Your Child at 2: Milestones

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 he blossoms into his own person. Here are some skills to be on the lookout for.

Movement Skills

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 he walks and has transitioned to the smoother heel-to-toe movement of the typical adult walker. In the months ahead, he'll become a more coordinated runner, learn to walk backward, turn corners, and with a little help, stand on one leg.

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

Hand and Finger Development

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

Your toddler may show a preference for either his left or right hand at this age. But there's no need to pressure him 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.


Language Skills

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.") He'll also begin to use pronouns like "I" and "me" instead of his name. Not all children talk at the same rate so don't worry if a friend's child is talking more than yours. Boys also tend to starting talking later than girls.

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

Social/Emotional Skills

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 him not to do)
  • Be more aware of himself 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 her unless it's to take a toy away from her. This is normal. Saying to him, "How would you like it if she did that to you?" won't mean anything at this age. So monitor his 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.


Learning, Thinking Skills

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 he's now starting to solve problems in his head. He's also beginning to understand time concepts like, "I'll read you a story after we brush your teeth."

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

Developmental Delays

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

  • Walk properly -- he should not be walking exclusively on his toes or unsteadily after several months of walking
  • Say a two-word sentence
  • Imitate actions or words
  • Follow simple instructions
  • Remember skills he 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.

Screen Time

At age 2, children can learn from high-quality educational programs, but should watch no more than an hour a day. The American Academy of Pediatrics says you shouldn't let your child watch screens (TV, tablet, or laptop computer) by himself, but you should watch with him.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on March 21, 2019



CDC: "Important Milestones: Your Child by Two Years." (The American Academy of Pediatricians): "Assessing Developmental Delays," "Cognitive Development: 2 Year Olds," "Developmental Milestones: 2 Years," "Emotional Development: 2 Year Olds," "Language Development: 2 Year Olds," "Movement and Coordination."

American Academy of Pediatricians, "Where We Stand: Screen Time."
Hill, M.D., David L., "Why to Avoid TV for Infants and Toddlers."

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