Sub-domain: Emotional Development

The Emotional Development sub-domain covers goals thirty-six through thirty-eight of the Idaho Early Learning Guidelines.

Using this guide

Scroll down to see the age group you are most interested in. Click on the goal to learn more about the goal's:

  • developmental growth
  • child indicators
  • caregiver strategies

There is an option to download the information at the end of each goal. When you click the link you will be brought to a new page where you can download the goal as a PDF.  

Mother holding young baby

0 - 8 Months

Goal 36: Children perceive themselves as unique individuals.

Developmental Growth: Attach to primary caregivers.

Child Indicators: Explores own body (observes hands, reaches for toes). Explores the face and other body parts of others (touches caregivers’ ears, hair, hands). Shows awareness of self in voice and body. Responds with gestures or vocalization to sounds, movement, or the facial expressions of others. Shows interest in and may reach for others.

Caregiver Strategies: Cuddle, physically nurture, and be responsive to child to foster trust and attachment. Help child learn to calm self (model calming behavior, offer soothing objects). Recognize that many families value interdependence.  Some children will show varying levels of independence and stronger bonds with family and community. Through daily care routines, provide opportunities for child to explore your face and hands. When approaching a child, talk to them about what is going to happen next (e.g., “I’m coming with your bottle Jade.”  “How about we rock in the chair while you drink your milk?”).

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Goal 37: Children demonstrate belief in their abilities.

Developmental Growth: Begin to calm self for very brief periods.

Child Indicators: Can calm self for very brief periods by sucking or staring at an object. Repeats a sound or gesture that creates an effect (repeatedly shakes a rattle after discovering that it makes a sound). Recognizes that adults respond to cues. Explores environment.  At first in close contact with caregiver, and then farther away from caregiver as the child grows. Looks to caregiver when accomplishing new tasks (sitting, pulling up). May sometimes show signs of “global empathy” and get upset when someone else is upset.

Caregiver Strategies: 

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Goal 38: Children regulate their feelings and impulses.

Developmental Growth: Begin to calm and sooth self for brief periods of time

Child Indicators: Signals needs with sounds or motions (cries when hungry or reaches for wanted object of comfort). Relaxes or stops crying when comforted (when swaddled or spoken to softly). Comforts self by clutching, sucking, or stroking when tired or stressed (calm while stroking or holding soft blanket; get fist, fingers, or pacifier to mouth for self-soothing). Cries or uses other vocalizations,facial expressions, or body language to express emotions and to get needs met. Communicates need for support or help from adults (holds out arms when tired). Anticipates routine interactions (lifts arms toward caregiver to be picked up). Develops increasing consistency in sleeping, waking, and eating patterns. Shows awareness of change and routine; may object to changes. Responds to emotional cues and social situations (crying when other babies cry).

Caregiver Strategies: Snuggle, cuddle, and physically nurture child in ways appropriate to their specific sensory needs.Respond to child’s signals for attention. Check environment for appropriate levels of noise, temperature, light, and other stimuli.  Be aware of environmental factors that might cause distress. Establish routines for eating, sleeping, diapering, and other regular activities while taking into account family’s care practices and child’s schedule. Be aware that babies cry to express a range of feelings and respond appropriately. Comfort a child quickly when he/she cries; this helps him/her feel safe. Model and respond to child’s displays of pleasure by matching child’s emotions with facial expressions, tone, and words. Respond to child’s displays of distress by staying with child and sensitively helping child with difficult feelings. Nurture child with kind words, hugs, and cuddles being sensitive to individual sensory needs. Encourage use of transitional object.

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6 - 18 Months

Goal 36: Children perceive themselves as unique individuals.

Developmental Growth: Develop awareness of self as separate from primary caregiver.

Child Indicators: May express curiosity about signal caregivers for assistance, attention, or the need for comfort. May become upset when separated from parent. Points to at least two body parts when asked. Responds with gestures or vocalizations when name is spoken. Shows awareness of self in a mirror image. Protests when preferred activity is stopped. Grasps and bangs objects.  Feels a sense of ability in one’s own body to make something happen. Increases independence in playing with toys. Increases interest in others bodies, especially faces.

