Developing understanding

Be careful about your adult talk around your toddler. Their understanding of words is beyond their understanding of the world, so they may become worried by some topics. Introduce the world to them in bits they can cope with. Characteristics include:

  • A two year old still thinks their parents can read their mind.
  • Two year olds have difficulty distinguishing reality from fantasy.
  • They enjoy make-believe play.
  • They can usually do some scribbling, lots of lines, dots and circles, but not yet a picture.

Developmental Milestones

Skills such as taking turns, playing make believe, and kicking a ball, are called developmental milestones. Developmental milestones are things most children can do by a certain age. Children reach milestones in how they play, learn, speak, behave, and move (like jumping, running, or balancing).

Because of children’s growing desire to be independent, this stage is often called the “terrible twos.” However, this can be an exciting time for parents and toddlers. Toddlers will experience huge thinking, learning, social, and emotional changes that will help them to explore their new world, and make sense of it. During this stage, toddlers should be able to follow two- or three-step directions, sort objects by shape and color, imitate the actions of adults and playmates, and express a wide range of emotions.

Physical skills

Your child is much more confident with their physical abilities but doesn’t have a good idea of when to stop. They often test limits. They can’t keep themselves safe, so you must set and enforce the limits for them. You can help them develop their skill by providing (safe) chances for them to play, while you supervise. Characteristics include:

  • They will learn during this time to climb up and down stairs, kick a ball and jump off a step.
  • They can help to get themselves undressed and even manage to get some clothes back on.

Positive Parenting Tips

Following are some of the things you, as a parent, can do to help your toddler during this time:
  • Set up a special time to read books with your toddler.
  • Encourage your child to take part in pretend play.
  • Play parade or follow the leader with your toddler.
  • Help your child to explore things around her by taking her on a walk or wagon ride.
  • Encourage your child to tell you his name and age.
  • Teach your child simple songs like Itsy Bitsy Spider, or other cultural childhood rhymes.
  • Give your child attention and praise when she follows instructions and shows positive behavior and limit attention for defiant behavior like tantrums. Teach your child acceptable ways to show that she’s upset.

Child Safety First

Because your child is moving around more, he will come across more dangers as well. Dangerous situations can happen quickly, so keep a close eye on your child. Here are a few tips to help keep your growing toddler safe:

  • Do NOT leave your toddler near or around water (for example, bathtubs, pools, ponds, lakes, whirlpools, or the ocean) without someone watching her. Fence off backyard pools. Drowning is the leading cause of injury and death among this age group.
  • Encourage your toddler to sit when eating and to chew his food thoroughly to prevent choking.
  • Check toys often for loose or broken parts.
  • Encourage your toddler not to put pencils or crayons in her mouth when coloring or drawing.
  • Do NOT hold hot drinks while your child is sitting on your lap. Sudden movements can cause a spill and might result in your child’s being burned.
  • Make sure that your child sits in the back seat and is buckled up properly in a car seat with a harness.
father and son

Healthy Bodies

  • Talk with staff at your child care provider to see if they serve healthier foods and drinks, and if they limit television and other screen time.
  • Your toddler might change what food she likes from day to day. It’s normal behavior, and it’s best not to make an issue of it. Encourage her to try new foods by offering her small bites to taste.
  • Keep television sets out of your child’s bedroom. Limit screen time, including video and electronic games, to no more than 1 to 2 hours per day.
  • Encourage free play as much as possible. It helps your toddler stay active and strong and helps him develop motor skills.

Language development

Your toddler’s language is developing very quickly. Often, their sentences don’t make sense to you, but clearly the more successful your toddler is in getting their message across, the more they will want to communicate. Characteristics include:

  • By two, many children are naming lots of things and, by the end of this year, most are saying short sentences.
  • By three, most children can follow complex instructions.
  • They will still get ‘you’ and ‘me’ mixed up sometimes.
  • Most children of this age will not be able to say all of their words clearly.


It is usually in this year that your child shows you they are ready to use the toilet. However, some toddlers will still prefer their nappies, or may want to return to nappies if a new baby has come into the family. Suggestions include:

  • Let them set their own pace, and encourage them to take responsibility.
  • If your child isn’t making progress with the potty or toilet, stop for a while and try again when they are older.
  • Being anxious or cross makes it harder to go to the toilet. See a health professional if tensions have arisen between you and your child about toileting.

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