Your 2-Year-Old’s Milestones and Development

It’s an exciting time when your little one turns 2 years old, especially regarding their developmental milestones. From physical and speech milestones to emotional developments, there’s a lot in store for a 2-year-old. This article gives you advice on how to respond to the “terrible twos,” how to support your little one’s developments, what night terrors are, and more. Regardless of the highs and lows, these 24-month milestones will keep you on your toes!

Toddler Development Milestones

No two 2-year-olds are the same, and your little one will continue to develop at their own pace. However, you may see some of these milestones at 24 months old:

  • Tantrums. There is a reason why 2-year-olds get such a bad rap. Around this age, your 2-year-old may throw a tantrum when you ask them to stop doing something they enjoy (because it’s lunchtime or bedtime), or they may put up a fuss when they don’t get something they want at the grocery store. Welcome to the “terrible twos”! Your child is probably feeling a lot of emotions they can’t handle or even express right now, and tantrums often. Tantrums are a natural part of your little one's emotional development, and almost all children will have them occasionally at this age, especially when they’re tired or hungry.

  • Expanded vocabulary. What two-year-olds “should” know varies, as every child is different. But with a rapidly increasing vocabulary, your child may be able to say many words by now. At 2 years old, they may also be able to use a few simple two- to four-word sentences. When you name a familiar object or person, your 24-month-old may recognize it and point to it.

  • Confident walking. Look who’s walking like an expert these days! Now or in the coming months, your 2-year-old may even start to run. Before you know it, you’ll be struggling to keep up!

  • Improved gross motor skills. Your toddler might be able to kick a ball, climb up and down furniture unassisted or carry a large toy or several smaller toys around while walking. Seeing this shows their ability to coordinate and control arm and leg movements is improving.

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Activities for 2-Year-Olds: Supporting Toddler Development

Wondering what to teach a 2-year-old or looking for appropriate activities? Here's what you can do to help foster your 2-year-old’s development:

  • Create some family rituals. Following routines and traditions can help your little one feel safe and secure. So, take advantage of this and get your toddler more involved with traditions your family already has, or create new ones together, like scheduling a weekly walk in the park, a weekend family dinner or singing and reading together on a specific night. All this helps nurture their social development.

  • Consider starting potty training. Now that your little one is 2 years old, they may be ready to start toilet training. Signs of readiness include showing an interest in using the potty, letting you know that they need to go and being able to pull their pants down and back up again. Even if they’re not quite ready yet, you can start to introduce the concept—maybe let them choose a potty they like, keep the potty in a place where they can see it, and explain how it works. In the meantime, you can also read up on potty training tips so you feel more prepared for what’s to come.

  • Prioritize Play. Play is an important tool and support for 2-year-olds reaching developmental milestones, including emotional and speech milestones. Things to do with a 2-year-old will vary depending on your child’s personality and interests. You can set up a playroom or arts and crafts area to encourage creativity or arrange play dates with other children around the same age as yours.

Mealtimes and Menus for Your 24-Month-Old

Your 24-month-old toddler needs a variety of tasty and nutritious foods to grow and stay healthy. Offer them three small meals and two snacks a day with plenty of vegetables, fruit, protein and whole grains in the mix. It’s never too early to teach your little one some good habits. Although, at 2 years old, they may be too little to behave perfectly at the table, here are some ways you can introduce good table manners and healthy habits:

  • Have family meals. Sit down at the table together at least once a day for a family meal. Turn off the TV and put away the devices. Take this opportunity to talk about the day and involve your toddler in conversations—even if they aren’t saying much yet, they may be paying more attention than you think.

  • Eat healthily yourself. If your toddler sees you eating and enjoying all kinds of nutritious foods, they’ll be more likely to want to try the healthy foods you offer them as well.

  • Teach good table manners. Although a 2-year-old may be too young to be expected to say “please” and “thank you” on a regular basis, you can set a positive example by using these phrases with other family members. You can also encourage your little one not to talk with their mouth full or to close their mouth while chewing. Even just mentioning these occasionally helps set the ground rules for what you would like them to learn.

  • Treat dinnertime as an occasion. Perhaps assign a specific time for the meal, set the table with your child's help and have the entire family (even if that’s just you and your little one) sit and eat together without any phones or distractions. This is a wonderful opportunity to help your toddler look forward to dinner as a special time.

Meal Ideas for 2-Year-Olds

Not sure what to serve your 24-month-old? Check out these meal ideas for toddlers, including snacks:

Sample meal plan for 2 year olds

Your 24-Month-Old Toddler’s Sleep Schedule

Wondering how long 2-year-olds “should” nap or how much sleep they need? Your little one may sleep around 9 to 13 hours per day. However, they may still need an afternoon nap, which might be around two hours long. If you need help adjusting your 24-month-old toddler’s nap and sleep schedule, try the Smart Sleep Coach app by Pampers. Co-created by pediatricians and sleep experts, the app can show you how to sleep train your 2-year-old, keep to a bedtime routine and tackle sleep regression if it arises.

