2.5–3 years old: Emotional development

2.5–3 years old: Emotional development

Your toddler’s emotional development at 25–30 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: 2.5–3years old

At this age:

  • Your toddler seeks independence. They want to do things their way and try to accomplish certain tasks independently, even though they still need help.
  • They increasingly assert themselves and want to make their own choices. They test their boundaries by saying “no,” struggling, or running away (e.g., when you try to dress them or buckle them in the car).
  • They can get very angry or upset when things don’t go as planned. For example, they may scream, cry, hit, or throw themselves onto the floor.
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.
  • Your child’s tantrum may suddenly end if they’re distracted or given a hug, but they may also need a long time to calm down.
  • Your toddler is increasingly interested in other children and may mimic their behaviour when playing or interacting with others.
  • They’re beginning to understand that other people’s intentions may be different from their own.
  • Your toddler enjoys imaginary play and may attribute feelings and motives to objects, such as stuffed animals.
  • They feel secure when they have a stable schedule and set routines.
  • They’re learning to use strategies to cope with frustration. For example, they can distract themselves with a toy or play with a friend while waiting their turn.
  • Your child may be strongly attached to a security blanket, stuffed animal, or toy. This is called a transitional object; it helps your child overcome separation anxiety and soothes them in certain contexts (e.g., at bedtime).

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

  • Have occasional nightmares and develop certain fears.
  • Get upset and angry if they feel misunderstood or sense that someone has overshadowed them.
  • Know the house rules and become less likely to challenge boundaries and discipline.
  • Understand that some important relationships will be long-lasting.
Find out how to support your child’s emotional development through books.

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 encourage your toddler to name their feelings by saying things like, “I want to understand what’s upsetting you,”
they gradually learn to identify their emotions and understand that their feelings are important.
When you set an example by using phrases like, “This makes me sad” or “This makes me angry” to talk about your emotions,
your toddler is better able to understand what others are feeling.
When you hug your child and tell them you love them after a crying fit, tantrum, or meltdown,
they develop a bond of trust and learn that you’ll love them even when they’re being difficult.
When you regularly let your child do things independently, such as getting dressed or helping with household chores,
you foster their self-confidence and sense of competence.
When you put on a puppet show where the characters experience different feelings,
your child learns the words for different emotions and the situations that can trigger them.
When you encourage your toddler to express their opinion by letting them choose their clothes or morning activity,
they learn to make decisions based on their preferences and to assert themselves.
When you help your toddler understand how their behaviour affects those around them—for example, by saying, “Your brother is sad because you destroyed his block tower,”—
your child gradually becomes aware of the emotions of others and the impact of their actions.
When you bring your child to a quiet spot and encourage them to take deep breaths when they’re struggling to control their emotions,
they learn strategies to better manage their feelings.


Naître et grandir

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


Photo: GettyImages/filadendron



Please note that hyperlinks to other websites are not updated regularly, and some may have changed since publication. It is therefore possible that a link may not be found. If a link is no longer valid, use search engines to find the relevant information.

  • Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development. “Emotional Development in Childhood.” September 2011. www.child-encyclopedia.com
  • Ferland, Francine. Le développement de l’enfant au quotidien : de 0 à 6 ans. 2nd ed., Éditions du CHU Sainte-Justine, 2018, 264 pp.
  • Passeport Santé. “Développement de l’enfant à 24 mois : ce qui a changé.” 2017. www.passeportsante.net
  • Shaffer, David, et al. Developmental Psychology: Infancy and Childhood. 5th ed., Quebec, 2019, 613 pp.
  • Canadian Paediatric Society. Caring for Kids. “Your child’s development: What to expect.” www.caringforkids.cps.ca
  • Sunderland, Margot. The Science of Parenting: How Today’s Brain Research Can Help You Raise Happy, Emotionally Balanced Children. DK, 2008, 288 pp.
  • Université de Montréal. “Portail enfance et familles : Les étapes de développement de l’enfant de la naissance à l’adolescence.” www.portailenfance.ca
  • Zeanah, Charles H. Jr., editor. Handbook of Infant Mental Health. 4th ed., Guilford Press, 2018, 678 pp.