Emotional Development: Curriculum and Guidance
Toddlers are making rapid advances in the area of emotional development, and it is a time for very sensitive support and guidance from adults. A major focus of development is identity formation accompanied by emotional thinking and ideas, and the ability to express feelings. Observing toddlers at play will provide extensive information about their emotional development. From there, guidance strategies will play a prominent role in nurturing the development.
Identity Formation. Toddlers are working hard to develop a sense of self. Much of their resistance to adult limits, or their "no" responses to requests, are attempts to establish themselves as individuals. When you watch them, you see other signs of this development; for example, they talk about themselves, assign characteristics to themselves, and evaluate themselves. As toddlers explore their room at the Helen Gordon Center, we see them work hard to master a variety of tasks, such as assembling puzzles, forming the play-dough into a specific shape, or arranging the animals in a line. Most of these efforts are accompanied by an acknowledgment of "I can do it" to themselves or to a caregiver or teacher. These toddlers are feeling some power and establishing themselves as capable of doing things.
As children go about their business of play in the toddler room, everything going on about them is contributing to their sense of self. The conversations in the room, the actions and interactions of adults and other children, and the materials and activities are all incorporated into lessons that toddlers integrate into their developing identity formation. Lally (1995) suggests that some of these lessons can include:
- What to fear
- Which of one's behaviors are seen as appropriate
- How one's messages are received and acted upon
- How successful one is at getting one's needs met by others
- What emotions and intensity level of emotions one can safely display
- How interesting one is (p. 61)
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