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Stages Of Social And Emotional Development In Children

Last updated on November 17th, 2022 at 02:17 am

Genetics and environmental factors affect the physical, social and emotional development of children. Read on to learn about the various social and emotional skills children develop as they grow.

In this article:

  1. Infants and Babies (2 Months to 1 Year)
  2. Toddlers and Preschoolers (18 Months to 4 Years)
  3. Grade Schoolers (5 to 10 Years)
  4. Middle Schoolers (11 to 14 Years)
  5. High Schoolers (15 to 18 Years)

Emotional Development Stages in Kids to Watch Out For


Infants and Babies (2 Months to 1 Year)

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For infants and babies, the world is full of fascination and wonder. They experience everything using all of their senses and love to play. One-year-olds are just beginning to learn how to manage and express their emotions. They may exhibit a wide variety of emotions in a short period of time. Expect tantrums, hitting, crying, and defiant behavior.

Infants and babies are extremely impressionable and will mimic body language, facial expressions, and speech from parents and others present in their environment. Grunting and gesturing eventually evolve into discernable words and phrases.

Picture books, toys, games, and crafts help babies develop spatial, logic, creative, and problem-solving skills. Through parents, siblings, and pets, one-year-olds learn how to interact with other people, animals, and the world around them. They may prefer certain people and toys over others and become anxious in the presence of a stranger.

Toddlers and Preschoolers (18 Months to 4 Years)

Between 18 months and 4 years, children develop many social and emotional skills. Two-year-olds are able to play pretend and may enjoy playing with others or by themselves.

With adult guidance, toddlers learn how to behave appropriately and recognize how they and others feel. Making sense of these emotions may be a challenge, leading to tantrums. Comfort toys like plushies and blankets can help them cope.

In the realm of language, toddlers typically understand hundreds of words but struggle to pronounce many of them. They ask lots of questions and love story time. Toddlers may pretend to read or sing along and take an interest in dance, acting, and arts and crafts. Through the development of reasoning and motor skills, they learn how to manipulate the world around them and express themselves more clearly.

As children approach the 3-to-4-year mark, they begin to exhibit more independence. They start to read and write and can form simple sentences, hold simple conversations, and perform tasks by themselves. Preschoolers will form their first genuine friendships and become empathetic to the feelings of their peers. This age group also loves to sing, dance, and engage in dramatic play. Creative development opens up new ways to make sense of the world.

Grade Schoolers (5 to 10 Years)

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As children enter school, their self-control, imagination, communication, and independence skyrocket. They enjoy making decisions and completing tasks on their own. Grade-schoolers communicate much more clearly and understand how to maintain conversations across various topics. They learn why they feel the way they do and can manage anger, fear, and anxiety.

By age six, children become aware of their gender and learn what it feels like to be embarrassed. Between the ages of six and eight, children learn to truly read and communicate using complex sentences and grammar. They enjoy taking on more responsibilities but still seek guidance from adults. Depending on their environment, children may develop greater hand-eye coordination and become more confident.

9-year-olds love to display their talents and take comfort in routine. They develop a sense of sharing and community, though conflicts in their peer group still arise.

As children reach second and third grade, they develop more creative ways of interacting with peers. They create games with rules and learn to understand and respond to others’ feelings and actions with respect. They seek acceptance and may become frustrated or jealous when they don’t receive a positive response from their peers.

At this point, children who are physically active tend to differ socially from those who are sedentary. They can recognize athleticism and the lack thereof in themselves and their peers. Athletic children tend to mature more quickly and become more confident in group play and leadership activities.

Middle Schoolers (11 to 14 Years)

As children approach the 11-year mark they begin to develop their identity and may venture away from family activities. They form a tight-knit group of friends with whom they share inside jokes and personal secrets. As they understand more about the world, they become more affectionate and curious but can also be selfish and confrontational.

The early teen years are filled with introspection, exploration, and moodiness. Teens may value the opinions of friends and peers over those of parents and other authority figures. They experiment with dress and mannerisms to find their true identity.

High Schoolers (15 to 18 Years)

As teens approach adulthood, they may become emotionally distant during their journey to independence. They have a better understanding of their strengths and weaknesses and develop a sense of pride in their accomplishments. Some may seek out dating and friendships, while others prefer more solitary activities. Patience and understanding from parents are vital in helping teens find their place in the world.

What is social-emotional development? Find out more in this video from Hope Street Group:

YouTube video

Every child is unique and develops according to biological, experiential, and environmental factors. Providing opportunities for learning at an early age can have an enormous impact on overall social and emotional development. Kindness and understanding are key in helping children grow into happy, successful adults. Address their emotional concerns, and they’ll be more likely to include you in the different parts of their journey.

What emotional development stage is your child in? Are you having trouble addressing their emotional concerns? Let us know in the comments section below!

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