1.5–2 years old: Emotional development

1.5–2 years old: Emotional development
Your toddler’s emotional development at 19–24 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: 1.5–2 years old

At this age:

  • Your toddler can recognize themselves in mirrors, photographs, and videos. They have a sense of individuality and can express their desires and intentions.
  • They’re beginning to express self-conscious emotions, such as shame, guilt, and embarrassment.
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 may become possessive of certain people and objects, or react jealously when you care for another child.
  • They may have rapid mood swings and show their disagreement by sulking, yelling, or adopting aggressive behaviours like biting and hitting.
  • To test their boundaries, they may engage in prohibited behaviour or ignore clear instructions. For example, your toddler may look at you and climb onto the living room table after you explicitly told them not to.
  • Your child still needs a parent or caregiver when they’re upset, but they’re starting to develop self-soothing techniques. For instance, they might look away if they see something scary.
  • They’re greatly influenced by your emotional reactions and shifting moods, and rely on trusted adults to know how to react to situations.
  • They care about others. If a friend starts to cry, they may become concerned and try to comfort them by bringing them a toy.

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

  • Know their daily routine and become distressed when something disrupts their schedule.
  • Want to be more autonomous and do things on their own.
  • Assert themselves by saying “no” to certain requests.
  • Cry, scream, or roll on the floor when they’re upset.
  • Be curious about other people and their reactions, and show greater interest in playing with other children.

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.

Comfort
When you help your child manage their emotions by saying things like, “You seem very angry. You threw your toy on the floor. Do you want a hug? Would your blankie help you calm down?”
 
your child feels understood and comforted. As they grow, they’ll gradually adopt their own coping strategies.
When you express what your child is feeling using words, intonations, and gestures—for instance, by clenching your fists and saying, “I know you’re angry because you’d rather keep playing with your toys than take your bath,”—
 
your child feels understood and learns that their frustrations can be expressed. Soon, these negative emotions will be more tolerable.
Teach
When you exaggerate your emotions—for instance, by hiding behind your hands and exclaiming, “I’m afraid of that loud noise!” or “Wow, it’s snowing!”—
 
your child has fun anticipating your reaction. They also learn to differentiate emotional facial expressions.
When you act out everyday situations with your child’s stuffed animals, dolls, or figurines and encourage them to participate,
 
you’re helping them express their thoughts and ideas. They’re learning different ways of interacting with their surroundings through play.
Play
When you help your child understand how they feel about an event or behaviour—for example, by saying, “I know you’re crying because you’re sad that Dad left,”—
 
your child learns how to verbalize their emotions and starts to understand which events trigger certain feelings.
When you help your child name intense emotions—for example, by saying, “You can tell me if you’re angry or upset,”—
 
they feel supported and learn that they can express themselves and be understood.

 

Naître et grandir

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

 

Photo: iStock.com/NiDerLander

 

Sources

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.

  • Doré, Nicole, and Danielle Le Hénaff. From Tiny Tot to Toddler: A practical guide for parents from pregnancy to age two. “Your child’s development.” Quebec City, Institut national de santé publique du Québec. www.inspq.qc.ca
  • 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 18 mois : bébé apprend la propreté.” 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.

 

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