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Emotional Development: 2 to 3 years

Emotional Development means developing a full range of emotions, from sad to happy to angry, and learning to handle them appropriately. This leads to deeper qualities – sympathy, caring, resilience, self-esteem, assertiveness and being able to rise to life's challenges.

Emerging Skills
  • Show empathy
  • Progress with toilet training
  • Control aggression and tantrums, at least part of the time
  • Be less upset by limits and discipline
  • Be able to wait for their needs to be met
  • Find out more about What to Expect from your toddler, 2 to 3 years.


    Through the comfort and responsiveness of an adult, toddlers will learn how to handle their emotions and how to seek help when needed.

    Parents Can:
  • Encourage their toddler to show his emotions and talk about them. For example, "It's okay to cry, can you tell me what's making you sad?"
  • Child Will:
  • Feel comfortable expressing his feelings
  • Be more likely to recognize emotions in other children and adults

  • Parents Can:
  • Model coping with emotions, such as talking through frustrating problems with their toddler. For example, "This is difficult" or "This makes me feel sad/happy"
  • Talk about how you might resolve the problem or deal with the feeling
  • Child Will:
  • Learn coping skills
  • Be more likely to imitate or try out these strategies when dealing with emotions

  • Parents Can:
  • Move their toddler to a quieter place when she is having difficulty coping with her emotions
  • Child Will:
  • Learn more acceptable coping skills
  • Feel safe and secure enough to express her emotions
  • Look to you to support her when she is overwhelmed by emotions

  • Play

    Through opportunities for play, toddlers will experience joyful, free, spontaneous moments of fun while also learning about themselves and others

    Parents Can:
  • Provide the opportunity for pretend play with dolls and teddies in order to experiment with emotions
  • Child Will:
  • Express different emotions through the toys
  • Begin to experiment with emotions and reactions to emotions (for example, "My baby teddy is sad. His mommy is going to give him a big hug.")

  • Parents Can:
  • Give their toddler many opportunities to "let me do it myself." Offer times to practice getting dressed or helping with household tasks
  • Child Will:
  • Begin to understand that he is a separate person from you
  • Enjoy making choices and doing it "his" way
  • Develop a sense of competence and confidence

  • Parents Can:
  • Read books that illustrate how children or animals experience a range of emotions, such as frustration, jealousy, anger and affection
  • Child Will:
  • Develop an interest in reading
  • Label different emotions
  • Develop the ability to understand another person's emotions, and what might have caused them

  • Teach

    Through routines, and emotionally and physically safe and secure environments, toddlers can learn how to think, solve problems and communicate.

    Parents Can:
  • Encourage their toddler to understand how others may feel in situations
  • Help their toddler understand how her behaviour may have an impact on others
  • Child Will:
  • Begin to develop empathy and sympathy
  • Begin to be aware of the feelings others may have

  • Parents Can:
  • Watch education programs on television, and point out the kinds of emotions characters are feeling
  • Child Will:
  • Begin to understand how other children might feel in certain situations
  • Enjoy being with you and talking about an imaginary character

  • Social Development: 2 to 3 years
    Intellectual Development - Language: 2 to 3 years
    Intellectual Development - Numeracy: 2 to 3 years
    Intellectual Development - Problem Solving: 2 to 3 years

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