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Post University Blog

To develop at a normal pace, toddlers must master a complex variety of skills, including dealing with emotions, following rules, making friends, and resolving conflicts. Since young children can’t yet read, they learn in the most human of ways: socialization.

Social development plays a critical role in a toddler’s overall progression. As children grow physically and begin to develop physical skills — such as walking — they also need to reach certain social milestones.

If you’re considering a career in early childhood education, you’ll want to become familiar with toddlers’ social development stages and the role that ECE plays.

Ages 1 to 2

As young toddlers, children begin to become aware that they are independent, separate beings. The Children’s Therapy and Family Resource Centre notes that between the ages of 1 and 2, children begin recognizing themselves in mirrors, imitating the words and actions of others, and showing affection toward people and animals they know.

On the negative side, children in this age group also begin showing frustration, feeling jealous when they’re not getting enough attention, and refusing requests from parents and teachers.

Children who develop more slowly may exhibit markers such as failing to imitate others, having difficulty waiting, or showing no interest in other children.

Early childhood education helps children during the formative ages of 1 and 2 develop skills to manage quickly changing emotions, play peacefully with other children, help with simple tasks, and understand and respond to a growing variety of words.

Ages 2 to 3

Children in the 2-year-old group begin to play attentively with other children, and they become more adept at communicating how they feel, becoming friends with other people, and coping with frustrations and challenges. Exposed to role models of positive relationships, children of this age begin developing the knowledge of right and wrong, including feeling compassion for others.

At 2 or 3, many children begin to assert their wishes, exhibit shyness, seek independence but still want security, dislike change, and have quick mood changes. Slowly developing children may not be interested in playing games that involve pretending, may show unusual aggression or excessive fears about normal activities, and may have trouble separating from their parents.

In ECE programs, 2- and 3-year-olds have the opportunity for socialization with other children, helping them learn to control their emotions, share their toys, feel empathy for others, and develop thinking and language skills through play.

Age 4

By age 4, children are exiting the toddler stage and getting ready for kindergarten. Most 4-year-olds demonstrate a desire to become part of a group and play with others, and they want to interact with children their age.

Parents Magazine notes that age 4 often is a good time to consider having a child join a sports team with few restrictions and easy rules. At this age, most children also want to demonstrate physical affection toward family members and friends, and they express more sympathy for others who are having problems.

Children at 4 typically begin to cooperate with other children more and learn to wait their turn, and they often begin negotiating to resolve conflicts. They also become more independent; for instance, by helping put away belongings or choosing clothing.

As they become more confident, children also become more social — learning to share and cooperate with others. For young children ages 1 to 4, ECE programs provide valuable opportunities to learn socialization skills that mirror their physical development.