Thanks to the well-coined phrase “the terrible twos,” two year old behaviors seem to have a pretty bad reputation. But we’re here to tell you, mama, it’s not all bad. Honest!
So if you’re heading into your toddler’s third year of life just waiting for all hell to break loose, fear not. Yes, there may be a tantrum or two (or two hundred), but in between, there’ll be time for plenty of fun and games — literally — and some love and affection thrown in for good measure. So, what should you expect with a two year old in tow? Keep on reading…
In this article: 📝
- 2 year old milestones
- What should a 2 year old be doing?
- What is the vocabulary of a 2 year old?
- What should a 2 year old know academically?
- 2 year old social development
- How to discipline a 2 year old
- You and your 2 year old
2 year old milestones
Milestones are a broad subject, especially at this age where the range of “normal” behaviors is so wide. So if you’re worried your toddler isn’t doing what their friends are doing, try not to stress. If there seem to be big differences between your child’s ability and others of a similar age, there’s no harm in speaking with your doctor, to put your mind at ease if nothing else. With that in mind, here are some examples of what your toddler might be doing at two years old.
What should a 2 year old be doing?
Physical development at this age is rapid, so you will probably see your two year old running, jumping with both feet off the ground, climbing stairs (while holding a handrail), and standing on their tiptoes. They’re probably also taking more risks and racing around like a Duracell bunny!
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2 year old physical development
Keeping with the theme of physical ability, you might also see your toddler start kicking balls, attempting to catch a ball when it’s gently thrown to them, and throwing a ball overhand. They’ll still be learning a lot through watching you and your actions, so this is a great age to introduce outdoor play like follow the leader, hopping, and skipping, to see if they copy you.
What is the vocabulary of a 2 year old?
Communication skills in two year olds mean they’ll likely have a vocabulary of at least 50 words — but don’t expect them all to be totally coherent. Around 50% of their “words” may still be a little babbled.
2 year old communication skills
Along with their growing vocab, they’ll also probably start stringing together two to four word sentences, like “Red car” or “Big blue fish.” Pretty clever! Not only will they be able to name familiar objects when you point to them, but they’ll also remember the names of familiar people and point to them when they see them, too.
They might also start following more complex instructions, so try giving them a two-step task, like “Can you pick up the ball and put it in the box?” and see how they follow through. Give them lots of encouragement if they’re not quite nailing it, and pile on the praise when they get it right.
As they approach their third birthday, their curiosity will reach new heights, so get ready to hear the word “why?” a lot. Be prepared to answer lots of questions — and be truthful with your answers. You’ll be surprised at what they remember and decide to repeat at the most awkward of moments!
What should a 2 year old know academically?
It’s probably too early to start measuring a two year old’s academic ability, but their cognitive function is forging ahead. They’ll be able to stack a tower of at least four blocks, they’ll start sorting objects by shape or color, and they’ll probably enjoy using crayons or pencils to draw lines and even circles. Their developing problem-solving skills mean they’ll search for objects you’ve hidden with much more perseverance than before.
2 year old social development
One of the big and wonderful things you’ll notice about your two year old is how they’re developing their personality, and with that comes independence. If your Peanut has been struggling with separation anxiety, it should start easing off now, since they now understand that after you leave, you’ll come back.
Although they may not actively play with other children, they’ll enjoy what’s sometimes called “parallel play,” where they will play alongside each other. You might start noticing interactive play like chase games soon, and they might enjoy pretend play with play kitchens and dolls. But it’s still probably slightly too early for them to understand sharing.
This differential between what they can do physically, and what they understand cognitively, can be cause for frustration for your little one, which in turn can lead to tantrums. Showing defiant behavior is completely normal at this age, so what can you do about it?
How to discipline a 2 year old
Your reaction to a tantrum might depend on the time and location of the episode, and whether you have time to respond to it. If you’re at the store, for example, you may simply have to ignore the behavior (be it crying or shouting), as difficult as it may seem.
If you’re at home, it may be easier to implement a more structured discipline method, such as a time-out. If you use a time-out method, just 10-30 seconds of time-out is usually enough to reset at this age. You can also try talking your toddler out of a tantrum by acknowledging the cause. For example, saying “I know you’re frustrated that Mummy is putting your shoes on, but we have to go out now” will have a more positive effect than simply saying “Stop it” or “Be quiet.” Showing your toddler you understand them can help them feel connected and less frustrated.
Another method is a simple distraction technique. If they’re crying because you’ve turned off the TV, get down on the floor with them and their favorite book, or take them into the yard to blow off some steam.
You and your 2 year old
It’s normal to still feel like a newbie when it comes to tackling new scenarios with your toddler, so don’t worry if you have the odd wobble. For both you and your two year old, establishing a predictable routine around mealtimes, leaving the house, and bedtime can help. If your toddler knows what to expect from your day, it can minimize the risk of tantrums and stress for you. After all, you are your peanut’s safe space, so work together and this year will be a total breeze (relatively). You got this, mama!
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