Social, Emotional & Physical Development of Children

As your child ages she will develop new social, emotional and physical skills that will help her to master new tasks and meet milestones 3. While your tantrum-prone toddler may seem like she will never get a grip on her feelings, this -- and the other abilities -- will gradually change from immature behaviors to more sophisticated and controlled actions.

Infant Development

Although infants may not seem like the most social creatures, they are actually developing basic skills that will help them to develop and grow relationships. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, on their Healthy Children website, by 12 months old your baby will interact socially with other people -- such as smiling or cooing -- and may even show shyness or anxiety around strangers 1. Additionally, your infant may repeat simple hand gestures that he sees. This not only takes into account your child's social-emotional development, but his physical skills as well. By the end of the first year your infant can make more complex hand movements, use a pincer grasp and poke objects with his index finger. Larger movement milestones that your physically active infant will master during the first year includes sitting without assistance, crawling, cruising -- walking while holding on to furniture -- and possibly even walking unassisted.


When your child begins walking, typically after 12-months, she officially becomes a toddler. Physically -- as the AAP notes -- toddlers can walk on their own, run, kick a ball and stand on tiptoes. Smaller motor movements include scribbling, building short block towers and coordinating self-feeding motions. Emotionally, your toddler is still fairly immature and may exhibit little self-control in the presence of her powerful feelings. She may also begin to exhibit defiant behavior, as she becomes increasingly independent. While your toddler will show interest in what other kids are doing, she won't necessarily play with them, and may engage primarily in parallel play. This includes playing near or next to another child, without truly interacting with them.


Preschoolers are building more complex and mature abilities as they move into the 3- through 5-year age range. Instead of engaging in parallel play, your preschooler is beginning to make real friends based on similar interests. Additionally, he is gaining some control over his emotions and now has the ability to share toys with other children without having a tantrum. Although some setbacks and outbursts are normal, you will notice these behaviors decreasing as he moves towards kindergarten. When it comes to physical development, your child is also refining his skills in this area as well. He will begin to draw shapes and print letters, as well as use scissors and feeding utensils. Large, or gross, motor development for preschoolers includes jumping, hopping, skipping and coordinating movements enough to ride a tricycle.include:

  • Large
  • or gross
  • motor development for preschoolers includes jumping
  • hopping
  • skipping
  • coordinating movements enough to ride a tricycle

Grade School Years

The grade school years include a time of vast refinement in terms of your child's emotional, social and physical abilities 3. Grade-schoolers typically have the emotional self-regulation to identify and control their feelings. Instead of having a tantrum or hitting another child, grade-schoolers can talk things out and come to their own resolutions. According to the child development experts at PBS Parents, by the time that your child reaches the mid-elementary school period, she will begin to handle her own social life without your constant help 3. Instead of waiting for you to schedule her playdates, she will make her own friends and begin to create her own social schedule. Physically, your grade-schooler can handle complex tasks such as writing letters, drawing elaborate pictures and engaging in athletic activities.