Toddlers aren't always known for having the most sophisticated socioemotional skills. From ages 1 through 3, young children are building the basics of these abilities, refining them as they move towards the preschool stage. If your toddler is in need of some extra help, or you just want to ensure that she is growing in the best way possible, socioemotional activities can help to boost her development.
Socioemotional Development and the Young Toddler
Before beginning any activity that targets your toddler's socioemotional development, it's key to understand what is going on in terms of both social and emotional learning at this stage. During the early toddler time, between 12 and 24 months, a toddler is just beginning to develop a sense of self-awareness, notes Zero to Three. As he starts to understand that he is independent from others, a toddler is also beginning to see that other people have feelings as well. Although a young toddler may understand that his friend can get mad or sad, he may still not have the ability to completely feel empathy. Additionally, young toddlers may not have the self-regulation abilities yet to express their emotions verbally or in a socially acceptable way. This may lead to aggressive actions such as hitting or biting.
Older Toddler Development
Between the ages of 24 and 36 months, a toddler is starting to refine some of her social and emotional skills. Although she isn't yet mature in a socioemotional way, she may have better self-regulation and a more appropriate way of expressing emotions than younger toddlers do. While an older toddler who is closer to 3 than 2 years may use her words more often than aggressive actions, toddlers over 2 years old may still bite and hit out of frustration.
According to HealthyChildren.org, a website from the American Academy of Pediatrics, one of the best activities for improving a toddler's socioemotional development is to give the child ample opportunities to interact with other people. A prime activity that provides these types of social trial runs is a play group. Young toddlers, and those that aren't yet used to the group dynamic, may benefit from smaller play circles that include only three other children. Set up a mom and toddler play group at your house, a friend's home or even a park. Provide plenty of supervision and lots of activities to keep the kids busy. Give the toddlers soft blocks to build with together, make a group finger painting or roll a rubber ball back and forth outside.
A lengthy lecture on how to deal with strong emotions or social situations probably isn't the most effective way to help a toddler to learn and develop. With a short attention span, a toddler may need a more interactive approach to socioemotional activities. This doesn't mean that he needs to constantly have movement or physical action. An interactive literacy activity can help your little one's budding socioemotional skills by building a better knowledge base and showing real-life situations through words and pictures. Zero to Three suggests that parents use books to help toddlers learn about and deal with emotions such as "Baby Faces" by Margaret Miller, "My Many Colored Days" by Dr. Seuss or "Hands Are Not for Hitting" by Martine Agassi.