Toddler Development and Milestones: Your 2-Year-Old
They don’t call it the “Terrible Twos” for nothing! Read on to understand the reason behind your little firecracker’s behaviour, along with tried and tested tips on how to deal with it.
Whining, screaming, tantrum throwing. Now you’re beginning to understand the reason why they call this stage the “Terrible Twos”! But not to worry. Aside from the extreme bouts of frustration and anger it presents, this month also brings lots of chatter, eagerness to learn, and growing independence in your 2 year old child.
2 Year Old Development and Milestones: Is Your Toddler on Track?
Your 2 year old toddler is very active, keeping you on your toes from morning to night. But despite the mini heart attacks you experience from watching your little one stand on tiptoe to reach up and pull things off high surfaces or scribble (egad!) all over your white walls — these are moments to rejoice. These are all signs he is developing normally.
Your child’s torso and limbs will start to get longer and proportions appear to resemble an adult’s. The typical height of a 2 year old toddler is around 85.5 cm (33.7 inches) to 86. 8 cm (34.2 inches). The average weight is between 12 kg (26.5 lbs) to 12.2 kg (26.8 lbs).
Your child’s head circumference* should be:
- Boys: 48.3 cm (19.0 inches)
- Girls: 47.2 cm (18.6 inches)
Typically, a two year old child can squat, stand on tiptoe, climb up and down furniture, walk up and down the stairs, hop, run, kick a ball and throw one overhand. They might even be able to jump!
They can also stack blocks quite neatly, empty a container as well as draw lines or circular scribbles. As they show off all these achievements, you can be sure your child is definitely showing signs of improved gross and fine motor skills!
- Take family walks.
- Let your child run around at the park.
- Bring your child to a toddler playground.
- Encourage your child to sort and pack her toys to enhance her fine motor skills.
- Give her drawing materials like paper and crayons for fine motor skill development.
When to Talk to Your Doctor:
If your child:
- Loses skills already mastered
- Does not walk steadily
- Does not know how to handle common household items, like cutlery or pencils
- Doesn’t run or always walks on tiptoe
- Does not copy your actions
- Shows weakness on one side of the body
Your 2 year old’s brain is almost 75% of its adult volume and will grow to its full size until the age of 18. That growing brain is improving your little one’s memory as observation skills are fine-tuned.
This means your child remembers how to categorise objects (e.g. shirts and shorts are clothing, bird and fish are animals, dolls and blocks are toys). He can also recognise landmarks and shop logos, especially those seen on frequent routes travelled.
Your little homebody will even notice if any furniture at home has been moved or added.
Your child still explores objects using her senses, but can already make sophisticated observations like the blanket is “soft” and that daddy’s stubble beard is “rough” and “scratchy”.
In fact, with a more sophisticated ability to retain information, your child can also distinguish between “up” and “down,” “now” and “later,” and “less” and “more”.
You’ll even find yourself pleasantly surprised when he reminds you of activities you’ve done several weeks back. This could be a big one like visiting his grandparents’ house or a small one like a watercolour painting session you did together.
Unfortunately, at the same time, the memory retention can bring up some distressing moments, inciting sudden fear of visits to the paediatrician (who gives her those painful shots!) or even a simple haircut (as he may not like the way the stylist holds the scissors close to his face).
At this age, expect your toddler to play make-believe games and carry on imaginary conversations with toys and pets.
Some of the typical skills a 2 year old child is able to do include pointing to an object you name, following two-step commands (e.g.“Pick up your toy and put it in the toy box,”) sorting shapes and colours and building towers using four (or more) blocks.
- Sing along together.
- Practice the alphabet and counting.
- Point at objects and identify them together.
- Ask questions.
- Explain simply every step you take. (“Mummy’s tying your shoelaces now.”)
- Offer choices and let your child decide. (“Do you want the red ball or the blue ball?”)
- Offer a variety of games to encourage creativity and problem solving.
- Talk about where the people in your child’s life are when they’re not around. (“Mummy’s at the office,” “Daddy’s at the supermarket,” “Grandma lives in different house.”)
When to Talk to Your Doctor:
If your child:
- Cannot follow simple commands
- Struggles to build a tower of four blocks or less
- Cannot name common items/things, such as “cat”, “dog”, “bird”
Social and Emotional Development
Playtime presents plenty of learning opportunities for your 2 year old toddler on how to relate to others and manage their emotions.
Your child will still be possessive of his toys. And while he does lend a friend a toy, he’ll soon want it back. If the toy is not returned, expect displeasure, but give the kids a chance to negotiate and sort out their mini conflict, stepping in at the first sign of aggression (e.g. kicking, biting, hitting).
Your 2 year old may play briefly with others, but you will normally see him playing alongside them. He enjoys watching others play and may mimic the precise way they play. You’ll witness this copycat behaviour at home if your child has older siblings to play side-by-side with.
As your child still has a short attention span, expect him to move from one play area or activity to another. Your tot wants you to be their playmate too, giving you an opportunity to model some basic life skills like taking turns and cleaning up by packing away the toys.
You’ll also be amazed at — not to mention frustrated by — your child’s persistence and the effective way they get what they want, which is to whine repeatedly until you give in.
Do your best not to relent so easily to avoid reinforcing this behaviour. Plan before you respond so you can better manage your child’s demands and expectations (as well as your dwindling patience!).
But when things don’t go your child’s way, you know a tantrum is underway. It’s healthy for your child to express his emotions, including the unhappy sort. However, try not to swoop in so quickly to placate an upset child. Allow your toddler to experience the emotions and explain that it’s normal to feel this way.
Rushing to mollify your temper tantrum-throwing child may send the message that: 1) throwing a tantrum gets mummy’s or daddy’s attention, and 2) being unhappy is a bad thing. So let your toddler experience a spectrum of emotions and learn to sort through them alone.
You can teach acceptable ways to vent emotions, especially the negative ones. For instance, screaming and hitting others are not okay when feeling angry, but stamping of feet and hitting a pillow are acceptable.
Regression is a common toddler phenomenon you may become familiar with at this stage. One day your child hates it when you hold her hand because she’s a “big kid” already, then the next day she clings to you and demands to be carried like a baby.
Regression happens for a variety of possible reasons:
- as an effect of a toddler’s improving memory, as she recalls the happy moments when she was a baby and would like to experience them again;
- as a way for your toddler to let you know that her attempts at becoming a “big kid” and independent are overwhelming and she’d like a break; or
- your toddler simply wants your attention and care, especially when she’s faced with changes in routine (e.g. new baby in the family, moving houses) or an uncomfortable situation (e.g. parents fighting, meeting strangers).
If your toddler shows regressive behaviour, refrain from lecturing her and instead focus on positive reinforcement of appropriate behaviour. Praise your child when, for instance, she uses a cup instead of the baby bottle or uses the potty instead of soiling her undies.
At this age, your toddler is also becoming more familiar with differences in gender. Your daughter will start imitating mummy’s behaviour, while your son will imitate daddy’s behaviour. Your little copycat will also mimic your daily routines like putting on makeup or the way daddy wears a tie.
However, you shouldn’t feel the need to encourage your child to follow gender stereotypes, like only girls play with dolls while only boys play with balls. Children will benefit from a variety, so give yours lots of options for toys and activities and allow her to choose what interests her.
Around now, your little one will also be aware of themselves as an individual separate from others, and experience less separation anxiety. However, loud noises and certain animals (even people!) may scare them.
- Set playdates.
- Allow your child to interact with people of all ages.
- Identify your child’s emotions to help her recognise each.
- Give your child toys and tools that encourage pretend-play and make-believe like a baby doll, kitchen set, or creating a fort using her blanket.
- Let your child help you with simple chores like putting her laundry in the hamper.
When to Talk to Your Doctor:
If your child:
- Bites or hurts others most of the time
- Hurts himself to get attention, e.g. bangs his head against the wall
- Completely refuses to play with other kids his age
- Does not make eye contact with others, or interact in any way
- Doesn’t respond with or express appropriate emotions
- Doesn’t engage in pretend play
- Does not consistently respond to their name
- Focuses narrowly and obsessively on objects and activities, such as lining up objects
Speech and Language Development
Lots of chatter from your 2 year old tot this month! He can now string together two to three-word sentences like, “I want milk!” and “Give me dolly.” Likewise, he can follow simple instructions.
Your child should have a vocabulary of around 50 to 75 words and an be understood half the time by strangers. He can name the people and objects he sees regularly, as well as at least six body parts on himself and others, or dolls.
Your toddler can also name the usual food he eats and may even ask for specific ones, such as cookie, apple, and milk. And since your child understands the concept of “less” and “more”, expect him to say “more please” when he sees he has less food on his plate or it’s already gone.
He may also know how to name colours, and count up to five or ten. Your little one also names pictures in his favourite books too, as you read them to him.
You will notice that, with his growing vocabulary, your little tot has become quite the conversationalist.
He will ask you questions about why things work as they do — but hold off on giving a long winded explanation. If you want her to understand the answer, keep it short and to the point.
During playtime, listen to the imaginary conversations your child conducts with his toys and pets. You’ll be amused to discover that these conversations are similar to ones you have with your increasingly talkative tot.
Your child is also now able to hum and sing, especially the words to his favourite nursery rhymes or songs. He may even delight in joining group singing sessions, so definitely get your spouse to duet with you as you sing to your child.
