Tovah Klein

Director of the Barnard College Center for Toddler Development; Associate Professor of Psychology

Tovah P. Klein, Ph.D., joined the faculty in 1995.

She is the author of the 2014 How Toddlers Thrive (Simon & Schuster).

At the Barnard College Center for Toddler Development (Toddler Center), Professor Klein and her research team study children's social and emotional development, the influence of parents on children's development, sleep and separation, and the experience of being a parent in the early years. Current research examines the role of toddler play in development:  how toddlers communicate through play; use play to process and learn about emotions, and to handle peer conflicts and learn to get along with peers. Emotion situations include typical (i.e., separation) to stressful (i.e., new baby; emergency room visits) and traumatic (i.e., 9/11, home emergencies). She collaborates with Dr. Nim Tottenham on studies of emotional influences on toddler memory. Other research focuses on parents' transition to parenthood and how parents negotiate the challenges of work and family. Another line of research looked on the impact of trauma on young children and families, including children who were direct witness to the events of 9/11/01 in NYC. 

Dr. Klein is a former developmental advisor for Sesame Street. She is an advisor to Ubuntu Pathways (S. Africa), Rwanda Educational Assistance Project, Room to Grow, Children's Museum of Manhattan (CMOM) and Hunts Point Alliance for Children. She is frequently quoted in the media, including appearing on Good Morning America, Today Show, CNN, and National Public Radio.  Her writings appear across the web including Motherly, PureWow, Business Insider, Huffington Post, Slate and as well as the NY Times and Washington Post. She is the mother of three boys.

Selected Publications:


How Toddlers Thrive: What Parents can do Today for Children ages 2 to 5 to Plant the Seeds of Lifelong Success. Touchstone; Simon & Schuster, 2014).


"5 Secrets of Super Happy Parents with Well Behaved Kids." (Huffington Post, April, 2014:

"Nine Ways Toddlers Say I Love You" (, February, 2011)

"Why Women Leaders are MIA from Academic Life" (Washington Post blog, On Leadership, July, 2010).


"Social Interactions of School-Aged Children with CFA: Mothers’ Perspectives and Advice." (with A. Pope & R. Abbott) Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Journal, 51 (3), 300-307.  (2014). 

 “Young children exposed to the attacks on the World Trade Center” (with E.R. Devoe, et al.) Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 3(1), 1-7 (2011)

“Fathers' perspectives on parenting a child with a craniofacial anomaly” (with A. Pope & E. Tan), Journal of Pediatric Health Care, 24(5), (2010)

"Young Children's Responses to September 11th: The NYC Experience" (with E. R. DeVoe, et al.), Infant Mental Health Journal, 30(1) (2009)

"Post-9/11 Mental Health Service Help-Seeking among a Group of Highly Exposed New York City Parents" (with E. R. DeVoe, et al.), Families in Society, 88 (2007)

"Cognitive Imitation in Typically-Developing 3- and 4-Year Olds and Individuals with Autism" (with F. Subiaul, et al.), Cognitive Development, 22 (2007)

"Post-9/11 Helpseeking by New York City Parents on Behalf of Highly Exposed Young Children" (with E. DeVoe and W. Bannon), Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 76 (2006)

"Mothers' Reflections on Raising a Child with a Craniofacial Anomaly" (with A. Pope, et al.), Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Journal, 43 (2006)

"Psychological Impact of Terrorism on Children and Families in the United States" (with B. Pfefferbam, et al.), in The Trauma of Terrorism: Sharing Knowledge and Shared Care, An International Handbook, ed. Y. Danieli, et al. (Routledge, 2005)

"Parents’ Relationships with Their Parents and Peers: Influences on Children’s Social Development" (with C. Grimes and M. Putallaz), in Children's Peer Relations: From Development to Intervention, ed. J. Kuperschmidt and K. A. Dodge (Washington, DC: APA Press, 2004)

"Play: Children's Context for Development" (with D. Wirth and K. Linas),  In D. Koralek (Ed). Spotlight on Young Children and Play, 28-36. Wash. DC: NAEYC (2004).