Caregiver Strategies: Make time to be alone and fully engaged with child. Give child time to remain engaged in activities. Tell stories and sing songs from child’s home culture. Read books and stories with real pictures of children and faces. Play on the floor with child and allow him/her to crawl over, climb, and pull up using you as a support. Talk and sing to child about body parts (Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes). Verbally describe the child’s accomplishments (e.g., “Wow!  You climbed all the way up the ramp.”).

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Goal 37: Children demonstrate belief in their abilities.

Developmental Growth: Begin to view self as capable of influencing their environment.

Child Indicators: Gives objects or toys to others (picks up a rock then reaches to give it to caregiver). Smiles when succeeding in a task/activity. Monitors caregiver’s emotional expressions in situations of uncertainty. Begins to express a desire for individuality. Says “no” and uses frequent tantrums to express the desire to be independent. Shows genuine concern for another’s distress. Projects empathetic behavior of their own needs on another. Continually needs to stay away from danger. Shows concern about broken toys or damaged goods that do not conform to an expected standard.

Caregiver Strategies: Describe and acknowledge child’s actions and accomplishments (e.g., “You took off your own socks.”). Provide materials so child can experience success. Be patient, wait for child to be frustrated with their attempts before offering assistance.

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Goal 38: Children regulate their feelings and impulses.

Developmental Growth: Begin to recognize and respond to the emotional cues of others.

Child Indicators: Seeks caregiver’s support and attention when feeling strong emotions. Begins to control impulses (says “no” when reaching for forbidden object; restrains self from stepping on a book on the floor). Engages in some regular behaviors (sings or babbles self to sleep, goes to high chair to be fed). Participates in routine interactions (quiets body when picked up; cooperates in dressing). Follows some consistently set rules and routines. Smiles, waves, or laughs in response to positive adult interaction. Shakes head or gestures to indicate wants and needs.

Caregiver Strategies: Stay with child during stressful situations to help him/her regulate emotions. Model managing own emotions and impulses. Name own emotions when interacting with child. Maintain and support child’s routine for eating, sleeping, and other daily care activities. Talk with child about emotions through books and songs. Support and comfort child’s emotions by labeling and providing ideas to help (e.g., “You are really mad, do you want me to hold you?”). Read books and talk to child about feelings.

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Central to the understanding of emotional development is the overall perception of self; including traits, feelings, abilities, motives, and social roles.

16 - 38 Months

Goal 36: Children perceive themselves as unique individuals.

Developmental Growth: Increase awareness of their personal characteristics and preferences

Child Indicators: Tests limits and strives for independence. Becomes upset when separated from primary caregiver and may cling upon reunion. Recognizes and calls attention to self when looking in the mirror or at photographs. Identifies self and uses own name when asked (e.g., “I am a boy.  “My name is Rueben.”). Identifies objects as belonging to him or her (e.g., “Mine!”). Shows awareness of being seen by others (exaggerates or repeats behavior when child notices someone is watching). Occupies self appropriately for brief periods of time (10 to 15 minutes). Attempts to complete basic daily living tasks (eating, getting dressed). Can make choices when given two to three options. Indicates preferences by answering yes/no questions.

Caregiver Strategies: Provide opportunities for child to talk about self and others, including cultural and linguistic characteristics. Be aware and respectful of cultural differences in valuing independence. Expect child to protest as he/she expresses individuality. Read books and stories about different abilities and cultures. Talk and sing to the child about their particular characteristics. Display pictures and collages of the child and family.

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Goal 37: Children demonstrate belief in their abilities.

Developmental Growth: View self as capable of starting and completing a simple task.

Child Indicators: May show a few signs of feelings associated with actions. Recognizes own accomplishments. Shows completed projects (drawing, pile of blocks) to caregiver. Acts as if they are capable of doing new tasks and activities (copies use of adult tools, tries to sweep the floor with an adult- sized broom, wants real tools). Seeks help after trying something new or challenging. Occasionally demonstrates rudimentary self-control when they stop themselves from doing something but is still unreliable. Begins to follow internalized rules part of the time (puts self in timeout). Uses social referencing (checks out emotional responses of others) to regulate behavior. Often pretends to discipline doll during play, showing understanding of rules. Still has difficulty transferring rules across time and setting. Still relies on caregiver to follow rules and to contain impulses some of the time and may act out if no one else is in the room. May not be able to generalize about objects that cannot be touched. Shows several signs of feelings associated with actions, by the end of the period. Begins to understand that sharing is important. Remains likely to take another child’s toy and possessions. Realizes others’ needs may be different from their own. Are aware when they have done something wrong and anticipates the feelings of others and possible consequences. Are aware of differences between moral and social-conventional violations and respond by telling other children about the effects of their behavior.

