2 – 3 years social and emotional development


Your toddler is now truly beginning to understand how relationships work and that other people may feel differently from her.

She is assertive about her wishes – ‘no’ is still the word you’ll hear the most – and can come across as bossy.

She can now play with other young children, but it’s best to keep play-dates short and sweet as they often end in tears – usually because someone isn’t sharing or because someone else wants to direct the play.

Developmental milestones include:

  • she finds it difficult to control her feelings, which often results in a tantrum
  • she can play with other children her own age for a short time, though sharing is still difficult
  • she finds it a challenge when asked to wait
  • she has trouble making choices
  • she has poor impulse control
  • she has poor reasoning skills
  • she enjoys copying adult’s behaviour and activities
  • she can still confuse reality and fantasy
  • she loves imaginative play such dress-ups and make-believe
  • she is striving very hard for independence

Signs that could suggest a developmental problem in a 2-3 year old include:

  • her tantrums aren’t reducing in frequency
  • she isn’t interested in engaging with adults or older children
  • she doesn’t play any imagination-based games
  • she prefers to spend most of her time playing alone

All children are different and develop at different rates, so don’t be overly concerned if your toddler is acquiring new skills at a different rate to those around him. But if you are worried about his development or it seems to have stalled or be going backwards, talk to a health professional.




This article was written by Ella Walsh for Kidspot New Zealand. Sources include SA Government’s Parenting and Child Health, Raising Children Network and Vic. Govt’s Better Health Channel.

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