smiling boy

Infants might turn excitedly and raise their arms up to greet a family member. For more information on infant developmental milestones, click here

Toddler: Feelings & Behavior


READ

Reading helps your child understand feelings and behaviors. Talk to him about the feelings and behaviors of the characters in the books you read together.
If your child is struggling with a feeling or behavior, ask your librarian for books that may help you or that you can read to your child.
Read about temper tantrums: toddlers have tantrums to express feelings.
  • Be patient and make sure your child is safe from harm.
  • At home, give her space but let her know that you are there when she is ready.
  • For ideas, check out kidshealth-tantrums.

EXPLORE

As your toddler develops more skills, explore how to set limits. Your child will try things, but she isn’t old enough to understand what is safe. “If you want to throw something, let’s get out the balls and see if we can throw them into the laundry basket.” For more ideas see, setting limits.
Use mirrors to explore feelings.  Ask your toddler to make a sad face or a happy face, and talk about it.
Explore feelings.  Help your toddler talk about her feelings and about how other people feel.

ASK

When possible, offer your toddler choices so she can feel like she has control. Ask “Would you like to wear the red pants or the blue pants?” rather than arguing over what to wear.
Toddlers enjoy helping.  Ask your toddler to carry the spoons to the table or put the dirty clothes in the hamper.  Thank him for his hard work.  He will feel very proud.
Help your child understand what you want rather than simply saying no. For example, instead of saying “No hitting”, ask her to use gentle hands and touch her softly to show what you mean.

DISCOVER

Discover ways to help your child deal with strong feelings.
Discover your toddler’s need for independence and control. She may want to put her own shirt on.  Let her try, and only help when needed.
Help your child discover how her actions affect others.  “Emily looks really sad. When you hit her, it hurts her body. What could you do to help Emily feel better? Next time let’s use words instead of hitting.”
Discover how your toddler imitates you.  Watch him as he plays.
Discover and respect that your child may be expressing an opinion when he says “No.” This helps your child feel good about himself and his ideas.

PLAY

When your child plays, he shows a lot of feelings.
  • Help him understand his feelings by labeling them.
  • Let him know his feelings are okay.
  • Give ideas about what to do when he feels that way.
  • “Wow! Those blocks can be hard to stack. You look frustrated because they keep falling down. That’s okay. Take a deep breath and try again. Let me know if you want help.”
Make saying “No!” into a game instead of a power struggle. Toddlers love to say “no”, and it is an important part of growing. “Do the shoes go on your hands? No!  Do they go on your head? No! Where do they go? They go there, on your feet? Silly Mommy, good thing you showed me where to put your shoes.”