Developmentally Appropriate Milestones for 2-Year-Olds

The 2-year-old is slowly but surely developing an awareness of other kids. Although they remain primarily “me”-centered, they have learned classmates’ names and may even recognize other kids’ caregivers and siblings. They may begin to show more enthusiasm for playing around other kids as they observe their play carefully before replicating their actions and sounds themselves. Complex skills such as negotiating/turn-taking have not developed yet, so common scuffles over toys and space.

Pretend is popular. Dolls emerge as favorite toys, along with trucks and toy animals. Simple games are enjoyed repeatedly, and the 2-year-old kid enjoys dabbling with paint, scribbling with crayons, and kneading play dough. Art activities are process-oriented; kids enjoy the materials’ colors, textures, and effects with little or no thought of creating a final product. Fine motor skills and problem-solving skills are growing daily, and the kid may focus on tasks such as screwing/unscrewing jar lids, scooping and pouring sand or water and stacking small blocks. Sorting via shapes, colors, and other attributes often emerge during this year.

By age 2, kids have mastered walking. The twos are perhaps the most active age, and kids enjoy running, climbing, simple ball play, digging, hopping, and tumbling. Rocking and ride-on toys without pedals are popular, as large toys can be pushed and pulled. Small tricycles with pedals frustrate many young 2-year-olds, but the skill is often mastered as the year progresses.

This is an age of independence! The 2-year-old may refuse help and insist on trying things alone; “no” is often a favorite word. They may be self-reliant to the point of defiance at times, but they thrive when they can return to the arms of a nurturing adult when they are tired, frustrated, or in need of reassurance.

Language skills have grown by leaps and bounds through this year. The kid’s vocabulary increases from around 50 words to hundreds of words, and simple phrases and sentences are often used. Pronouns appear in a speech during this year. Receptive language skills are growing, too. The 2-year-old understands and follows simple instructions and comprehends the meaning of many more words than they use.

Responding to 2-year-olds

Give safe, acceptable outlets for active play, indoors and out. Look for ways to allow kids to challenge themselves as they build gross motor skills.

Provide plenty of copies of popular toys, and offer kids safe places to play with favorite toys. Teacher and parent strategies such as careful supervision and redirection allow kids to feel that they can play safely near other kids.

Build on kids’ awareness of kids and adults by creating a photo book of familiar faces.

Give props to encourage dramatic play. Include blankets and bottles for dolls, food bowls for stuffed animals, and toy animals and vehicles to enhance block play. Allow kids to take the lead as you join in their pretend play.

Give materials that encourage fine motor skills and sorting/matching skills. Consider offering “real-life” materials, such as a basket of various socks to match and fold or a set of appealing containers with lids to open and close. Seek materials that allow kids to experience variety, including size, shape, texture, weight, transparency, and composition.

Allow carefully supervised exploration with sand, water, and non-toxic art materials.

Facilitate kids’ budding awareness of the natural world with non-toxic classroom plants, an aquarium, and/or a window bird feeder.

Encourage kids’ language acquisition by providing new words throughout the day!

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