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Emotional Development: 18 to 24 months

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
  • Begin to talk about feelings
  • At times, get frustrated and bite, hit or pull hair
  • Recognize self as a separate individual
  • Show preferences of likes and dislikes
  • Find out more about What to Expect from your toddler, 18 to 24 months.


    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:
  • Identify and label emotions, for example, "Your crying tells me you're feeling sad"
  • Child Will:
  • Learn to identify his feelings
  • Develop a vocabulary for talking about feelings
  • Begin to associate descriptive words with feelings

  • Parents Can:
  • Try to reduce biting and hitting by: explaining that it hurts others; helping their toddler talk about her feelings; continuing to provide comfort when their toddler is upset
  • Offer other ways their toddler can deal with her feelings, for example, "When you are mad, come and get a big person to help you."
  • Child Will:
  • Feel comforted and supported
  • Begin to understand that biting and hitting hurt others
  • Start to identify ways she can deal with some of her emotions

  • Parents Can:
  • Look at family pictures and talk about the feelings in the photos
  • Child Will:
  • Identify different emotions
  • Begin to label different emotions

  • Play

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

    Parents Can:
  • Sing songs that use emotion words, such as "When you're happy and you know it, clap your hands"
  • Child Will:
  • Begin to remember the words to songs
  • Begin to associate certain actions with words
  • Enjoy being and singing with you

  • Parents Can:
  • Set up imaginary play situations which allow their toddler to take on "pretend" roles and emotions, such as going to the doctor or preparing dinner
  • Child Will:
  • Try to imitate you or others he has seen
  • Begin to associate descriptive words with feelings
  • Enjoy pretending to be you

  • Parents Can:
  • Set up a craft area with cut outs of different eyes, mouths, noses, ears, etc. Encourage your toddler to create different faces with different emotions
  • Use the faces to make up stories or songs about why the face feels happy, sad or mad
  • Child Will:
  • Experiment with different emotions
  • Use his creativity to explore emotions
  • Label different emotions

  • Teach

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

    Parents Can:
  • Look at magazines and talk about the different emotions being shown (for example, "Why is the mommy so happy?")
  • Child Will:
  • Learn to label emotions
  • Expand her understanding of people and places, and their expressions

  • Parents Can:
  • Notice when their toddler is frustrated, and step in to help him deal with his emotions
  • Offer their toddler different choices to help him cope with his feelings
  • Child Will:
  • Talk about his feelings
  • Know he can come to you when he is having trouble coping with his emotions
  • Begin to develop some strategies to deal with his emotions

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