Caregiver Strategies: Encourage or provide opportunities for the child to engage in new tasks that they can accomplish successfully. Provide safe environment for active exploration. Celebrate with child over accomplishments and explorations. Monitor child and support as he/she pushes self to try new abilities (keeps going higher on ladder). Describe child’s actions as they try new skills rather than giving empty praise.Describe child’s efforts at attempting a skill, even if they do not succeed.

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Goal 38: Children regulate their feelings and impulses.

Developmental Growth: Learn to accept limits and boundaries with adult support.

Child Indicators: Matches emotions to environment and situations. Tests limits and strives for independence. Anticipates and manages emotions associated with them (helps to pick-up and put away blocks at cleanup time). Recognizes and expresses emotions towards familiar persons, pets, or possessions with appropriate facial expressions, words, gestures, signs, or other means. Learns about and begins to name own feelings.  Realizes that it is okay to feel silly, sad, angry, and all other emotions. Seeks caregiver’s support when needing help. Shows anxiety over separation from teacher but calms down once teacher has left. Plays near and is interested in other children. Will offer or take toys from other children. Begins to understand the concept of property (“yours, “his,” “mine”). Will carry out simple one- or two- step directions. May become easily frustrated with challenging tasks (cries when a toy won’t do what they want, or they can’t get their socks off).

Caregiver Strategies: Set simple rules and respond consistently to child’s behavior. Offer child real choices that are okay from the adult’s point of view (e.g., “Do you want to wear a red or blue sweater?”). Maintain consistency when establishing limits (bedtime, sweets, etc.). Recognize that a child’s protests of limits are a normal part of development. Listen carefully and with interest to what child says, expanding on the message. Provide opportunities for child to experience a range of emotions. Use words to teach child to associate feelings with their proper names. Support and comfort child when he/she develops fears. Model a range of appropriate ways to express different feelings. Talk with child about feelings. Talk with child when they are calm about strategies for managing emotions (deep breathes, trusted adult, transitional object). Understand that child may need assistance in discussing and expressing feelings. Recognize that some children may not express emotions verbally (invite child to draw pictures, use signs or gestures, or go for a walk to express emotions). Consider the values of families and cultural groups regarding emotional expression (do not force or deny child’s emotional expression).

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36 - 60 Months

Goal 36: Children perceive themselves as unique individuals.

Developmental Growth: Use strategies to differentiate themselves from others, and to get their needs met.

Child Indicators: Demonstrates awareness of their abilities, characteristics, and preferences. Refers to self by first and last name and uses appropriate pronouns (I, me) rather than referring to self in the third person. Chooses individual activities (doing puzzles, painting). Expresses self in different roles during pretend play. Can express feelings about separating from primary caregiver. Compares self with others. Describes self as a person with a mind, a body, and feelings. Describes family members and begins to understand their relationship to one another. Exerts will and preferences.

Caregiver Strategies: Acknowledge child’s accomplishments. Encourage child to experiment with growing competence and individuality by providing child opportunities to make choices or decisions. Engage child in drawing pictures of self and others and talk about similarities and differences.

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Goal 37: Children demonstrate belief in their abilities.

Developmental Growth: Develop sense of competence.

