Understanding the Emotional Development of Toddlers

In the toddlers years, children expand their sense of self. They know and can repeat their names and those of their friends. When asked they can tell you who is in their family, how old they are, what they like to do, and what they are learning. Many toddlers describe themselves using characteristics such as hair color, gender, and size and compare themselves to others in the group.

Toddlers’ emotions are both strong and contradictory. ” I want to do it myself.” and “I want you to be available when I need you.” ” No becomes frequent and powerful word for toddlers. They feel a sense of control by being able to express themselves with this word, which usually garners lots of attention. It is one of the ways they build a sense of self – “I am an individual who can have his own views.” Towards the end of the toddler years, a sense of self also allows for more complex emotions such as feeling shy or guilty.

Many toddlers can “read” the expressions on adult faces. During this period, children begin to understand that they are separate from other people – an important part of being ready to have empathy for others.

Toddlers are learning the words that name the emotions they feel. More verbal children may say. “I am angry” or “I am happy.” Less verbal children are more likely to continue to use crying or other gestures to express themselves.

Towards the end of toddler years, many children can express their emotions appropriately through words, gestures, and facial expressions, in most situations. They do not do so all of the time. They recognize their own feelings, and those of others, and show a level of concern when others are hurt or upset. Many times toddlers will try to make things better.

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