. Social & Emotional Development - Manitoba Parent Zone | Healthy Child Manitoba

Social & Emotional Development

"No!" Toddlers love to say "no." In fact, your toddler might even tell you "no" when he would actually rather say "yes." Saying "no" is his way of testing out independence. At around 18 months of age, your toddler will probably say a few words and by the age of two he will likely be able to put two words together to form his first sentence ("more milk"; "want down"; "play ball").

"Why?" Preschoolers love to ask questions. Your preschooler will love learning about the world and will do this through language. Your preschooler will likely speak in sentences and be very curious about how and why. This is an exciting time because you will be able to share more experiences with your child. Answering questions can be exhausting, but remember that this is only a stage. Your child won't always ask you repeatedly why the sky is blue!

As your child's language skills grow, it is important to speak to your child about his emotions. Naming emotions such as anger and sadness gives your child the ability to express his feelings through words. It is also important to talk about other people's emotions so your child can start to understand that others do not think or feel the way he does. This will help your child's social and emotional development, especially when playing with other children. Toddlers and preschoolers will often need to be reminded to use their words to solve problems and play well with others. Remember to praise your child when he uses his words to express his feelings.

It is important to play with your child every day. Playing is a great way to learn about the world and develop social and emotional skills that will be important to your child's happy relationships with other children. Playing can include singing, jumping, dancing, stacking building blocks, exploring outside and pretending.

Toddlers are able to play make believe and will learn to play beside other children by the time they are two years old. Now is a great time to read with your child as she will be able to turn the pages in a board book and will love pointing out objects in the pictures.


It is very normal for your child to experience fear about different things. A younger child will often be scared when his parent leaves the room or leaves him with a stranger. Separation anxiety is very common in younger toddlers. Separation anxiety is what a child feels when his parent is not around. He might cry, scream or cling to the parent who is trying to leave. This behaviour often makes parents feel very sad, guilty or frustrated. But do not worry – this is a normal part of your child's development.

The best way to cope with separation anxiety is to let your child adjust to the new person – for example, the babysitter, or a grandparent – while you are still around. Let him see you interact with the new person. This will help him feel safe. It is best to say goodbye to your child before you leave. If you sneak out the door, you are only confirming his fears that a parent can disappear! If you say goodbye without showing your own anxiety over leaving, he will adapt to the new person and soon realize that when Daddy says goodbye, he will come back.

Older toddlers and preschoolers may be afraid of monsters, masks or loud noises. Children at this age are not always afraid of things that make sense to adults, but it is important that parents comfort their children by hugging or cuddling them when they are afraid. It is never a good idea to punish a child for being afraid. Remember to always talk to your child about his fear and try to understand why your child is afraid, even when it doesn't make sense to you.


"That's my toy!" "Why does he get to stay up later?" Sibling rivalry is one way our children express jealousy. It is very normal and every child, whether an only child or one of many, will sometimes feel jealous and eventually learn to manage the feeling.

If jealousy is because of a sibling, there are things you can do to help your child understand her feelings and move on. You can tell your child that it is okay to be mad or sad because a sibling may seem to get more attention. Listen to what your child has to say and do not punish her for her feelings. Remind your child that many families have more than one child and that her brother or sister is also an important part of the family.

If your older child is jealous of a new baby, it is important to tell your older child that you love her just as much as her younger sibling. It is a good idea to talk about all of the fun things she gets to do that her baby brother doesn't get to do (draw pictures, play at the park, eat ice cream). Try to set aside some time just for the two of you when possible.

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