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Understanding Your Toddler's Temperament


toddlers with rolling pin and dough



Temperament is your toddler's distinct nature or character. Some children's temperaments are obvious from birth, while others emerge over time.

Your toddler’s temperament may be seen in a number of ways, such as activity level, predictability or how easily your child adapts to new people and situations.

  • Does your toddler react strongly or mildly to events? 
  • Is she easily distracted or can she focus well? 
  • What’s your toddler’s attention span like? 
  • How is his general mood? 

Your toddler's temperament may be dramatically different from yours - learning to accept and work with that reality will make both your lives easier. Your home environment and who your toddler spends time with will affect her temperament, but mostly, it's just an inborn part of the kind of person your toddler is.

Here are some tips for working with your toddler's unique temperament:

  • If your child is shy or slower to join in activities, allowing him to join in gradually or play in a different way will help him develop social skills.
  • If she has lots of energy, provide opportunities to move around as much as possible and safely explore.
  • If your toddler must be still for a period of time, provide playdough, books or push toys to keep her hands busy.
  • If your toddler tends to be easily frightened, talk to your child about fears.
  • Think of ways to overcome fears, such as checking the closet together for monsters or holding your toddler on your lap when near a dog.
  • Provide routines and rituals so your toddler knows what to expect. Being able to predict daily routines may keep stress lower in times of change. Meaningful rituals may also provide a sense of belonging and foster a sense of who your toddler is.
  • Be sure to praise his behavior when he does well in difficult situations. Try to be as specific as possible with your praise, such as “I like how you shared the blue truck with your friend.”


Temperament is your toddler's way of being in the world, both socially and emotionally. How you and others respond to your toddler's temperament can affect how he feels about himself as he grows. 

Resources & Links:

Emotional and Social Development, Ages 12 to 24 Months

Last Updated: January 30, 2018