Toddler Development & Parent-Toddler Groups in Theory & Practice

About this course

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This two-day training addresses toddler development in relation to the toddler-parent relationship. It examines normal toddler development and the difficulties encountered in toddler development and identification of 'at-risk' behaviour as well as peer-relationships and separation from the primary care giver.

The course focusses on the theory and practice of working with parents and toddlers in groups, discussing a number of different intervention skills useful when addressing toddlers and their parents/care-givers, using DVD clips to illustrate examples.

Teaching is delivered on how to set up and run a parent-toddler group based on the Anna Freud Centre approach, including a case presentation with DVD clips. It includes contributions from psychoanalysis, attachment theory and toddler developmental research.

Aims of course

  • To provide an understanding of toddler development and the parent-toddler relationship
  • To outline professional skills in assessing risk and early intervention.
  • To promote knowledge about the theory and practice of clinical work with toddlers and their parents, including how to set up and run a parent-toddler group based on the AFC approach.

Learning Outcomes

  • Develop the technique of direct observation in relation to toddler-parent interactions, to inform evidence based practice.
  • Become informed about the developmental research and clinical data on toddler development.
  • Examine professional and personal criteria for evaluation of "at-risk" development in toddlerhood.
  • Reflect on the professional use of self in work with toddlers and their parents.
  • Enhance intervention skills for the promotion of mental health in the toddler.
  • Learn about what’s involved in setting up and running a parent-toddler group.

Who is this course suitable for?

The course is directed at professionals working with toddlers and their families, who are looking to extend their knowledge and expertise in the field and would like to learn about how to set up and run a parent-toddler group. The course addresses toddler development and the toddler-parent relationship. It draws upon techniques of direct observation of toddler-parent interactions to assess normal and at-risk development, and to promote evidence-based practice.

Course Structure

The course comprises 4 presentations and 4 workshops. A list of relevant reading is provided to underpin each presentation. During the workshops, each participant will be asked to present a case example and a 10 minute observation sequence, to be thought about in an informal way in the workshops, facilitated by the workshop leader.

The workshops aim to teach an “observational stance” and the skill of thinking about behaviour within a conceptual framework. They aim to develop participants’ observational skills through the presentation of their own brief observations of parent-child or practitioner-child interactions. These clinical case examples are used to integrate theory and practice and to reflect on the feelings evoked by the observation.


The Centre is taking action to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Our physical sites are now closed but we are still at work, with all staff working remotely. Find out more about our training and services and our support for children, young people, their families, and schools and colleges.  

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