Toddler: Self-Regulation

Posted by Nate McCallister on December 9, 2015
Toddler putting on shoes without help.

Self-regulation is an important part of social emotional development for toddlers. Healthy relationships are the cornerstone for progress in this domain. At this stage, children begin to understand limitations, start to show an ability to manage own behavior, become increasingly independent, and even develop stress management techniques.


Age: 18-36 Months
Domain: Social Emotional Development
Sub-domain: Self-Regulation


Progress and Support

Toddlers show progress when they

  • say “no” when they don’t want to do something,
  • want to put on shoes and jackets without help,
  • attempt to clean up messes when they spill,
  • wait for adults before leaving the house or building,
  • clap for themselves after accomplishing something.

You support development when you

  • reinforce positive behavior verbally by saying things like “I like the way you waited to leave the room until I was ready,”
  • create opportunities for success with simple tasks like cleaning up small amounts of toys,
  • recognize negative behavior as the child’s way of asserting herself when considering strategies to modify the behavior,
  • provide very clear, simple rules and boundaries.
  • acknowledge child’s new skills and learning (“You put your coat on all by yourself!”).

Resources: Minnesota’s Early Childhood Indicators of Progress, 2007

Author: Nate McCallister

Nate McCallister started with SonShine Learning Center in 2003 as a preschool teacher. Today, he works as the organization’s director of operations and is the site director at the Luther location. He earned a bachelor’s degree in technical communication and professional writing from Metropolitan State University and studied early childhood education at St. Paul College.