Understanding Emotional Development in Early Childhood

One primary concern of modern parents in raising children is early childhood development. Research has shown that children as young as seven months old can begin to develop emotions, with anger and fear being among the first.

Emotional development in early childhood is just as crucial to a child’s overall well-being as physical milestones like crawling and walking, as they shape how a child perceives the world, interacts with others, and responds to challenging situations.

In this blog post, we will discuss the importance of emotional development in early childhood, signs of healthy emotional development, and how parents can support their child’s emotional growth.

Stages of Emotional Development in Early Childhood

Emotional development in early childhood happens in stages, with each stage building on the previous one. Understanding these stages can help parents identify where their child is in their emotional development and how to support them appropriately.

The three stages of emotional development in children are infancy (0–12 months), toddlerhood (1-3 years), and preschool (3-5 years).

First Stage of Emotional Development in Early Childhood: Infancy (0-12 months)

During infancy, from birth until their 1st birthday, babies develop their emotional skills by expressing and responding to others’ emotions.

Infants express their emotions through crying, facial expressions, and body language. They start to understand their feelings and can distinguish between different emotions shown by others, which helps them learn to form attachments with their parents and caregivers.

In the beginning, when learning how to recognise and respond to emotions, it can be easily seen that babies may react to their caregiver’s happy face with a smile and a coo but to an angry face with a frown and crying.

Second Stage of Emotional Development in Early Childhood: Toddlerhood (1-3 years)

Children experience many emotions during toddlerhood as they learn to communicate their wants and needs. This stage is characterised by increasing child independence and a desire to explore the world around them.

Toddlers often feel frustrated when they cannot do things on their own, which can result in tantrums and other challenging behaviours. However, they also experience joy and excitement as they discover new things and develop new skills.

A key point to note during this stage of child development is that toddlers are constantly learning from their caregivers, which means that parents’ and caregivers’ behaviour and emotions can also be reflected in toddlers.

Third Stage of Emotional Development in Early Childhood: Preschool (3-5 years)

Preschool is a critical early childhood emotional development stage as children expand their social and emotional abilities.

Children are typically more independent and curious about the world around them at this stage. They may start to show empathy toward others and can understand and follow basic social rules.

Children at this stage may also experience a wide range of complex emotions, like empathy and guilt, and have difficulty regulating them, leading to tantrums and meltdowns.

Signs of Healthy Emotional Development in Early Childhood

As a parent or a caregiver, it is essential to understand the signs of healthy emotional development in early childhood for better educating and raising your precious child.

Here are some important signs to look for:

Ability to Form Positive Relationships With Peers and Caregivers

When children form positive and meaningful relationships with their friends and caregivers, they are more likely to feel confident in expressing their feelings and needs and to establish a sense of trust and security in their relationships with others.

Children should learn to form relationships with the people they care about.
Children should learn to form relationships with the people they care about.

They also learn critical social skills such as communication, empathy, and cooperation, which will be helpful in their future success.

Healthy Emotional Regulation and Expression

Acknowledging and understanding one’s own emotions, as well as the emotions of others, is essential for healthy emotional regulation and expression, which leads to more effective communication and the development of strong relationships.

Children who can effectively regulate their emotions are better equipped to deal with stress and difficult situations. They can also express their emotions healthily and appropriately, rather than through tantrums or other disruptive behaviours.

Development of Empathy and Social Awareness

As children grow older, they begin to recognise and comprehend their own emotions, which allows them to better understand and relate to the emotions of others. Empathy and social awareness come into play here.

Children with healthy emotional development are better able to be aware of and respond to the emotions of others. This skill makes it easier for them to navigate social situations and develop lasting relationships with other people.

How Parents Can Support Emotional Development in Early Childhood?

Emotional development is utterly critical for shaping a human’s incoming and long-term future. Every parent must support their younglings in developing emotionally in the early parts of their childhood.

Below are three ways to do so correctly and effectively:

  • Creating A Safe and Secure Environment
  • Providing Opportunities For Play and Exploration
  • Modelling and Teaching Emotional Regulation and Expression

Creating A Safe and Secure Environment

Emotional development requires a safe and secure environment. Children who feel safe and secure can express themselves without fear of being judged or punished.

By establishing regular routines, drawing boundaries, and being available for emotional support, parents can give children a safe environment.

=> Related Article: How do parent help child develop self-awareness

Providing Opportunities For Play and Exploration

Play is just as essential for children’s emotional growth. Children can learn so much through playing alone or with others, which allows them to explore their emotions and develop problem-solving skills.

Parents can provide play opportunities by setting aside time for unstructured play, providing age-appropriate toys and games, and encouraging imaginative play.

Modelling and Teaching Emotional Regulation and Expression

Children learn through observation and imitation of the adults in their lives. Parents or caregivers are the child’s first role models. And as a result, the child look up to them and mirror their behaviours. Parents should be a living example of teaching their children healthy emotional regulation and expression by being aware of their emotions and healthily expressing them.

Parents can also teach their children emotional regulation by naming their emotions, giving them tools to regulate them, and complimenting them when they use these tools.


Emotional development in early childhood is essential for any child’s current and future well-being. Parents can support their children more effectively on the path to emotional development by understanding the valuable information presented in this article.

At UNIS Hanoi, our utmost priority is the health and well-being of our children. Besides our world-class facilities, we have a team of experts in The School Health Centre to ensure student health and wellness needs. We know that students learn most effectively when they are happy and healthy.

Admission is currently open for enrolment for the upcoming academic year of 2023–2024.

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UNIS Communication Team
UNIS Communication Team
UNIS Hanoi is ever-evolving, but one thing that remains is our passion to nurture and equip students to be agents of change for a better world.
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