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7 Signs of Secure Attachment in Toddlers


Recognize the signs of secure attachment in toddlers, fostering a strong emotional bond that lays the foundation for healthy child development.

Every caregiver and parent knows the feeling—the one that wells in your chest when your toddler calls your name from the other room or reaches for your comforting hug. The emotion is almost indescribable, yet so many words apply: warmth, affection, love. 

Your toddler may not be able to communicate it, but they feel it, too. Comfort-seeking behaviors reflect the connection between child and caregiver and can be a sign of secure attachment. 

Recognizing the signs of a secure attachment relationship (and learning how to foster them) builds strong emotional bonds between you and your young child and lays the foundation for healthy development as they grow, learn, and play. 

Are you curious about the signs of secure attachment in toddlers? Sit back, relax, and read on—We’ll walk you through what to look for and how to foster a healthy emotional bond between you and your little one.

What Does Secure Attachment Look Like in Toddlers?

Parenting is hard work, and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all handbook. In the first three years of development, toddlers are vulnerable and reliant on their caregivers. Fortunately, much like wolf cubs or kittens, infants are innately equipped with instinctive ways to communicate their needs. 

Several cues can be signs of secure attachment in infants or toddlers: 

  • Making eye contact or following their caregiver or parent with their gaze
  • Gestures for touch or physical connection
  • Cries for comfort or closeness
  • Attempts to restore proximity to their caregiver 

Almost all children become attached to their caregivers, but not all attachment styles are secure. Some toddlers exhibit alternative attachment styles based on their behavior:

  • Avoidant attachment The toddler exhibiting an avoidant attachment style shows little to no signs of distress when their caregiver is absent, and they’ll often interact similarly with strangers as they do with caregivers. When caregivers return, toddlers show signs of avoidance, such as lack of interest or little eye contact. 
  • Ambivalent attachment – The ambivalent toddler will often cling to their caregiver and show signs of distress when separated. In severe cases, this anxious attachment can lead to anxiety. These toddlers are anxious and guarded around strangers, yet exhibit ambivalence, even aggression, toward their caregiver when reunited. If this sounds like your child, discover how to treat anxiety in children naturally.
  • Disorganized attachment The toddler showing a disorganized attachment style will often exhibit fear or confusion when approaching a caregiver. They can be aggressive, with increased moments of emotional distress and an inability to self-soothe. 

  • 7 Signs of Secure Attachment in Toddlers

    When you’re attentive to your child’s needs, they develop strong expectations that safety and protection are available to them. These expectations become the basis for a healthy relationship with their environment—they display generally positive views of the world around them and are confident and eager to explore it. 

    Seven healthy behaviors indicate secure attachment in toddlers:   

    #1. Seeking Comfort

    A securely attached toddler will be reasonably reliant on their caregiver, seeking comfort and care when distressed through body language and behavioral cues. 

    #2. Being Easily Comforted

    When toddlers with a secure attachment are upset, they respond to caregiver efforts to soothe them and are easily comforted. 

    #3. Willingness to Explore

    In moments of content, a secure toddler will independently explore their environment and respond to stimuli with curiosity or amusement. 

    #4. Interest in Learning 

    Secure attachment fosters an active interest in infants to learn and promotes the achievement of developmental milestones. 

    #5. Positive Greetings

    When reunited with their caregiver after a period of separation, a secure toddler will positively greet them, showing signs of excitement and enthusiasm to engage. 

    #6. Showing Preference to Parents vs. Strangers 

    A secure child will be comfortable with strangers but will prefer the company of their caregiver, routinely seeking proximity to parents. 

    #7. Positive Social-Emotional Relationships

    They will form similar healthy social bonds with other children, exhibiting empathy and a desire to interact and play.  When children are able to recognize their feelings and emotions towards others, they are better able to develop their emotional literacy skills. 

    How Parents Can Foster Secure Attachment

    Fostering secure attachment in your toddler is a day-by-day process. Proactive baby steps create a safe space for your toddler to explore and express their needs and establish healthy expectations for receiving care.  Trying different growth mindset activities will help your child process emotions and develop healthy relationships in life. 

    Incorporate these tips into your daily parenting practice to cultivate healthy attachment: 

    • Responsive parenting – Navigate the ebbs and flows of your child’s needs by addressing distress and stepping back when necessary to help them foster self-sufficiency. 
    • Engaged interactions – Communicate with your toddler often. Match and encourage their emotional courage and curiosity of the world around them. 
    • Establishing routines – Create a foundation of safety and predictability for your infant through regular playtime, bath time, and meals. 
    • Staying consistent with care – Respond with consistency to the full spectrum of your toddler’s emotions. If you practice patience and empathy when your child makes a mistake, try not to react with anger or impatience after the next bump or spill.

    Recognizing Signs of Insecure Attachment 

    Staying attuned to your toddler’s response to their environment opens opportunities for gentle course correction toward secure attachment. Observe how your toddler reacts to stressors or stimuli—certain behaviors can be signs of insecure attachment:

    • Difficulty seeking comfort
    • Minimal emotional expression
    • Avoidance of interaction with caregivers or peers 
    • Freezing or locking when approached

    If you recognize these signs in your child, don’t panic—studies show that children can shift into secure attachment through engaged parenting, mindful response to their toddler’s emotions, and therapeutic intervention. 

    Promoting Secure Attachment with Slumberkins

    No caregiver is perfect. Whether you’re new to parenting or an experienced caregiver, raising a secure child is a rewarding rollercoaster of highs and lows. 

    Remaining emotionally and physically available for your infant is key to fostering a secure attachment relationship and establishing a firm foundation for healthy attachment. Fortunately, with a consistent care routine and informed resources, you can create a safe environment for your toddler to develop. 

    Explore the bond between you and your toddler with Slumberkins. Our social-emotional learning books encourage caregivers and toddlers to safely explore all the rich layers of childhood, like how to manage emotions and navigate relationships. 

    For a little extra comfort when you’re away, introduce your infant to Otter, our go-to companion for nurturing connection and belonging. From every cry or curiosity, outburst or elation, Slumberkins is here to share it with you and your toddler. 


    Sources: 


    NIH. Introduction to children's attachment. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK356196/


    The Attachment Project. How a Secure Attachment Style Develops in Early Childhood. https://www.attachmentproject.com/blog/secure-attachment-style-infants/


    Positive Psychology. Attachment Styles in Children (& How to Raise Secure Kids). https: in//positivepsychology.com/in attachment-styles-childhood/


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