Academic Focus: 

Developmental and clinical psychology

Children's social and emotional development

Work and family issues

Toddlers and young children

Stress & coping in children and parents


Play; Play and development; Play and emotions

Presentations / Recent Lectures: 

“How Toddlers Thrive.” Strong Families Arizona Home Visiting Conference, Phoenix, AZ.  Keynote Speech. Sept., 2018.

"The Power of Play, Stacking the Building Blocks of Learning." with R. Golinkoff. National Smart Start Conference, Greensboro, NC. Featured Session, May, 2016

"Open the Door To Tomorrow: The First 3 Years of Life." 18th Annual Infant Toddler Conference. Keynote Speaker. Chicago, Ill. March, 2015.

"How Toddlers Thrive, Creating Harmony and Reducing Conflict During these Crucial Years." Children's Museum of Manhattan. October, 2014

"How Toddlers Thrive: The use of Play in Early Development." First Things First Early Childhood Summit. Phoenix, AZ. Aug., 2014.

"How Toddlers Thrive." Distinguished Lecture Series, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, May, 2014.

"Mothers’ Reflections on Work and Family: Clashes, Unforeseen Decision Points & Constrained choices". (with N. Koutruba & T. Wolfson) Work and Family Researchers Network (WFRN) Conference, NYC, June, 2014.

"Young children’s responses to witnessing the WTC attacks: Implications for children after tsunami" (with Y. Aratani), Invited Talk at Morioka University, Morioka, Japan, January, 2013.

"Attachment, Separation, and Loss in the Toddler and Early Childhood Years." (with L. Bennett-Murphy) International Conference on Child and Adolescent Psychopathology, London,  England, July, 2012.

"Mothers’ Reflections on Work and Family: Compromises, Losses and Tradeoffs". (with M. Evans, T. Wolfson, M. Leeman) Inaugural Meeting of the Work and Family Researchers Network, New York City, June, 2012.

"Creating Safety through Play: Young Children’s Communication about Life Experiences, from Typical to Stressful and Traumatic Events"(With M, Evans). New York State Association for the Education of Young Children, Buffalo, NY, April, 2012.

"Young Children's Play: Processing and Communicating about Emotions and Life Experiences" International Play Association Conference, Cardiff, Wales, July, 2011.

"Playing as a Way to Set the Stage for Healthy Child Development" Invited Talk. Parent-Child Home Program Conference. Uniondale, NY, May, 2011.

"Creating Safety Through Play: Young Children’s Communication about Life’s Experiences, from Typical to Traumatic" (with M. Evans & S. Grazi). Zero to Three National Training Institute, Phoenix, AZ, December, 2010.

"Toddlers use of Play to Process Separation and Emotions" (with S. Grazi). Invited Talk, Citywide Infant Toddler Conference, New York, July, 2010.

"Experiences and Challenges of Women Combining Academic Careers and Motherhood" (with D. Auriemma). American Association of University Professors, Wash. DC, June, 2010.

"Anger, Separation and Fear: How Toddlers Play to Express Emotions"  Invited Talk, Bank Street College Infancy Institute. New York, June, 2010.

"Psychological Implications and Challenges of Negotiating Work and Motherhood" (with E. Nofi, R. Abbott & I. Kellerman). American Psychological Association annual conference. Toronto, Canada, August, 2009.

"Play as a Means to Process Separation and Emotions in Young Children" (with E. Nofi & M. Marzano). National Association for Education of Young Children  Conference, Play: Where Learning Begins. Charlotte, NC. June, 2009.

"Parents Thinking About Their Relationships with their Own Parents" (with I. Kellerman, R. Abbott & E. Nofi). Eastern Psychological Association, Pittsburgh, PA. March, 2009.



(212) 854-5274 

twitter: @tovahklein

FB: how toddlers thrive


Office Hours: 

Tuesdays, 3-4 PM 412 Milbank Hall


B.A., University of Michigan

M.A., Ph.D., Duke University

Related Web Sites:

In the News