2.5–3 years old: social development

2.5–3 years old: social development

Your toddler’s social development at 30–36 months. Follow your toddler’s milestones step-by-step.

Social development allows children to build harmonious, positive relationships with others. As kids develop socially, they learn how to communicate and manage their emotions, consider other points of view before acting, resolve conflicts, cooperate, and participate in society. A child’s temperament, primarily determined by genetics, influences how they interact with others from an early age. However, they continue to develop social skills as they grow, learning from personal experiences and the people around them—namely, their parents and family members.

Social development: 2.5–3 years old

At this age:

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 toddler clearly shows their affection.
  • They start using polite forms of communication such as “please,” “thank you,” and “hello.”
  • They will happily play next to other children, but may not interact with them.
  • They are increasingly able to play nice and wait their turn.
  • They play make-believe, namely by mimicking adult behaviour.
  • They start to feel more comfortable around strangers.

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

  • Help other children do certain things, such as put toys away after they’re done playing.
  • Adopt behaviours that are conducive to group life, such as waiting their turn and resolving conflicts with their words, not their fists.
Find out how to foster your child’s social development through books. (In French)

How can you help your toddler progress?

Each child is different and develops at their own pace. That said, you can help foster your toddler’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 toddler’s social development.

When you introduce your toddler to neighbours and people around the neighbourhood,
they learn to recognize people and feel safe around them.
When you hug your toddler and tell them you love them,
they learn how to show affection in a healthy way.
When you underscore your toddler’s positive behaviour by saying things like, “It was very nice of you to share your toys,”
this helps them understand that they did the right thing, and they feel encouraged to repeat the behaviour.
When you give your toddler items they can use to play pretend, such as food containers, play money, and a shopping basket,
they get to practise using words that refer to everyday objects.
When you encourage your toddler to wash their plastic dolls by giving them a washbasin and a change of clothes,
they learn to put different things together with increasing confidence.
When you take the time to answer all your toddler’s questions,
they feel important and their confidence grows as a result.
When you give your toddler puppets and dolls they can use to stage plays,
they get to practise speaking and let their imagination run wild.
When you play group games where everyone has to wait their turn (i.e., hide-and-seek),
your toddler gets to practise patience; it also helps develop their observation skills.


Naître et grandir

Scientific review: Annie Goulet, psychologist
Research and copywriting: The Naître et grandir team
Updated: March 2020


Photo: GettyImages/FatCamera



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  • Ferland, Francine. Et si on jouait? : Le jeu au coeur du développement de l’enfant. 3rd ed., Éditions du CHU Sainte-Justine, 2018, 240 pp.
  • 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. “Le développement de l’enfant à 24 mois : ce qui a changé.” 2017. www.passeportsante.net
  • Canadian Paediatric Society. Caring for Kids. “Your child’s development: What to expect.” www.caringforkids.cps.ca
  • Université de Montréal. “Portail enfance et familles : Les étapes de développement de l’enfant de la naissance à l’adolescence.” www.portailenfance.ca