What Are Nightmares and Night Terrors?

You may wake up to your 2-year-old calling out your name from their bedroom or to screams or cries in the middle of the night. These nightmares or night terrors can be upsetting for them and worrying for you, and you may be wondering what is happening. A nightmare is a frightening dream that often takes place during the second half of the night, during the most intense stage of dreaming. When your little one has a nightmare, they may wake up crying or feeling scared and might have trouble falling back to sleep, especially if they remember the nightmare. Nightmares commonly begin during the toddler years. Night terrors are a little different. These tend to happen earlier in the night, during the deepest stages of sleep, and your child won’t be fully awake (even though it looks like they’re awake). Night terrors are more likely to begin when a child is 4 or 5. During a night terror, your child may

  • cry uncontrollably

  • shake, sweat or hyperventilate

  • have a terrified look in their eyes

  • thrash around, kick, scream or stare

  • not recognize you’re there

  • push you away, especially if you try to touch them.

Night terrors can last up to 45 minutes, but often, they are much shorter. Because your little one does not wake up fully during a night terror, they can fall back into deep sleep more easily and may not remember that they’ve had one. Here are guidelines to follow when your little one has a night terror:

  • Stay calm

  • Do not try to wake your child

  • Make sure your child cannot hurt themself; if they try to get out of bed, try to restrain them and keep them away from any harmful objects

  • Know that your child will relax and sleep quietly afterward.

If your child tends to have frightening dreams, nightmares or night terrors, it’s a good idea to let babysitters know ahead of time that these might occur and to provide guidance on what to do.

Dealing With Nightmares and Night Terrors

There is not much you can do to prevent nightmares or night terrors, but it’s worthwhile to set up your 2-year-old for a good night’s sleep by following these tips:

  • Keep a regular sleep schedule. Stress and overtiredness are common triggers for bad dreams, so try to maintain a consistent sleep schedule as much as possible. This means keeping naptime and bedtime consistent each day and following a calming routine just before bed.

  • Go to your child quickly if they sound distressed. You may not want to rush to your toddler’s crib if they’re just fussy, but if your little one wakes you up after a bad dream and calls out your name in distress or you hear screaming, then go to them right away.

  • Tell them they’re safe. Reassure your child that there is nothing out there that can hurt them and that they’re safe.

  • Remind them that dreams are not real. Help your little one understand that dreams are not real and everything is OK.

  • Keep the light on if it helps. Sometimes children feel safer sleeping with a night-light on or with the door open a little, letting in some light from the hallway.

  • See if there is anything that scares your child. Are there any creepy-looking shadows or items that may make your little one uneasy? Try to eliminate or remove these.

A Day in the Life of Your 24-Month-Old Toddler

Looking for things to do with a 2-year-old or wondering how to organize their day? Here’s what a daily schedule in your home might look like:

2 year old schedule and milestones

Your Toddler’s Health and Safety: Water Safety

When it comes to your child playing in or near water, you need to be particularly vigilant to keep your toddler safe and reduce the risk of drowning. Here are some water safety tips:

  • Be there to supervise. Whether your toddler is learning to swim, splashing in a shallow pool or simply taking a bath, you or another responsible adult must be there to watch at all times.

  • Pay constant attention. Avoid distractions like reading or using your phone, even if a lifeguard is present.

  • Get in the water with them. If your child is in the water, get in the water with them and keep close by, within arm’s distance.

  • Assign a responsible adult to keep an eye on your toddler if you can’t supervise. Never leave the responsibilities of watching your toddler to a child—always enlist the help of another adult.

  • Use life jackets. If you’re on a boat or enjoying activities close to the water, make sure your little one has a well-fitting life jacket.

  • Keep pools fenced on all sides, and the gate closed at all times. Fencing and gating pools will keep your toddler out of the pool area if they’re unsupervised.

  • Empty the wading pool after use. A wading pool can be fun for your little one, but if you do use one, ensure you empty it after use and put it away.

Development Tips for Your Toddler This Month

If you're wondering what 2-year-olds “should” be learning and doing and how to boost your 24-month-old toddler’s development, follow these tips and guidelines:

  • Speak clearly and use simple words. Your toddler will probably reply to you, and you may start having little conversations. The more “conversations” you have, the more opportunity your 2-year-old has for language development.

  • Help them improve their fine motor skills. You can help your 2-year-old get better at using their hands and fingers with activities like folding colourful paper, putting blocks into their corresponding holes, stacking blocks, creating shapes with clay or finger painting.

  • Encourage active play and physical exercise. Even if your 2-year-old seems to be on the move from morning to night, it's good to provide opportunities for all kinds of movement and activity. They're still young for playing sports on a team, but they may enjoy running and jumping and trying to kick, throw and catch a ball, especially if you join them and play with them.

  • Tell your child a story. You could start with something that happened in your own childhood or think of a character your child would like (maybe a favourite animal), and then give free rein to your imagination. As they listen, your child is learning about structure—that each story has a beginning, middle and end—which benefits a 2-year-old’s cognitive development. If you've always wanted to be an actor, have at it! Not just your words but your tone of voice, facial expressions and gestures are an important part of the story.

