Social-Emotional Progressions – Infant/Toddler


Birth to 8 Months

8 months to 18 months

18 months to 24 months


Trust & Emotional Security
Experiences and develops secure relationships

  • Mutual eye gaze during caregiving activities
  • Demonstrating attention/ observing facial expressions and responding
  • Actions demonstrating avoidance of interactions
  • Demonstrating a preference for familiar adults
  • Clapping and smiling in a back-and-forth manner with caregivers
  • Becoming upset when someone unfamiliar moves between them and their caregiver
  • Showing affection, such as hugs and kisses
  • Beginning to show interest in other children
  • Seeking help from trusted caregivers
  • Showing empathy for others, especially those perceived to be hurt or sad
  • Continuing parallel play
  • Exhibiting emerging social play
  • Responds to the environment
  • Seeking support from caregivers to address conflicts with peers
  • Responding to another child’s or adult’s distress with efforts to assist
  • Insisting on routines for transitions
  • Engaging in positive social play by other children and, on occasion, with other children

Responds to the

  • Responding to touch, sound, light/dark, and temperature
  • Recognizing and accepting their blanket when handed to them
  • Becoming familiar with their surroundings/familiar routines
  • Enjoying new sand toys in the sand box
  • Exploring a new food with all senses
  • Becomes increasingly able to move around their environment while occasionally making eye/ vocal contact with caregivers
  • Using adults as tools
  • Engaging with objects
  • Beginning to use a book appropriately by opening it and looking at the pictures
  • Trying out new games and toys
  • Saying “Hello” to a new neighbor when walking in the neighborhood with their parents
  • Playing with toys meaningfully
  • Using play materials in the intended way

Develops /Demonstrates increasing emotional regulation

  • Crying when they are hungry, uncomfortable, or unhappy
  • Breaking eye contact when over stimulated
  • Kicking their legs in excitement or settling when they see familiar caregivers
  • Raising their arms in anticipation of being picked up
  • Continue to use comfort object for security when feeling stressed or upset
  • Looking toward their caregivers for help when upset
  • Showing beginning signs of jealousy and attempts to adapt
  • Recognizing the smiles on their caregivers’ faces and continue to move to the music or activity
  • Using emotional expressions to obtain desired objects
  • Seeking and responding to comfort from caregivers when frightened or upset
  • Patting a crying child on the back as their caregiver help the hurt child
  • Beginning to recognize that others smile when they smile, and others look unhappy when they cry
  • Using words or crying to get someone’s attention
  • Reenacting a stressful even in dramatic play
  • Beginning to understand and use emotionally charged words as opposed to simply acting out their needs
  • Expressing concern about breaking established rules.

Develops/Demonstrates increasing behavior regulation

  • Stopping crying when they are picked up
  • Quieting when swaddled
  • Sucking on their hand or thumb to calm themselves
  • Relaxing when cuddled or rocked
  • Moving away from a sticky plant when redirected
  • Using transitional objects to calm themselves when tired
  • Looking to their caregiver when a loud sound scares them
  • Beginning to recognize boundaries while not yet having the capacity to stop their impulses
  • Stopping and looking at caregiver when name is called
  • Following directions with adult assistance
    Beginning to attend during short, focused activities
  • Looking to their caregiver for help when unable to open a container
  • Playing beside another child for short periods of time
  • Listening to and following the “rules” in small group activities
  • Waiting for their turn to line up
  • Continuing to use comfort objects to calm themselves

Develops/Demonstrates social problem-solving

  • Smiling at others
  • Babbling or cooing and pausing to wait for a response from caregivers
  • Crying, rocking back and forth, and lifting their arms to signal for help
  • Gaining attention of peers through vocalization, reaching out, and smiling
  • Vocalizing and pointing to get the attention of caregiver
  • Looking to adults for help when they fall down while attempting to walk
  • Moving near caregivers when a stranger enters the room
  • Screaming “No!” and getting the attention of caregiver when another child takes a toy
  • Seeking comfort from caregivers when hurt or frightened
  • Calling for help from caregivers when another child grabs their puzzle
  • Moving around another child who is in the way as they try to climb the slide
  • Saying “mine” to a child who takes their toy
  • Seeking help from caregivers when they are hungry
  • Telling another child “No, stop!” when their toy is taken
  • Putting on their shoes when asked by caregivers
  • Sharing toys with others occasionally

Forms and maintains mutual relationships with others

  • Responding physically to the presence of parents or caregivers
  • Imitating and stopping a social smile and repeating the behavior as caregivers respond
  • Cuddling their head on the neck of caregivers
  • Trying to imitate the kisses of caregivers
  • Frequently checking for their caregiver in new situations
  • Offering a toy to caregivers
    Touching and imitating a nearby child
  • Smiling when they hear someone call the name of a friend
  • Crying when their caregiver leaves them but settling in with the help of familiar adults
  • Climbing and sliding with occasional trips to touch their caregiver
  • Looking across the room to their caregiver periodically when playing with peers
  • Yelling “Hi!” to caregivers when they see them across a parking lot
  • Running to their caregivers for comfort after falling down
  • Initiating play with a familiar peer
  • Smiling and talking about an art activity with a friend
  • Approaching a new person after their caregivers have talked to the person for awhile

Becomes aware of oneself as a unique individual while still connected to others

  • Noticing and exploring their hands
  • Exploring the face and other body parts of caregivers
  • Covering their eyes to encourage “Peek-a-boo”
  • Repeating an action when it makes other people laugh
  • Protesting when given water rather than juice they prefer
  • Smiling and clapping when they see their favorite food
  • Moving their body to fit inside a tunnel toy with a sibling
  • Holding onto a favorite toy as another child approaches and looking toward their caregiver
  • Yelling “Mine, mine!” when another child picks up a doll
  • Showing particular interest in a special book or song
  • Using, “I”, “mine”, and “me” often
  • Pointing to and naming a few of their own body part
  • Pointing to themselves in a photograph
  • Identifying “boys” and “girls”
  • Talking about their family
  • Referring to themselves by characteristics, such as “funny” or “strong”

Demonstrates increasing sense of competence and confidence in growing abilities

  • Recognizing that caregivers respond to their cues and stop playing or interacting
  • Kicking a mobile over and over to make it move
  • Crying in particular ways to get their needs met
  • Smiling and clapping hands when they successfully climb up the steps
  • Playing with a preferred toy more than other toys
  • Initiating a game of rolling a ball back-and-forth
  • Helping with dressing by raising their arms
  • Continuing to dance as a caregiver applauds
  • Attempting to take off an open coat without help, not giving up if they are not immediately able to take off the coat, and/or telling adults that they do not want help in trying to take off the coat
  • Seeking help from caregivers after trying unsuccessfully to open a container
  • Using words to get needs met.
  • Climbing higher and higher on the playground structure even though caregivers ask them to stop
  • Opening their own lunch box and showing how they did it
  • Wanting to dress themselves
  • Showing increased interest in toileting

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Social and emotional learning (SEL) is 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.

--CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning