Building a Healthy Foundation: Social and Emotional Development in Infants and Toddlers
The caregiver's role is vital to helping infants and toddlers establish a solid social and emotional foundation. Social and emotional development includes an infant and toddler's growing ability to:
- Regulate and express emotions;
- Explore new environments; and
- Form close relationships with caregivers.
Social and emotional development not only impacts all other areas of growth and development, it is the foundation that all future development is built on. What we give infants and toddlers today, they will carry inside themselves forever.
In our concern for children's academic success, it is beneficial to be mindful of the role that social/emotional development plays in this area. Social and emotional development sets the "playing field" for school readiness and lifelong success. Research shows that children who have healthy social and emotional skills tend to learn better, are more likely to stay in school, and will be better able to make and keep lifelong friends.
The caregiver's most important task in helping guide infants and toddlers along in their quest for healthy development, is to understand how to recognize and respond to a young child's cues and messages.
For babies and toddlers to develop social and emotional well-being, they need the support of adults. "Babies need gentle touching, holding and eye contact, just as they need food to grow and develop. Studies show that a nurturing touch actually helps many babies gain weight and develop healthy relationships with caregivers."
Social and emotional skills can be observed over time. As children grow, many of their developing skills can be seen and heard. Following is information that may help caregivers recognize some social and emotional developmental cues and skills of infants and toddlers.
- Cry, coo and smile
- Look at faces
- Quiet when picked up
- Seek comfort
- Show excitement
- Explore with enthusiasm
- Are curious about other people
- React to changes in daily routine
- Laugh out loud
- Enjoy books, songs and simple games
Copyright 2007 by Idaho Department of Health and Welfare
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