2 year old milestones

Items You May Need This Month

You might need some of the following baby gear this month:

  • Toddler wheels. Now that your active little one is walking well and even running around, you could buy them a balance bicycle (which doesn't have pedals) or a tricycle. These can help your child work on their balance and prepare them for riding a bike later on.

  • Car seat. If you think your toddler has outgrown their rear-facing car seat, you may need to upgrade to a forward-facing seat or reconfigure your convertible seat to face forward. Check the manufacturer's height and weight limits for your current seat in the rear-facing position.

  • Toddler bed and bed rail. Unless you have a convertible crib, your next big purchase for your 2-year-old may be a toddler bed. A toddler bed rail may come in handy to keep your little one from rolling off their bed.

  • Potty chair. As mentioned above, it may be time to start potty training. Take the time now to buy a potty chair for your 24-month-old.

FAQS AT A GLANCE

You may be wondering what a “normal” 2-year-old “should” be able to do physically or maybe even what do they know educationally or academically. There are no typical achievements or standard benchmarks for all 24-month-olds, as each toddler develops at their own rate.

However, at this point or sometime soon in the coming year, your child may be able to understand most sentences, do simple puzzles with three or four pieces, play make-believe and run.

If you don’t notice any or all these developments just yet, remind yourself that every toddler's developmental pattern and timing is unique, and check in with your child's healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns.

Parenting 2-Year-Olds: Handling Tantrums

Even if you’ve been told about the frequent temper tantrums that can erupt around this age, it can still be a shock when your normally easygoing 2-year-old suddenly becomes prone to bouts of screaming, kicking, fist pounding and more. What’s helpful to know is that tantrums are simply a way for your little one to deal with conflict or emotions they’re unable to articulate, such as fear, frustration and anger. At this age, most toddlers believe the world revolves around them, so they may act out when they don’t get their way, resulting in behaviour that ranges from milder outbursts to full-blown tantrums. The good news is you can minimize these tantrums with a few strategies:

  • Use a friendly tone and polite words when making requests. When you ask your child to do something, avoid stern-sounding commands when possible. Using a cheerful tone and words like “please” and “thank you” is more effective in getting them to cooperate.

  • Don’t overreact when they say “no.” For many toddlers, “no” is a favourite word that is used automatically to respond to any request, so don’t be surprised if this happens in your house. Your child may even say no when they mean yes (such as when you offer ice cream) to show they’re in control. It’s best to just repeat your request in a calm and clear manner and not to punish them for saying no.

  • Distract your toddler. Your little one has a short attention span, so try to use that to your advantage by offering something else quickly before a tantrum has the chance to begin. Start a new activity or change the environment by moving them to a new room or a different part of the playground.

  • Reward good behaviour. If they do something right or behave well, offer plenty of praise and attention, even if it just means spending extra time with them as they quietly play or read.

  • Anticipate tantrum triggers. If your little one tends to make a scene in the grocery store, you may want to leave them at home if it’s at all possible. Over time, you may notice what triggers the tantrums and then try to avoid those triggers altogether or prepare for them by having a distraction up your sleeve.

  • Pick your battles. If it’s a matter of safety, like putting the seat belt on, it’s worth fighting them, but if they simply want to wear a different coloured top, then it may not be worth the fight.

  • Give your toddler choices. Surprisingly, what 2-year-olds need most is for those they trust to support them. One strategy that might prevent some tantrums is offering two choices you are happy with and letting them pick. Instead of telling your toddler that they must wear a jacket, for instance, you can tell them they can either wear two sweaters or a jacket. Or let them decide to wear their jeans or overalls.

2-Year-Old Development Checklist

  • Schedule and go to your toddler’s checkup. It’s time for the 2-year checkup, so get ready by jotting down any questions you may have about your toddler’s health or development. You might also like to ask about other topics, like preschool or potty training. At this checkup, your toddler’s healthcare provider will check on your child’s physical growth, as well as cognitive and emotional development, to make sure everything is on track.

  • Ask about fluoride. At your regular medical and dental checkups, your child’s mouth and teeth will be examined. Ask the dentist or healthcare provider whether your child needs fluoride supplements or fluoride varnish.

  • Celebrate your little one’s birthday. Woohoo! Your toddler is 2 years old, so it may be time for a party! Your family and close friends will love this chance to shower your little one with birthday cheer.

  • Start researching preschool options. Many children are ready for preschool when they are about 2 1/2 or 3, so now is a good time to search for preschools in your area and to start gathering information and recommendations.

  • Plan your vacations carefully. If you’re set to go on a vacation with your toddler soon, planning ahead of time can help make sure you’re fully prepared. Check on your hotel and airline reservations, get everything packed a few days in advance and make sure you have enough toys and games to keep your little one occupied on your journey, as changes in routine can be difficult for toddlers.

How We Wrote This Article
The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.

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