Self-Regulation Snap Shot #1: A Focus on Infants and Toddlers

Publication Date: April 2, 2018
Self-Regulation Snap Shot #1: A Focus on Infants and Toddlers Cover

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Adult caregivers such as parents, teachers, coaches, and other mentors play a critical role in shaping and supporting self-regulation development from birth through young adulthood through an interactive process called “co-regulation.”


This snapshot summarizes key concepts about self-regulation development and intervention for infants and toddlers for practitioners and educators interested in promoting self-regulation for this age group. It is based on a series of four reports on Self-Regulation and Toxic Stress prepared for the Administration for Children and Families (ACF). Visit the Toxic Stress and Self-Regulation Reports Visit disclaimer page page for more information.


Self-regulation skills developing in infants:

  • Shifting attention or averting gaze when over overwhelmed
  • Self-soothing by sucking fingers or a pacifier

Developing in toddlers:

  • Focusing attention for short periods
  • Adjusting behavior to achieve goals
  • Briefly delaying gratification
  • Beginning to label feelings
  • Turning to adults for help with strong feelings

Key considerations for promoting self-regulation in infants and toddlers:

  • Train teachers and child care staff in co-regulation skills, particularly warm interaction, responsivity to child cues, and environmental structure
  • Identify ways to support school and child care staff’s own self-regulation capacity
  • Share self-regulation information, ideas, and classroom approaches with parents/caregivers to support their co-regulation and promote consistency across environments


Rosanbalm, K.D., & Murray, D.W. (2017). Self-Regulation Snapshot #1: A Focus on Infants and Toddlers. OPRE Report #2018-10, Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, US. Department of Health and Human Services.


The act of managing thoughts and feelings to enable goal-directed actions.
The supportive process between caring adults and children, youth, or young adults that fosters self-regulation development.
Current as of: