The gentle age of two (24-30 months) usually provides a brief, yet calm period for parents, coming between disequilibrium at 18 months and the more difficult and demanding age of 2 1/2 that will follow.
At 2, the child seems comfortable with himself and happy with you, and is often easy to deal with and to live with. Understanding typical two year old child development can help parents prepare for the wide range of emotional changes and rapid language development that will occur this year.
It is not until 2 1/2 that many children do become rather challenging exhibiting a drive for independence, erratic emotions and a lack of impulse control. As with all behavioral stages, the ill-named ‘terrible twos’ are a normal part of development and will come and go all too quickly.
Understanding our child’s development will enable you to know what to expect and also when that behavior will regress so that you can tune in and be the support your child’s needs.
Physical Development of the Two Year Old
Just a few months ago your toddler was testing her newfound walking skills. Now chances are she can now run, tiptoe, hop, roll, dance, climb, and walk backwards and sideways.
Give her time and patience to develop self-help skills like dressing and feeding herself, letting her try, even if she dawdles and doesn’t do it perfectly. Large and fine motor skills need practice and lots of repetition.
Social-Emotional Development of the Two Year Old
Your child is establishing her independence with a newfound “I can do it myself!” attitude. She’ll be frustrated often, as her abilities do not yet reach her (or your) expectations. Her attention span is short, but longer than before.
Her budding imagination begins exploring pretend play. This interest in make believe and dress up comes at a time when she is developing an interest in other children, but still playing side-by-side (parallel play). Two year olds imitate each other’s behavior. This increased interaction comes with some hitting, pushing or biting.
Parents should expect big emotions, and rather than focusing on punishment, can use these interactions as teaching time to begin modeling socially appropriate behavior. Give her “feeling” words to express her frustration, anger or disappointment in social situations. A two year old will have empathy with others if the adult helps encourage it.
Language development for the two year old is explosive.
Intellectual Development of the Two Year Old
Language development for the two year old is explosive! He will have from 50 words in the early “two’s” to 1000 words by the end of his second year. There are many ways to encourage language development through finger play, poetry, music, repetition, and lots and lots of books! Speak and read to your child as frequently as possible.
A child at this age will learn primarily through relationships and making associations including using his senses, movement, and repetition of tasks. While it is difficult, please try to see your child as he is and not compare him to other two year olds, as there is a wide range of language development between “two’s” and this is not necessarily related to intelligence.
Two Year Old Development Summary
- Peak of language development
- good receptive language (the ability to understand)
- poor expressive language (the ability to communicate wants and needs)
- some early talkers—some not until 3 or older
- 3-4 words-sing song manner—me go down, me go bed
- likes simple songs and rhymes
- Thoughts can be expressed
- Ability to use tools—spoons, glasses, etc.
- Beginning to help with dressing and undressing
- Gentle temperament
- Exploring through touching, handling, clasping, etc.
- Can kick a ball
- Block building is vertical
- Both hands work together
- Sand, water, clay, finger painting—messy
- Joy of movement—gait is still short-stepped
- Can roughly imitate a circle
- Prefer solitary play but want friends around (parallel play)
- Toilet training is beginning—can tell you when they need to go