2-Year-Old Growth and Development Milestones

Once your child turns 2, you're likely to see some big changes in your little one almost every month. They're likely gaining some independence as they begin to navigate their environment on their own. And there's a good chance they're showing interest in trying to do more things without your help.

2 year old development milestones
Illustration by Emily Roberts, Verywell

Physical Development

Your 2-year-old will love to show off their budding motor skills. Whether they're running, climbing, throwing, or kicking—you can expect your little one to make great strides between ages 2 and 3.

You may notice 2-year-olds are just beginning to have better control over their hand and finger movements, which are signs that they're building fine motor skills. You can expect your toddler to be able to hold a pencil or crayon and copy lines and circles.

Key Milestones

  • Gross motor skills: As your child’s muscles develop, so will their climbing skills. Most 2-year-olds can climb over furniture, kick a ball, and run short distances.
  • Fine motor skills: Most 2-year-olds can scribble, paint, stack at least four blocks, and put round or square pegs into holes.
  • Major highlights: Your child will begin to walk more like an adult. At this age, they’ll be able to walk next to you without falling down and should be able to navigate stairs with little assistance.

Parenting Tip

You won't need to organize activities for your child at this age. Most 2-year-olds are experts at turning any environment into a playground. But because of their increased mobility, it's important to be vigilant about child-proofing.

Emotional Development

It’s called the “terrible twos” for a reason. This age often marks the beginning of temper tantrums. That’s to be expected as little ones are learning how to express themselves when they are frustrated, upset, tired, or hungry.

Because 2-year-olds lack the verbal skills to say, “I’m mad,” or “I’m feeling lonely,” they can’t tell anyone how they’re feeling. So they’re more likely to show it. Don’t be surprised when your child drops to the ground and starts screaming. It’s part of normal toddler development.

Key Milestones

  • Shows a broad range of emotions, from sadness to anger
  • Feels good when they're able to help dress themselves or do things independently.
  • Has frequent mood changes that signal your child is trying to take control of their impulses, feelings, and actions.

Parenting Tip

Praise your child’s good behavior, like helping dress themselves or picking up the toys when you ask. Your 2-year-old will begin to see themselves as capable and competent which will boost their self-esteem.

Social Development

Most 2-year-olds are "egocentric" by nature, meaning they can't yet fathom that people may have their own thoughts or concerns outside of them. They think the world revolves around them and their needs at all times.

So don't be surprised if your toddler isn't ready to play with other children in a traditional, give-and-take manner. Instead, they might prefer to play alongside other kids, as opposed to with them.

But, even in this phase, they'll love being around others. And being around others is a great opportunity for your child to learn about social interactions.

Key Milestones

  • Copies other people’s words and actions, and tries to comfort a friend in the same way you’ve comforted them
  • Engages in pretend play
  • Behaves defiantly sometimes to see what will happen

Parenting Tip

Let your child play with other toddlers. Intervene if the play becomes rough or unsafe, but make sure you give your child plenty of opportunities to practice playing with other children so they learn how to get along with peers.

Cognitive Development

Around age 2, you will begin to see your toddler creating imaginative games and combining activities together into a more complicated and intricate sequence rather than drifting from one toy or activity to another. These are signs that their mind is making more connections and beginning to understand relationships between different objects or ideas.

Speech & Language

While children develop at different rates, most toddlers master at least 50 spoken words by their second birthday. Boys' language skills may develop at a slower rate than girls. But before their third birthday, most 2-year-olds are able to put three-word sentences together.

Play

This is also a time that your child will begin to explore and try and figure out how things work during playtime. It is important to offer as many opportunities as you can for exploration.

Because of this, your child will likely enjoy doing the same thing over and over again, like knocking a tower over. Repeating the same behavior helps your child learn—though you may be eager for them to move on from this phase.

Key Milestones

  • Follows simple two-step commands like, “Please pick up the toy and give it to me”
  • Combines words to create simple sentences
  • Completes lines in familiar books

Parenting Tip

While there are many entertaining shows out there for young children, the AAP recommends keeping screen time for 2-year-olds to only one hour a day of high-quality programming. Shows like Sesame Street can provide educational opportunities for young children as long as parents co-view in order to help your young child understand the show and apply its lessons in everyday life. 

Other Milestones

Most toddlers are able to sleep for the majority of the night (at least 11 hours). If not, check to make sure that your infant has a good bedtime routine and has developed the proper sleep associations. They may start waking again at times of stress, illness, or after learning a new task (like walking).

Your toddler may still need two naps during the day or may only take one longer nap. A consistent napping schedule will make sure your child is getting plenty of sleep.

Once your child can climb out of their own crib (and you have already lowered the mattress and removed the bumper pads), it is time to move your child into a toddler bed. If your child is three feet tall, you may want to move them to a toddler bed even if they aren't climbing out of their crib yet. The usual age for moving out of a crib is about 18 months to two years.

When to Be Concerned

All children develop at slightly different rates. But, there are some things that could signal potential developmental issues. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, talk to your child’s doctor if your child:

  • Doesn’t walk steadily
  • Doesn’t copy actions and words
  • Doesn’t follow simple instructions
  • Loses skills they once had
  • Doesn’t know what to do with common objects, like a phone, fork, spoon, or brush
  • Doesn’t say two-word phrases like, “more milk”

A Word From Verywell

At age 2, your child’s skills and knowledge will grow fast. But keep in mind that your child learns a lot through play and you don’t need to turn every activity into an opportunity to identify shapes or colors. Instead, let your child explore and play on their own terms.

Do talk to your child often, by pointing out what you’re doing as you're cooking or performing household tasks. Keep things simple but avoid using too much baby talk.

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Article Sources
  • Adapted from the Your Child newsletter and series of articles from keepkidshealthy.com and are used with the permission of Keep Kids Healthy, LLC.