Child Indicators: Expresses delight with mastery of a skill (e.g., “I did it myself!”). Asks others to view own creations (e.g., “Look at my picture!”). Demonstrates confidence in own abilities (e.g., “I can climb to the top of the big slide!”  A child in leg braces has a big smile on their face when using a walker by themselves.). Expresses own ideas and opinions. Enjoys the process of creating. Demonstrates pride and pleasure when someone reacts to the child’s action or creation. May argue with caregiver about what they are supposed to do. Will use private or inner speech to help remember rules and standards for behavior. Shows less negativism and complies most of the time. Are more likely to experience guilt when they hit other children, break toys, or make a parent sad. May show a few signs of feelings associated with actions. Shows some self-criticism, shame, and guilt if they do not succeed or make a mistake. Are more consistent in sharing and view it as an obligation

Caregiver Strategies: Provide opportunities for child to try a task and offer assistance, as appropriate. Provide plenty of time and opportunities for child to play, explore, experiment, and accomplish tasks and develop a sense of competence. Invite child to share ideas, skills, or ways to solve a problem. Offer opportunities for children to watch each other trying new skills. Assist children begin activities at a level where they previously displayed skill and provide encouragement for each little bit of the skill they achieve.

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Goal 38: Children regulate their feelings and impulses.

Developmental Growth: Become increasingly able to control actions, words, and emotions in response to a situation or an adult request, with some adult assistance

Child Indicators: Expresses strong emotions constructively, at times and with assistance. Expresses ownership of feelings and desires to control self, with assistance. Calms self after having strong emotions, with guidance (goes to quiet area or requests favorite book to be read when upset). Sometimes waits for turn and shows patience during group activities. Sticks with difficult tasks without becoming overly frustrated. Participates easily in routine activities (meal time, snack time,bedtime). Follows simple rules without reminders (handles toys with care). Demonstrates increasing ability to use materials purposefully, safely, and respectfully. Adapts to changes in daily schedule. Predicts what comes next in the day, when there is an established and consistent schedule. Names and talks about own emotions. Uses pretend play to understand and respond to emotions. Associates emotions with words, and facial and body expressions.Uses drawing, painting, and clay to express emotions.

Caregiver Strategies: Anticipate and provide guidance when child needs assistance regulating emotions. Provide child with schedules and routines. Provide non-verbal child with pre-recorded messages on voice output devices, or pictures/photos to express their feelings and tell their wants and needs.Prepare child for changes in daily schedule by providing advance warning, talking with, and listening to child. Provide opportunities for child to understand and discuss own and others’ feelings. Model appropriate expression of emotions and talk about how you feel (singing when you are happy, sighing when you are frustrated, pounding clay when angry). Use “plan/do” or “first/then” activities when additional self-regulation supports are needed.Provide pictures or visual cues as prompts to support child to manage and express emotions.Discuss how the characters in a book might feel while reading books with child. Be aware of cultural and gender differences in expressing feelings. Avoid stereotyping a child’s expression of emotion (validate boys when they cry, girls when they get angry). Incorporate books on feelings that reflect the language and cultural background of the child. Engage child in pretend play with other children using realistic props that encourage children to act out real life situations and feelings in response to situations. Acknowledge child for expressing and regulating feelings.

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A child’s ability to identify and label his/her emotions and effectively express the range of feelings is another important aspect of emotional well-being.

60 Months - Kindergarten

Goal 36: Children perceive themselves as unique individuals.

Developmental Growth: Begin to recognize their personal characteristics, preferences, and abilities.

Child Indicators: Takes pride in their responsibilities and follows through on them (help with chores). Begins to show self-direction in actions. Differentiates preferences for self and others (e.g., “I like to play with blocks.”  “She likes to play with trucks.”). Verbalizes their individual abilities. Identifies roles within family, school, and community. Asks for help, as needed.

Caregiver Strategies: Provide opportunities for child to share information about self in multiple ways (storytelling, drama, drawing, writing). Offer opportunities for the child to tell about the characteristics he/she has that represent his/her background and family. Provide culturally relevant materials that allow the child to see him/her in books, dolls, and dramatic play materials.

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Goal 37: Children demonstrate belief in their abilities.

Developmental Growth: Believe self capable of influencing the surrounding world.

Child Indicators: Takes on new tasks and improves skills with practice (wheeling self in wheelchair). Initiates actions or activities with peers. Views self as capable of starting and completing a task. Expresses delight over a successful project and wants others to like it too. Persists with tasks until finished. Participates in community service projects.

