In their second year, tamariki are developing an awareness of themselves as a separate person and are learning about who they are. They're also becoming aware of other people's emotions.

Most one-year-olds have formed an attachment with key members of their whānau, like their parents, grandparents and siblings, and maybe even with neighbours.

In their second year, they’re:

  • becoming more independent and may be easily frustrated
  • developing an awareness of themselves as a separate person, and becoming aware of the emotions of other people
  • using social referencing to guide their responses to new people or situations.

Benefits of secure attachment

Toddlers who have a secure attachment are more likely to:

  • feel safe and secure
  • feel good about themselves
  • be learning to regulate their emotions
  • be confident to explore
  • trust that they can count on others.

Autonomy and assertiveness

This second year is an exciting new phase of development. Through this period, tamariki are developing an awareness of themselves as a separate person, and are learning about who they are, from the way their whānau care for them.

One-year-olds are developing some independence (autonomy) and want to make choices for themselves. They may be assertive about what they want and need, and may become frustrated easily when things aren’t going well.

Some one-year-olds will use the word ‘no’ to show their independence, and may test limits. When whānau respond calmly and consistently, they’re modelling behaviours they want their toddler to learn. Parents can be gentle about limits – their child is just learning and may not always cooperate.

Providing independence and support

Whānau can give their child opportunities to do things independently, like feeding themselves. They still need to be there to help when the child needs it, and help them move on if frustration overwhelms them.

It’s also important that whānau praise their toddler’s efforts, even if they’re not 100% successful.

Developing empathy

Toddlers are able to express many emotions and are beginning to understand the emotions of others. For example, they may show concern or cry if they see another child cry. They develop this empathy for others when their whānau have responded to them with love and warmth when they’re upset.

Separation anxiety

One-year-olds may still show stranger anxiety and separation distress. Although they want to leave dad or mum’s side to explore, they still need them there as a safe base and will often look to them for reassurance or comfort when things are scary or unfamiliar.

This ‘social referencing’ becomes more complex as tamariki understand more of their parent’s emotional expressions, and use them to guide how they respond to other people and new situations.

Parallel play

Although many one-year-olds are showing an interest in other toddlers, they’ll generally play alongside them (parallel play) and perhaps copy what they’re doing, rather than play with them (cooperative play). It’s early days and their social skills are still developing, and they may hit out at other tamariki or poke them.


Whānau can help their pēpi feel safe and secure by having predictable, consistent routines, and letting them know of any changes that are about to happen, like bath time or bed time. Knowing what to expect helps their pēpi feel safe and confident.

Learning to self-soothe

While one-year-olds may show their whānau they need help to regulate their emotions, they may also calm themselves at times, perhaps by cuddling a favourite blanket, sucking their thumb or returning to their play.

Love and limits

Parents may sometimes find themselves in a dual role. In one role, they’re setting age-appropriate limits for their child. In the other role, they’re helping their child calm down after they’ve had a meltdown due to these limits.

While it may seem easier at times not to put limits in place, gentle, firm, consistent limits help tamariki learn, especially when mum or dad comfort and reassure them if they're upset by the limits.

Culture and self-esteem

Connections to their culture will help build healthy self-esteem and will shape a child’s sense of who they are. Parents can sing, read books and tell stories from their culture.