Every child's development is unique and complex. Although children develop through a generally predictable sequence of steps and milestones, they may not proceed through these steps in the same way or at the same time. A child's development is also greatly influenced by factors in his or her environment and the experiences he or she has. The information in this guide explains what child development experts consider to be "widely-held expectations" for what an average child might achieve within a given year. Please consider what you read in the context of your child's unique development.
Below is a snapshot of this year. For more in-depth information click on the specific areas of development in the menu at the left.
Two-year-olds enjoy using their senses and motor skills to explore the world and are highly curious about unfamiliar objects, events and phenomena. They can solve simple problems with the "trial and error" method and will practice an activity many times to master it. Children this age also pretend more during play, using familiar objects and situations to process their daily experiences.
New discoveries are also facilitated by a two-year-old's blossoming language skills that prompt many "why," "what" and "how" questions. During the year, children this age pick up most parts of speech to form more complete sentences. They can understand and say hundreds of words, but familiar adults may need to "translate" for others due to immature pronunciation skills. They also understand simple directions and many common phrases used in routine situations.
Children this age are laying the groundwork for reading and writing. They enjoy having books read to them and may pretend to "read" as they independently look through familiar books. Two-year-olds can sing the A-B-C song, but they don't yet understand that the letter names correspond to specific graphic designs. They also make a variety of scribble marks anywhere and everywhere and may even attempt to write the first letter of their name.
As they play and complete their daily routines, two-year-olds learn important math skills. They can use a toy to represent another object, recognize patterns with daily activities and understand concepts of time like, "tomorrow" and "yesterday." Two-year-olds are just beginning to use logical reasoning to solve everyday problems. They can sort shapes, complete puzzles with eight pieces or less and stack a set of rings on a peg by size. They also understand addition and subtraction with the numbers "one" and "two."
Physically, two-year-olds explore all the ways to travel from here to there, including rolling, crawling, creeping, walking, running, jumping and climbing. They can also kick a small ball forward, catch a rolled ball and throw a ball overhand (but with little accuracy). Two-year-olds love finger play activities (e.g., "The Itsy, Bitsy, Spider"), pounding and squeezing clay, shaking rhythm instruments and scribbling. They can turn doorknobs and unscrew lids and have improved their skills using eating utensils.
Two-year-olds also use their motor skills to explore the creative arts. They make sounds by banging and shaking instruments and household items. They enjoy dancing upon request, doing finger plays and acting out chants and songs. Children this age are also gaining control over their voices and will join in singing the refrains of their favorite songs. With art, they enjoy the sensory pleasures of the art materials and focus on the process of creating art, rather than the final product.
Two-year-olds enjoy playing alongside other children, but usually keep to themselves. When conflicts arise, adults need to step in to prevent aggression and teach appropriate behaviors. Children this age are beginning to label feelings that they recognize in themselves and others. Controlling emotions is still difficult, however, so frustration may trigger emotional meltdowns. Comfort objects like blankets or teddy bears help two-year-olds cope with new situations or strong emotions.