If your child is still using a dummy, now would be the time to stop as dummy use tends to affect speech and language development.
- Refrain from correcting your child’s grammar. Simply repeat what he said using the right words.
- Talk to your child normally but concisely and clearly to expand his vocabulary and sentences. Instead of saying, “Okay,” say instead, “Okay, Mummy will help you tie your shoes,” or, “Okay, Daddy will read you a book.”
- Read picture books to your child often. Pause between scenes and prompt your child to answer questions about what she sees on the pages like, “Can you find the cat?” or, “Do you like the colours?”
- Continue singing nursery rhymes with your child. He’ll love the repetition, the rhyme and the tune.
- If your child still uses a dummy, replace it with a “transitional love object” like a doll or teddy bear.
When to Talk to Your Doctor:
If your child:
- Doesn’t use two-word phrases (e.g. eat cookie)
- Doesn’t try to mimic words
- Cannot show basic body parts on self or others, such as “nose” or “eyes”
Health and Nutrition
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends reducing your toddler’s fat intake by less than 30 percent of daily calories required. But don’t cut out fat totally as your child’s growing brain and body need it to develop properly. Further, many dairy foods that contain fat are also good sources of calcium. Look for low-fat versions of cheese, yogurt and ice cream.
Take careful note that some children start to become picky eaters at the age of two, even if they were not so previously. By 2 years old, they are developmentally cautious of trying new things, including new food.
A 2 year old is also trying to assert herself, hence, expect push back against trying new food and activities. However, you should still provide a balanced diet of whole grains, leans meats or beans, fruits and vegetables.
Your child’s nutrition should be composed of the following:
A small bowl of rice with fish or a slice of bread with peanut butter, or one cube of cheese are all great sources of protein.
Your child requires 3 cups of diced fruits (e.g. apple, banana, mango) every day, do give them a variety of fruits to taste.
Serve your child 1.5 cups of vegetables (cooked or raw vegetables) like mashed pumpkin, sweet potato or carrot. Parents should also include dark green vegetables like broccoli, spinach, romaine lettuce.
Feed your child about 3 ounces or about 85 g of grains which equals a slice of bread, one cup of ready-to-eat cereal, or half (1/2) cup of cooked pasta or cooked oatmeal.
Your child now needs 16 to 20 ounces of dairy milk per day. Besides that, you can also feed him/her 1/2 cup of yoghurt.
In a nutshell, here’s what your child needs every day (refer above for what the amounts look like):
- Fruits: 3 cups for boys and girls
- Vegetables: 1.5 cups for boys and girls
- Grains: up to 3 ounces for boys and girls
- Proteins: 24g for boys and girls
- Milk: 16 to 20 ounces of whole milk for boys and girls (your child does not require formula milk anymore)
- Water: 1200 ml for boys and girls
If you haven’t taken your toddler to see the dentist at all, now is the time to have their teeth examined. If your child is still on the bottle, it’s strongly recommended to transition to a sippy cup.
Milk bottles, when left inside the mouth for prolonged periods (like falling asleep with the bottle still inside the mouth), can cause dental caries in toddlers because of the sugar content in the milk.
Your child may also experience sleep disturbances in the form of nightmares or night terrors – normal at this age.
His imagination may be causing the nightmares, as his cognitive ability to reason is not yet able to distinguish between what is real and what is not. Other reasons for your child waking up in the middle of night are fear of the dark, an illness or an erupting molar causing discomfort, and even stress.
There are no vaccinations due this month. But it’s always best to speak to your paediatrician to make sure your child’s vaccines are up-to-date. You can also ask about giving your child the flu shot, if you haven’t already.
- Switch from whole to two percent to reduce your child’s fat intake.
- Give your child a variety of food every chance you get; and let her see you eat the a variety of food and model good eating habits.
- Give your child enough sleep (a child this age would need 14 hours of sleep a day). Sleep provides much-needed downtime for physical and growth, not to mention rest from all that playing.
- As comfort and reassurance are the best way to address sleep issues, simply staying with your toddler and even humming or singing a soft tune until she calms down and falls back to sleep will prove effective.
When to Talk to Your Doctor:
If your child:
- Is severely under the height-weight average range for his age
- Refuses all foods. A picky eater will like at least one or two foods
- Vomits, or develops stomach bloating after each meal
- Has constipation or frequent diarrhea
- Has black or brown patches/visible cavities on their teeth
Children develop at their own individual pace, and two-year-olds are definitely a work in progress. Having an open attitude and a keen sense of observation will help parents to identify and understand any improvement or changes in a child’s physical development, behaviour, communication skills and health.
Your child’s previous month: Toddler development and milestones: your 1-year-and-11-month-old
Your child’s next month: Toddler development and milestones: your 2-year-and-1-month old