Caregiver Strategies: Engage child in attainable and challenging opportunities that will build on abilities. Encourage child to take the next step in a challenge. Give child realistic chores and make a chart of all the work accomplished. Demonstrate confidence in child by allowing him/her to make reasonable decisions and choices. Take every opportunity to celebrate success. Give genuine, specific praise that focuses on the task (e.g., “You did a good job picking up the toys!”).

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Goal 38: Children regulate their feelings and impulses.

Developmental Growth: Manage and express feelings appropriately, most of the time

Child Indicators: Expresses self in safe and appropriate ways (expresses anger or sadness without fights). Shows ability to control destructive impulses, with guidance. Seeks peaceful resolution to conflict. Stops and listens to instructions before jumping into activity, with guidance. Participates in own care routines when there is a special health care need. Follows rules in different settings (lowers voice when entering library). Applies rules in new but similar situations. Explains simple family or classroom rules to others. Expresses feelings through play. Shares own excitement with peers, caregivers, and adults. Acknowledges sadness about loss (changes in caregiver, divorce, or death). Does not inhibit emotional expression (cries when feeling sad). Names some types/levels of emotion (frustrated, angry).

Caregiver Strategies: 

Guide group discussions about problem-solving and conflict management. Help child understand and accept different ways of expressing emotion and communicating (set rules that prohibit children from making fun of each other’s differences). Provide opportunities for child to share and talk about feelings with adults and peers. Positively acknowledge child for expressing emotions appropriately. Help child express his/her feelings as he/she plays with others, pretends with toys, expresses through art media, and listens to stories. Provide transition cues when moving to new activities. Respect individual differences between children’s personalities and temperaments.

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Grades 1 - 3

Goal 36: Children perceive themselves as unique individuals.

Developmental Growth: Working independently and with others.

Child Indicators: Shows self-direction in actions. Shares information about self with others. Can plan activities and behavior that include doing things alone, with a group, or with the family. Works independently and interdependently and shows pleasure from it. Can take care of most of their dressing, hygiene, and social decision-making. Accepts responsibilities and follows through on them (helps with chores). Describes self using behavioral characteristics (e.g., “I am a great soccer player.”).

Caregiver Strategies: Provide opportunities for child to share information about self in multiple ways (storytelling, drama, drawing, writing). Talk with child about the characteristics he/she has that represent his/her cultural background or family. Provide culturally relevant materials that allow the child to see him/her in books, dolls, and dramatic play materials.

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Goal 37: Children demonstrate belief in their abilities.

Developmental Growth: Initially can understand and comply with rules of family, school, and society.  Can reason through moral dilemmas by the end of the period.

Child Indicators: Takes on new tasks and improves skills with practice (wheeling self in wheelchair). Expresses pride over a successful project. Starts a task, can expand on it, and works on it until finished.

Caregiver Strategies: Give child realistic chores and make a chart of all the work accomplished. Demonstrate confidence in child by allowing him/her to make reasonable decisions and choices. Ensure that environment is safe from cultural or other forms of bias (review materials to ensure there are no stereotypical or racist images in books, dolls, or other objects in the environment).

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Goal 38: Children regulate their feelings and impulses.

Developmental Growth: Manage and express their own feeling appropriately, and inhibit inappropriate words, actions, and emotions most of the time, without adult supervision.

Child Indicators: Expresses self in safe and appropriate ways (expresses anger or sadness without fights). Shows ability to control destructive impulses, with guidance. Seeks peaceful resolution to conflict. Stops and listens to instructions before jumping into activity, with guidance. Participates in own care routines when there is a special health care need. Follows rules in different settings (lowers voice when entering library). Applies rules in new but similar situations. Explains simple family or classroom rules to others. Expresses feelings through play. Shares own excitement with peers, caregivers, and adults. Acknowledges sadness about loss (changes in caregiver, divorce, or death). Does not inhibit emotional expression (cries when feeling sad). Names some types/levels of emotion (frustrated, angry).

Caregiver Strategies: Support and celebrate child’s growing ability to show and understand their own behavior and emotions. Provide routines and structure within the child’s day allowing them to respond to the unexpected. Make daily plans with child, underlining items that are different from the usual routine. Support child’s feelings, non- judgmentally. Guide child’s ability to identify their own emotions and those of others. Provide opportunities for civic engagement. Provide opportunities for child to support each other.

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