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Social Emotional Experiences (Infant/Toddler)


Experiences that encourage play, exploration, recognition of feelings and socialization can help build important social and emotional skills.

1. Allow Free Play

Young children learn and develop through play. Notice and record the amount of time children are in cribs, high chairs, large group activities, or waiting. Focus on changing routines to allow for as much free play as possible and avoid confinement. Though messier, this will provide a richer learning environment.

2. Talk About Feelings

Help children learn the language of emotions by talking about feelings, pointing out facial expressions and noticing different emotions. Phrases like “You are so sad that she took the toy from you,” or “You’re angry that you have to stop playing!” help children to feel understood and learn empathy.

3. Allow Toy Exploration

Provide duplicates of the same toy whenever possible. At this age, it is more important for a child to explore and play with a toy, since they are not developmentally ready to learn to share. Children who want the same toy should be redirected to another activity or toy.

4. Encourage Socialization

Work with groups of two or three children to help encourage socialization. Focus on positive behavior like being gentle and cooperating. Narrate what children are doing, saying “Oh, I see you giving the toy to your friend. That makes her happy.”

5. Encourage Coping Items

Items from home such as a favorite teddy bear provide comfort and help children learn to cope. A child who uses this type of ‘transitional object’ is helping herself learn to manage difficult feelings. Encourage children to find items that help soothe strong emotions and remember that these are important.