Ages and Stages of Social and Emotional Learning: Toddlerhood
Doctors use certain milestones to tell if a child is developing as expected. There's a wide range of what's considered normal, so some children gain skills earlier or later than others. Children who were born prematurely reach milestones later. Always talk with your doctor about your child's progress.
Assisting children in developing social and emotional learning skills takes knowledge of knowing the "expectations" of each stage of development, and having a deep understanding of the vital role adults play in the outcome of a child being able to reach their fullest potential.
What is Social and Emotional Learning?
The Collaborative Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL), an organization that supports educators and policy leaders and enhances the experiences and outcomes for all PreK-12th grade students defines Social and emotional learning (SEL), as the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.
Why Social and Emotional Learning is Important?
Children at the earliest of age can be greatly impacted by the social interactions that they have with adults and peers. They learn to understand their world through those social interactions, it's how they learn who they are and what they will become. The first relationships in the child's life lays the foundation for a range of social and emotional learning skills such as;
Positive interactions with adults and peers
According to theorist Vygotsky adults are an important source of cognitive development. Vygotsky strongly believed that the community played a strong factor in how children learn to make sense of their world. Parents, caregivers, peers, cultural ideas and beliefs Vygotsky said impacted how children's instruction was done
Social and Emotional Learning Developmental Milestones for Toddlerhood
Around two years old children begin to actively play. They tend to have an explosion in pretend play, which allows them to find ways to communicate, think for themselves and use social skills. Pretend play is a critical part of child development.
At this age Toddlers also...
Imitate peers and adults
Start to realize that they can do things without your help
Express a wide range of emotions
Does behaviors that they were asked not to do
Start to play with, not just alongside other kids
Refers to themselves by his or her own name
Follows simple instructions
How Can Adults Support Toddler's Social and Emotional Learning?
Understanding Vygotsky studies of social and emotional learning provides us with powerful information to assist toddlers when they are in stages that are critical to their emotional well being.
Removing any biases or self shaming beliefs about ourselves is vital to who children will become. These ideas shape how we interact with toddlers. Very few toddlers will ever need to read a book to learn how and when to say thank you, or please when the adults and peers they interact with model these manners. Vygotsky research showed how children's instruction was based on the cultural ideas and beliefs of the adults they interacted with.
Play with toddlers! Play is a powerful tool for us to be able to learn what social and emotional learning skills the toddler is grasping to acquire. How we interact and respond to these calls for guidance will have a profound effect on the toddler's self concept. When toddlers role play they are often imitating the peers and adults in their everyday life giving us the chance to see the world from their eyes. Do you like what your observing? Is there something you didn't like? Is there anything you need to change about you?
Toddlers have big emotions and they tend to express themselves more often while playing, or transitioning from one activity to the next. Give them the space and comfort they need while they are expressing their feelings. Scaffolding, also known as cooperative learning helps the adult meet the child where they are at, and giving them the steps they need to solve their own problems. Providing toddlers with scaffolding techniques will help them to build a repertoire of skills to help self regulate. Hold their hand, do not think that they will learn these tools without being shown. Also, know that toddlers are not in the stage of self regulation yet and the adult must not become tired of developing new scaffolding techniques for them. Create a list of ways to offer toddlers time to tune into their emotions. Is it a favorite book that could be read? A stuffed animal to hold while sitting close to you? Maybe a calming space to go to that is a signal when they need help?
Helping toddlers to label their feelings gives them the communication tools they need and to feel validated. Toddlers need adults that they can trust to have a plan in place when their emotions prevent them from carrying on with their play or any activity. They learn first by what they see you do and hear you say. Toddlers are very impressionable and will respond to their emotions the same way they see the adults respond to theirs. Give them something great to imitate.
When you make a mistake apologize to the toddler. Say I am sorry for.... let them know that you want to make them feel better for your mistake, ask for a hug or handshake depending on the relationship. Toddlers do not understand what apologies are and should not be expected to give apologies. With positive guidance toddlers are very capable of learning empathy. They don't feel good when their "mistakes" make adults or peers sad, or angry. In fact they really are always seeking acceptance and approval. Adults should be intentional of fostering friendships during toddlerhood, and never shame a toddler for their "mistakes".
Toddlers are very straight forward with what they desire, which means they don't really like surprises. They beg for consistency and a daily routine, they really do just want to know what is going to happen next, no matter what the situation is. Have a consistent daily routine to minimize toddler frustrations. Toddlers rely on inferences to help transition from one activity to another. Try to develop a routine that has many inferences that they can refer to. For example, if you are wanting a toddler to leave a favorite activity it is most helpful to share with the toddler that play is not over and that the next activity is just as important. Inferences can be made by beginning and ending transitions the same way on a daily basis.
Vygotsky did not ever write the term scaffolding in his writing, but one of the major factors in his studies of social and emotional learning is Zone of Proximal Development, and it relies very heavily on scaffolding. The concept Zone of Proximal Development refers to the difference between a learner's ability to perform a task independently versus with guidance.
With adults understanding what children are able to achieve alone, as well as what they are capable of achieving with adult support parents, caregivers, and educators can develop individual learning goals and plans that can best meet the child's social and emotional needs.
There is so much to learn about the importance of social and emotional learning, Vygotsky theories on social and emotional learning helped make monumental changes in our education system. Through observations and documentation done from early childhood settings to universities we now know that adults play a major role in toddler's social and emotional learning . Adults who are able to remove their self doubts, biases, and unrealistic expectations of toddlers help raise social and emotional intelligent people, who also achieve academic success and are able to reach their fullest potential.