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Child Development Tracker

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Social and Emotional Growth


Supporting Activities

Early Learning

Help your child understand your expressions. Express Yourself

Barney and Friends

Learn manners while you sing with your child. Please and Thank You

Books for Your Child

Reading books about emotions helps young children deal with their own feelings. Try these read-aloud concept books for babies.

The significance of social and emotional development is seen in every area of a child's life. A child will have a strong foundation for later development if he or she can manage personal feelings, understand others' feelings and needs, and interact positively with others. Differences in social and emotional development result from a child's inborn temperament, cultural influences, disabilities, behaviors modeled by adults, the level of security felt in a child's relationships with adults, and the opportunities provided for social interaction.

One-year-olds are just learning to recognize and manage their feelings. They experience a wide range of emotions and have tantrums when they are tired or frustrated. They may also respond to conflict by hitting, biting, screaming, or crying. One-year-olds seek autonomy and may say, "No!" to adult suggestions or insist that they, "Do it byself!" Then, moments later, they might cling to an adult's leg or ask for help.

Emotional Development

  • Shows pleasure when familiar adults are nearby. Has developed close attachments with parents and other frequent caregivers; uses these relationships as a secure base to explore (e.g., digs in the sandbox but runs back to dad for a cuddle from time to time).

  • Knows own name. Uses "my" and "me" often, and with pride (e.g., says, "MY mama!"). Shows beginning signs of self-consciousness (e.g., hides behind a chair and looks ashamed after breaking an ornament).

  • Is keenly observant of others' emotional reactions. Checks parent's facial expressions (e.g., considers climbing up a ladder at the playground, but first looks back at mother's face for encouragement or warning).

  • Experiences a wide range of emotions (e.g., affection, frustration, fear, anger, sadness). Tends to express and act on impulses; has tantrums when tired or frustrated. With adult help, begins to use strategies to control emotional expression (e.g., goes to get teddy bear or another comfort object when upset so he or she can calm down).

Social Development

  • Is aware of others. Enjoys exploring objects with adults as a basis for establishing relationships (e.g., plays "peek-a-boo" over and over again with grandfather).

  • May make simple overtures to familiar children (e.g., looks for and smiles at children at the store, offers a toy or hug to another child whether or not the gesture is welcome).

  • Shows "contagious distress" when others are unhappy (e.g., at child care, starts to cry when he or she sees another child crying).

  • When a conflict occurs with another child or adult, he or she often acts out physically or emotionally (e.g., another child grabs Sara's shovel, so she pushes the child and screams). Calms down when an adult helps resolve the conflict.

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