1–1.5 years old: Emotional development

1–1.5 years old: Emotional development

Your toddler’s emotional development at 13–18 months old. Follow your toddler’s milestones step-by-step.

Emotional development allows children to understand, express, and manage their emotions as they grow. Children also develop the ability to recognize and interpret the emotions of others, which helps them build relationships with those around them.

Emotional development: 1–1.5 years old

At this age:

  • Your toddler is building self-confidence and exploring. They’ll try new things if a trusted adult (e.g., parent, grandparent, educator) is nearby to provide support and guidance.
  • They increasingly express their preferences by pointing, making sounds, or speaking to draw your attention to specific things.
  • They’re learning to communicate discomfort and will seek affection from a loved one if they’re upset.
Remember that not all children develop the same skills at the same speed. The material on this website is for general information purposes only. If you’re concerned about your child’s development, speak with a doctor.
  • To show affection, your toddler hugs and kisses you, the people around them, and even their stuffed animals and dolls.
  • They may get upset at the prospect of being separated from you, such as during a daycare drop-off or when a babysitter arrives.
  • They’re wary or shy around unfamiliar adults, but may be willing to play with them when a trusted adult is around.
  • They adore being the centre of attention and are learning that they can use their laughter, smile, and facial expressions to charm their loved ones.
  • Your toddler may become impatient and upset if they don’t immediately get what they want.
  • They’re starting to express their intentions (e.g., refusing to eat certain foods, taking off their clothes as you try to dress them, struggling when you try to buckle them into their car seat or stroller).
  • They rely on you (e.g., your facial expressions, your tone of voice) to know how to react in certain situations. For example, if a new person approaches, they’ll look to you and feel reassured if you’re relaxed and smiling.

Over the next few months, your child will begin to do the following:

  • Become possessive of their toys and the people around them.
  • Defy certain rules and lash out by biting or hitting when they’re upset.
  • Recognize themselves in mirrors or photos.
  • Show empathy for those around them.

How can you help your child progress?

Every child is different and develops at their own pace. That said, you can help foster your little one’s development by adopting the Comfort, Play, and Teach parenting approach, which can easily be integrated into your daily routine. The table below outlines small, age-specific actions you can take that will benefit your child’s emotional development.

When you act as a mirror and calmly comment on your child’s reactions by saying things like, “You’re angry because you can’t catch the ball. Come on, let’s try again,”
your little one knows that they can count on you to be there, even when they’re struggling.
When you give your toddler the opportunity to succeed at something, like taking off their own shoes,
their self-confidence soars, and they feel capable of doing the same tasks that grown-ups do.
When you comfort and distract your toddler when they’re emotional,
they calm down quickly and learn how to self-soothe.
When you pause in the middle of your child’s favourite game and wait for their signal to continue,
they learn that you’re paying attention to their wants and preferences.
When you let your child play in a safe space, like the plastic container cupboard,
they get to explore their surroundings at their own pace. Reassured by your presence, they learn to make discoveries on their own and enjoy their new autonomy.
When you notice that your child is having fun with a toy and you allow them to play alone for a while,
they learn to entertain themselves.
When you talk about your own emotions or those of others on a daily basis—for instance, by saying things like, “I’m happy,” "You’re angry,” or “That boy is sad,”—
your toddler gradually becomes familiar with the words, actions, and situations associated with certain emotions.
When you talk to your child about a change in routine and explain what to expect,
they’re better prepared to adapt to this change and feel reassured.
When you acknowledge your child’s feelings when you set a boundary—for example, by saying, “I know you’re angry that I took away your toy, but I had to, because you might get hurt,”—
your child feels understood and learns to better tolerate the limits you set despite their frustration.


Naître et grandir

Scientific review: Chloé Gaumont, M.Sc., psychoeducator
Research and copywriting: The Naître et grandir team
Updated: December 2020


Photo: GettyImages/PeopleImages



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