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A Toddler's Social Emotional Development in Daycare

by Caitlin Beauchaine, studioD

Throughout the toddler years, children begin to achieve a variety of important developmental milestones. Social emotional skills are one major facet of overall childhood development. PBS.org suggests that social emotional skills are crucial as children transition into school. While parents can support toddlers in developing some social emotional skills at home, daycare can offer a rich environment in which to interact with peers and practice these skills.

Social Emotional Development

Social emotional skills are those that increase self-awareness and self-regulation. Between the ages of 1 and 3, children begin to master a variety of social emotional skills, such as expressing their feelings verbally and engaging in pretend play. During this stage of development, toddlers become increasingly independent, begin to recognize others’ feelings and show interest in playing with their peers.

Social Emotional Milestones

Toddlers engage in parallel play in which they play next to each other before learning to play together.

A wide range of important social emotional skills begin to emerge during toddler development. A child between 12 and 24 months of age learns that he is separate from others and that his feelings may differ from those around them, according to the website ZeroToThree. During this time, toddlers demonstrate strong feelings for their parents and show affection to familiar people in their lives, such as their daycare provider. An older toddler ranging from 24 to 36 months of age possesses empathy and may be moved to give a hug to a daycare pal who is crying over a lost toy or help a frustrated playmate find his lost shoe. He might initiate play on his own and imitate adult behavior as he plays. When a toddler reaches age 3, he might demonstrate more advanced skills such as turn-taking and attempting to share with his friends.

Social Emotional Development and Daycare

A supportive caregiver at daycare can support toddlers in learning to share and take turns.

Practicing social emotional skills is an important part of promoting development. For many children, daycare is an opportunity to spend time fostering independence and practicing social emotional skills. Exposing a child to his peers on a regular basis creates the opportunity to interact. This includes conflict resolution, a major part of social interaction that can be difficult for many toddlers to negotiate. Children work on this social emotional skill when engaging with peers at daycare. A supportive caregiver can encourage toddlers to express emotion and find a solution when disagreements arise during interactive play. While at daycare, toddlers celebrate independence by initiating play with peers and developing significant early friendships.

Partnering with Day Care Providers

A toddler attending daycare can develop positive relationships with both parents and daycare providers. These loving relationships teach children about forming friendships and dealing with conflicts, according to ZeroToThree. Positive relationships with adults help a child feel safe and confident. In addition to interacting with peers, strong bonds with adults teach a child empathy and trust. If a child attends daycare, he must develop these positive relationships with both parents and daycare providers. Work with daycare providers to ensure all caregivers are supporting social emotional development in a constructive way. Communicate with daycare providers regularly to be sure your child is bonding well with their caregiver.

About the Author

Caitlin Beauchaine has worked in early childhood education as a teacher and education management professional since 2008. Beauchaine is certified in New York State to teach children ranging in age from birth through grade six. She holds a master’s degree in education from Canisius College, as well as a bachelor’s degree in childhood and special education from St. John Fisher College.

Photo Credits

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