Developing Sense of Self

Infants and toddlers are just beginning to develop a sense of themselves as individuals

toddler with happy expression

At A Glance

Infants and toddlers are just beginning to develop a sense of themselves and an awareness that their bodies, thoughts, and actions are separate from others. They may notice and comment on how they are alike and different from others. Educators can support children to develop a positive sense of self and appreciate diversity. They can acknowledge children’s attributes, promote their autonomy, and embrace similarities and differences.

What It Looks Like

Ways you can help infants and toddlers explore their budding sense of self

Embrace Differences

Drawing attention to similarities and differences, like various colors of hair, helps children develop self-awareness and an appreciation of diversity.

Offer Choice

Giving children choice within an activity, such as deciding how to greet someone, is a great way to let children know that their ideas and preferences are valued.

Recognize Every Child

Giving children opportunities to use their own names and creatively express themselves through movement is a fun way to support their growing sense of self.


The Skin You Live In

Written by Michael Tyler and illustrated by David Lee Csicsko, this story encourages young readers to love themselves and embrace others, no matter the color of their skin.

Skin You Live In Book Cover


Focusing on Strengths

This blog from Brookings invites us to look beyond trauma. Learn how you can focus on children’s strengths to help them build a more positive view of themselves.


Embracing Families

The National Center on Quality Teaching and Learning shares tips for educators on building relationships with families of dual language learners.


Recognizing Bias and Promoting Equity

This short video from the Center of Excellence for Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation encourages educators to embrace children’s cultures to support their sense of self.

Activity Cards for Infant and Toddler Classrooms

Part of the STREAMin3 curriculum, these activity cards provide simple and fun ways you can help older infants and toddlers explore their budding sense of self
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Focus on Names

Name Games

Help children make the connection between their name and themselves using games.

Focus on family


Prompt children to share the different names they use for people in their family.

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Focus on Favorites

Favorite Things

Provide a category and give each child a chance to share their “favorite.”

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focus on preferences

Do You Like It?

Encourage children to share if they like particular objects, events, colors, etc.


Get Our Resource Guide

Includes questions and activities to guide your use of the videos, book suggestions, and activity cards featured for each of the Core Skills