Early Childhood Intervention: Module One – Typical and Atypical Development

Category — 1.3 Social and Emotional Development: Emotional Skills

Emotional Skills

Emotional development is a broad term that describes how a child develops, displays, regulates and understands feelings and emotions. The development of a child’s self-concept and self-esteem (see full Glossary) are part of emotional development.

Emotional development includes the development of emotional regulation, learning how to soothe and calm oneself. This process starts early, with parents or caregivers providing young children with the comfort they need when distressed; for example, crying, hurt, scared and needing comfort.

  • At first, children need their parents to calm down. Later, they do it mostly on their own. Most parents know what to do, for example rocking their baby back and forth, and do not need to be taught how to soothe their children. It  is something that comes naturally.
  • Some children may take more time to soothe than others. Their parents may find it harder to read their children’s emotions.  These children tend to be a bit more irritable than others, but this does not mean that these children cannot be soothed. It’s important for parents to know that this may be their child’s temperament. Parents should not feel guilty if their child is not easy to comfort and should do their best to comfort their child regardless of how irritable they are or how difficult it’s to read their emotions.

Children should develop certain skills and reach certain developmental milestones, in order to become emotionally competent and stable adults. The most important of these emotional milestones/skills, including self-concept, are listed below:

  • establishing eye contact with others
  • establishing and maintaining eye contact with others
  • smiling, and later laughing
  • enjoying being handled
  • smiling at familiar people
  • knowing the difference between familiar people and strangers
  • enjoying daily routines (such as bathing and feeding)
  • responding to name being called
  • recognizing self in mirror
  • using parent or other familiar adults as a 
    social reference (see full Glossary)
  • playing, alone in solitary play (see full Glossary), and later, with others in parallel (see full Glossary) AND cooperative play (see full Glossary)
  • engaging in pretend play (see full Glossary)
  • displaying basic emotions
  • exploring their surroundings
  • having a “favorite” or “best” friend
  • displaying complex emotions
  • recognizing feelings and emotions in self and others
  • showing pride in achievements
  • making positive statements about self or showing a strong self-esteem (see full Glossary)
  • showing guilt over mistakes and/or having done something they should not have done
  • avoiding dangerous situations that may place them or others at risk
  • describing their own feelings and emotions
  • describing feelings and emotions in others


Johnny was a term baby like his sisters, but was not an easy baby like them. He had trouble sleeping and reflux problem. But Johnny’s parents knew that each baby is different. They did not compare the children. They loved and accepted him. His needs were met and he was given what he needed to grow and thrive. He turned into a happy and fulfilled boy.

December 3, 2010   No Comments