Your Child at 2: Milestones

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on April 09, 2023
4 min read

They call it the "terrible twos" because it seems all your toddler wants to say is "no!" This is the time when your little one's character starts to take shape and they blossom into their own person. Here are some skills to be on the lookout for.

At this age, your child should be able to:

  • Stand on tiptoes
  • Kick a ball
  • Start to run
  • Climb on and down from furniture without help
  • Walk up and down stairs while holding on
  • Throw a ball overhand
  • Carry a large toy or several toys while walking

You've probably noticed how your child has stopped staggering when they walk and has transitioned to the smoother heel-to-toe movement of the typical adult walker. In the months ahead, they'll become a more coordinated runner, learn to walk backward, turn corners, and with a little help, stand on one leg.

They'll naturally improve their motor skills by running, playing, sliding down slides, and climbing. It's good for them to have time each day to go outside and explore. This will let them improve motor skills, have fun, and let off steam. But you need to supervise them.

Your child should be able to:

  • Scribble at will
  • Turn over a container and pour out its contents
  • Build a tower of four blocks or more

By now, your child can coordinate the movements of their wrist, fingers, and palm so they can turn a doorknob or unscrew a jar lid. They also can hold a crayon or pencil, even though the grip might seem awkward to you. Still, it's good enough for them to start making some lines and circles on a piece of paper. Their attention span will be a lot longer than at 18 months, and now that they can turn the pages in a book, they can participate more when you read together. Drawing, building blocks, or using a construction set will keep them happy for a long time.

Your toddler may show a preference for either their left or right hand at this age. But there's no need to pressure them to choose one or the other. Some kids develop a preference later on. Others can use either hand equally well. So let it happen naturally.

Your child should be able to:

  • Point to things or pictures when they are named
  • Know the names of parents, siblings, body parts, and objects
  • Say a sentence with two to four words
  • Follow simple Instructions
  • Repeat words overheard in a conversation

Your 2-year-old will probably be putting longer sentences together (like, "Mommy, I want cookie" rather than just, "Cookie Mommy.") They'll also begin to use pronouns like "I" and "me" instead of their name. Not all children talk at the same rate so don't worry if a friend's child is talking more than yours. 

At this age, your child understands more than they can say.  Continue to engage them, especially by telling them what comes next in the day and warning when an activity is almost over.

Help your child with language skills by talking and reading to them. Use books that ask them to touch or name objects or repeat words (you can do this yourself with any picture book just by asking your child questions). As their language skills develop, they'll enjoy poems, puns, and jokes.

Your child may:

  • Copy others, especially adults and older children
  • Get excited around other kids
  • Show growing independence
  • Play mainly beside, instead of with, other children
  • Show increasing defiance (doing things you told them not to do)
  • Be more aware of themselves as separate from others

At this stage, kids think the world is all about them. Concepts like sharing don't make a lot of sense. Your child may sit next to another toddler to play but ignore them unless it's to take a toy away from them. This is normal. Saying to them, "How would you like it if she did that to you?" won't mean anything at this age. So monitor their interactions closely.

At the same time, kids love to imitate others around them and may speak to their teddy bear or doll the same way their parents speak to them. That's one more reason to be a good role model.

Your child should be able to:

  • Find things even when they're hidden under two or three layers
  • Starting sorting shapes and colors
  • Complete sentences and rhymes in familiar books
  • Play simple make-believe games
  • Follow two-part instructions (such as "drink your milk, then give me the cup")

Your child's grasp of language is increasing and they're now starting to solve problems in their head. They're also beginning to understand time concepts like, "I'll read you a story after we brush your teeth."

They'll start to understand the concept of numbers, so you can introduce counting. Their play will become more complex and they might create an elaborate scene for one special toy rather than moving from one toy to the next.

Tell your doctor if your child can't do any of the following by age 2:

  • Walk properly -- they should not be walking exclusively on their toes or unsteadily after several months of walking
  • Say a two-word sentence
  • Imitate actions or words
  • Follow simple instructions
  • Remember skills they used to have

Your child should also be tested for autism at 18 months and at 24 months, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics If there is a problem, your doctor will refer you to an early intervention (EI) program, which is provided under a federal law. Some of the EI services will be provided free of charge.

At age 2, children can learn from high-quality educational programs, but they should watch no more than an hour a day. Too much screen time can lead to too little physical activity and trouble sleeping. The American Academy of Pediatrics says you shouldn't let your child watch screens (TV, tablet, or laptop computer) by themselves, but you should watch with them. And don't use the TV as background noise. When no one's watching, turn it off.