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Aim

The aim of this article is to provide insight into the developmental milestones that 2-year-old children typically exhibit across all areas of development: cognition, motor skills, language and social-emotional skills.

Outline

Introduction
What are developmental milestones?
Motor skills
Cognition
Language
Social and emotional skills
What if I’m concerned about my child?

Coming soon to this article

Look out for coming changes! In the near future, we’ll be adding resources and ideas for games and activities that are designed to help nurture your child’s abilities as they grow and develop.

Introduction

As a parent, you may face your child’s second birthday with both excitement and trepidation: these are, after all, the start of the notorious terrible twos. By now, your tiny infant has grown considerably since birth – and they’re approaching the stage where they’re beginning come into their own unique personalities. So, as a parent, what should you expect as far as their growth and development is concerned? What developmental milestones should your child reach by this stage – and what delays could be cause for concern?

What are developmental milestones?

A father holding two toddlers at home.

To start, developmental milestones are abilities or skills that children have usually acquired by a certain age. As such, they’re useful markers in determining whether a child is growing in a way that’s typical as compared to other children. It’s important not to despair if your child hasn’t reached one of these – it’s crucial to remember that all children differ in precisely when they’re able to demonstrate these skills. However, if you do find that your child has missed a few milestones – or really seems to be struggling – it might be a good idea to consult your pediatrician for advice and guidance.

Motor skills

A young child playing football.

Motor skills are defined as the abilities required to plan and carry out movements. There are two kinds of motor skills: gross motor skills and fine motor skills. Fortunately, there are a range of activities that can help your child build these skills as they grow.

By age two, children can typically:

Gross motor skills

  • Walk alone, run and start learning to jump with both feet
  • Pull or carry toys while walking
  • Throw a ball overhand and kick a ball; and try to catch items with both hands
  • Stand on their tiptoes
  • Climb onto and down from furniture and playground equipment without help
  • Walk up stairs while holding the railing; and may also alternate feet used
  • Pull toys behind them while walking
  • Carry a large toy or several toys while walking

Fine motor skills

  • Start brushing their own teeth and hair
  • Begin to feed themselves clumsily
  • Pull their trousers up and down
  • Turn on the faucet and wash their hands
  • Build a tower block of at least four blocks
  • Start practicing snaps and zipping up, if the zip has been started before
  • Hold utensils and crayons with fingers instead of a fist
  • Scribble spontaneously
  • Turn over container to pour out contents
  • Prefer one hand more frequently than the other
  • Make or copies straight lines and circles

Cognition

By age two, children can typically:

  • Remember and talk about things that happened in the past
  • Complete three to four-piece puzzles
  • Group objects and toys by type, size, or colour
  • Recite favorite books and nursery rhymes with a parent
  • Find things even when hidden under two or three covers
  • Follow simple instructions and later, two-step instructions such as “pick up your shoes and put them in the closet.”
  • Name items in a picture book such as a cat, bird, or dog
  • Play simple make-believe games or engages in pretend play
  • Begin to understand simple time concepts related to the near future, such as “now,” “later,” or “a few minutes.”
  • Recognize basic gestures, such as nodding the head for yes or no
  • Do two incompatible things at the same time (like walk in the snow and wait the slippers)

Language

By age two, children can typically:

  • Understand the words for familiar people, everyday objects and body parts
  • Speak in sentences of 2-4 words
  • Use at least 50+ words
  • Start asking “why’s that?” or “why?”
  • Begin using plural words and basic pronouns
  • Repeat words overheard in adult conversation
  • Point to an object or picture when they’re named
  • Be understood half the time by a stranger
  • Replace baby talk (“num-nums”) with real words (“breakfast”) when prompted
  • Name some body parts and familiar objects, such as “toy” or “cat”
  • Speak with a mix of made-up words and understandable words

Social and emotional skills

Two toddlers outside on a sunny spring walk.

By age two, children can typically:

  • Mimic what other adults or older children do or say, and how they say it
  • Start to realize they can do things without a parent’s help
  • Disobey more than before, doing things they’re told not to do, just to test what happens
  • Have tantrums when frustrated
  • Show increased separation anxiety
  • Show increased independence
  • Show awareness of themselves as separate from others
  • Show enthusiasm about company of other children
  • Fear things like loud sounds and certain animals

What if I’m concerned about my child?

Being a watchful parent is important – but remember that all children grow at their own pace. It’s best not to be alarmed if your child isn’t meeting one of these milestones. However, if you do have the instinct that your child might be missing a few milestones or is feeling challenged, you may want to speak with your pediatrician.

You may want to consider consulting your doctor if your child:

  • Doesn’t speak, use two word phrases or makes vowel sounds but no consonants or words
  • Doesn’t seem to know the function of common household objects (brush, telephone, bell, fork, spoon)
  • Doesn’t copy actions and words
  • Doesn’t follow simple instructions
  • Doesn’t walk steadily by 18 months
  • Fails to develop a mature heel-toe walking pattern after several months of walking, or walks exclusively on tip-toes
  • Loses skills they previously had
  • Cannot push a wheeled toy
  • Doesn’t express emotions (happy, sad, frustrated, excited) in response to others or surroundings
  • Doesn’t engage in pretend play