special and

Responsibility, like watering                        important role in the family or

The garden                                                    the preschool

·        Be available to your preschooler               * Know that you are interested in

and ready to talk to him when needed.        his activities and feel secure.


·        Provide opportunities for your child          * Develop his ability to share and

To play with other preschoolers                    take turns.

·        Spend time playing simple games              * Enjoy playing with you and

that require turn-taking                                  begin to understand games with



·        Ask your preschooler about his                  * Want to talk to you more often

day (e.g., “What was one special                  about his experiences.

Thing you did?”

·        Explain to your preschooler reasons           * Have a better understanding of

behind your requests.                                       routines, rules and limits.

Emotional Development, Your Preschooler at 4 to 5 years

Typical Emotional Skills:

·        Uses pretend play to gain control of frustrating and frightening experiences.

·        Complies with requests from parents more often.

·        Keeps going on a difficult task for longer periods.

Emerging Emotional Skills:

·        Shows ability to reflect on himself and his actions (e.g., “What I said wasn’t nice”)

·        Experiences and understands positive and negative feelings about another person.

·        Starts to show more interest in doing things for himself (e.g., cleaning room, eating).

If a Caregiver will do this:                                  Your Preschooler will:


·        Monitor and name things that                   * Experience lower stress levels

may cause your child’s experiences              and feel your love and support

to be negative.

·        Allow your child to develop his                * Learn to feel capable in different

strengths and talents                                     areas (e.g., sports, music, arts)


·        Provide drawing materials and                  * Use his creativity to express

Encourage your child to talk about               emotions and talk about personal

his pictures.                                                   events.   

·        Encourage your child to act out                 * Identify and talk about feelings

situations and emotions by himself              in an imaginative way.

or using puppets.


·        Guide your child on how to handle           * Learn how to express anger and

challenging feelings                                     frustration safely.

·        Support your child when he wants            * Learn that wanting to try out new

to try new things or take risks in                 things is ok and can bring

in social situations.                                        success.

Social Development, Your Preschooler at 4 to 5 years

Typical Social Skills:

·        Plays games with simple rules

·        Shows interest in gender differences, and may undress with other children

·        Begins to grasp the concept of sharing

Emerging Social Skills:

·        Plays cooperatively in a group of 2-3 children

·        Shoes an understanding of right and wrong

·        Listens while others are speaking

If a Caregiver will do this:                          Your preschooler will:


·        Provide opportunities for                     * Start to represent his stories

your child to draw or tell                         and share his thoughts

his own stories.

·        Tell him how proud you are                 * Feel proud of what he’s done,

of his abilities whenever he                    and have a strong sense of his

he does something well.                         capabilities.


·        Encourage more sophisticated              * Engage more in problem solving,

pretend play by providing props              making decisions and conversations

(e.g., grocery store)

·        Provide many opportunities for            * Strengthen social skills while

social interactions with other                   playing with friends



·        Encourage your child not to give          * Learn to persist at a task, especially

up on games or tasks when he                 when others are counting on him

plays with others.

·        Create the opportunity for your             * Feel a sense of leadership

child to play with younger



Reference:  The First Five Years, a publication from the parenting and child development experts at Invest in Kids.

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