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.
Two-year-olds enjoy playing alongside other children, but usually keep to themselves. When conflicts arise, adults need to step in to prevent aggression and teach appropriate behaviors. Children this age are beginning to label feelings that they recognize in themselves and others. Controlling emotions is still difficult, however, so frustration may trigger emotional meltdowns. Comfort objects like blankets or teddy bears help two-year-olds cope with new situations or strong emotions.
Extends trusting relationships to other adults and to children with whom he or she plays frequently; shows preferences for these adults and children (e.g., hugs favorite teacher when he or she arrives at preschool, goes to favorite teacher for comfort after a fall on the playground).
Shows strong sense of self as an individual (e.g., says, "No!" to an adult's request, simply to assert
Recognizes feelings when emotions are labeled by adult (e.g., teacher says, "I know you feel scared about that," and the child calms a bit). Increases his or her understanding and use of language related to emotions (e.g., says, "Mommy's happy now."). Expands his or her understanding of what others' feelings mean (e.g., looks at father's expression and
Continues to find the regulation of emotions difficult. As a result, frustration may still trigger tantrums. Uses a wider range of coping strategies (e.g., comfort objects, words that label feelings). Continues to need a great deal of adult support.
Enjoys playing alongside other children, but doesn't interact a great deal with them (e.g., two children sit in the sandbox, each occupied independently with pails, but with a comfortable awareness that the other child is there).
Depending on his or her exposure to other children, may start to have favorite playmates and warm bonds with others (e.g., Anna asks about Nicholas when he is absent from the child care program for a few days).
Shows awareness of others' feelings. May try to give basic help (e.g., watches the teacher to see if she will come to the aid of a child who is crying; pats or hugs the child who is sad).
Looks to adults for comfort when conflict happens (e.g., when a child takes all the crayons at child care, Lauren runs to teacher and hugs her around the knees). With much adult support, begins to develop some strategies for resolving conflicts constructively (e.g., with teacher at his side, Walton says, "It MY shovel, Darrell!).