Toddler Emotional Development
Psychologist Erik Erikson (1963) stressed that a child’s early years are the focus
of building security, trust, and the beginnings of a self-image. In toddlerhood
and young childhood, children become more conscious of their image of self
and the image others have of them. This is the same period in which Piaget
noted the development of abstract representation. Erikson identified the central
work of this stage as finding a balance between autonomy (the drive to explore
independently) and shame (the response to outside limits or disapproval). By
the preschool years, this reconciliation process moves onward to the balance of
initiative (generating and pursuing impulses and ideas) and guilt (accommodat-
ing the risks, responses, and restraints of the world around us).
Attachment theory (Bowlby  1982) goes further to suggest that infants
and toddlers build trust and autonomy by exploring away from adults but also by
continually returning to them. Children learn to understand and regulate their
own feelings and impulses from this balance of freedom and structure. Further,
for children to develop empathy, acceptance, and self-control—the basic tools of
collaboration and interpersonal problem solving—they must first be secure in
their own emotions and images of themselves.
Toddler Sensorimotor Development
lead to different
ways of exploring.
Psychologist and occupational therapist A. Jean Ayres (1979) pointed to sen-
sory integration (a child’s way of interpreting and balancing stimuli) and motor
planning (the brain and body’s impulses to carry out physical actions or tasks)
as the foundation for development. This perspective holds that temperament
and constitution—the preferences, sensitivities, and style of exploring that we
gain from our nervous system and body—form
the basis of our emotional, cognitive, physical,
social, and creative style.
Ayres emphasized sensory integration,
because a person’s mind and body must con-
tinually integrate multiple sensory inputs:
what he is seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling,
and tasting, as well as what he is thinking.
Each person has a unique process of sen-
sory integration. His arousal and regulatory
systems—what he seeks out, what he avoids,
what makes him organized and/or recep-
tive, what makes him overaroused and/or