2 Year Old Development Milestones for Boys and Girls

Featured image of cute toddler eating birthday cake

Parenting is the hardest job in the world. The whirlwind of responsibility and unpredictability alone can render any reasonable person insane, but it seems that persevering through every ordeal and each obstacle is a virtue embedded in our genetics, more or less.

After all, humanity is still going strong. However, every reasonable parent will take all the help they can get, especially during that ‘trial by fire’ period between the child’s birth and them reaching the age of 5. This is a particularly sensitive developmental period that requires special attention.

As your child wins the proud accomplishment of reaching the age of 1 and enter their 2nd year (and it is an accomplishment of the most honorable and beautiful kind), you might begin noticing a tandem of big cognitive and physiological changes.

In fact, it might appear that everything is going too fast for you to catch up. But don’t worry: we are here to break down the most fundamental 2-year-old’s development milestones for 2-year-old boys and girls that every parent should be aware of in advance.

Preamble: Don’t worry if things don’t go according to expectations

Parents worry. It is an unavoidable fact of life. However, this well-meaning trait can be a double edged sword, as constant worrying – especially after your child becomes a 1-year-old – can make matters counter-productive.

You can become overbearing, thus hindering your child’s natural developmental cycle, not to mention the fact that you can easily ‘blow the fuse’ and become a nervous wreck just because something doesn’t go ‘according to plan’.

Well, nothing ever goes according to plan if your child is developing, and they can reach certain milestones faster (or slower) than the others. Remember: a child grows and develops skills at their own pace. If they developed speaking ability faster than the physical mass, it doesn’t mean that you should start considering heavy physical therapy.

Just knowing which developments your child’s supposed to go through during this annual interval should be enough of a direction. Likewise, if they go a few months over the imaginary 12-month interval, it doesn’t have to mean anything.

Physical development

Growth

First of all, the growth of your child will become a little less erratic after they reach their second year, but it will be steady. This is the time of ‘3s & 5s’ when it comes to specifics of their development, and here’s what we mean by it: 

They should grow between 3 and 5 inches during this period but, as it has been implied already, this is not a rule.  The same goes for weight gain: they should gain between 3lb and 5lb during their second year. 

Movement

By the end of their 2nd year, your toddler should become pretty proficient at manifesting certain skills. Naturally, they should see and hear well, with a pronounced ability to focus on whatever interests them at that moment with wide-eyed wonder. 

Apart from that, their motor skills will be off the charts. They will be able to move their hands fairly quickly and they will fall in love with scribbling on pieces of paper. These abstractions on paper can serve as a wonderful foil to embarrass them in front of friends and family one day, which is why parents treasure them after all, am I right?

They should also be able to navigate immediate spaces quite nicely on their own two feet, kick a ball and even go up-and-down a staircase, one stair at a time. 

You may also notice that your child has started using both hands to tackle complicated activities such as dragging large toys around the house and building a piece of modern art out of colorful blocks. There are all completely normal and expected developmental stages in terms of movement.

Image of toddler boy with lamp sitting on bed

Cognitive development

Language

Has your toddler started putting two words together to form a rudimentary sentence or a simple phrase? This year should be a typical time for this to occur. Apart from that, they should be able to utter at least 50 words in some recognizable shape and form. They will become especially keen on naming household animals and TV wildlife, as well as their favorite toys and areas. 

If you notice that your child has become uncommonly interested in your conversations with a spouse or friends, this means that they are listening intently to words. They will almost certainly try to repeat them.

However, they will often make mistakes and mix made-up words with the existing vocabulary. They will usually communicate in order to get a response, so you can always respond with the right version of the word in order to encourage them to correct their speech. 

They should also be able to follow the simple instructions and name things after you’ve pointed them out. Your child will also gladly repeat the name of the object after you in order to impress you. Once they reach the age of 3, they should be able to form some short 4-word sentences. 

Thinking and reasoning

Many concepts will be simply too abstract for your small child to grasp. For example, it might be too early to introduce them to the concept of ‘forever’. However, they will begin to understand the time and certain immediate factors such as ‘now’, ‘soon’, ‘yesterday’ and ‘tomorrow’. 

Additionally, when it comes to the above-mentioned instructions, they will be able to follow simple tasks that entail one activity and nothing more. They will not be able to grasp a string of instructions like, ‘put the drawing down, get out of bed, go wash your teeth and go to the kitchen’. Remember – one at a time while they are 2. 

They will also soak up stories other people tell and begin to understand certain basics of symbolism, i.e. representations. Most of this understanding is relegated to motions like, for example, nodding. They will also begin to recognize objects based on their shape and color. 

Lapses in logic are common – your child might want to go out into the snow in their summer attire or expect to be able to breathe and talk underwater if they’ve seen the characters do it on TV. Explanation, as well as a certain level of trial and error, is unavoidable.

They will also start to play-pretend which usually becomes a source of endless entertainment for the entire family.

Emotional Development

One of the most important concepts that your 2-year-old learns during this developmental period is the notion of individuality. They will finally begin to grasp fully that they are an independent unit, an individual separate from others, yet part of a kind. While they will definitely not yet completely understand what it means to be a part of a group and share, they will infer that all living beings are not identical – or in other words, that they are human. 

Importantly, they will learn to use the word ‘no’ in order to assert themselves, which is something that you should encourage. Is your child becoming noticeably stubborn? Temper tantrums are a common occurrence during this time, and the best way to respond to such episodes is to stay as indifferent as possible, yet be present if the situation goes out of control. Only this way will you teach your child that temper tantrums have no constructive results. The key is to encourage them to grow out of such behavior before they reach the age of 4. 

Your child will often act on impulse and you’ll have to show a lot of patience during this period. Just as they are prone to repeating words, they often imitate other individuals, especially colorful personalities. In a way, they are imitating in order to discover their own identity and expression, which is a wonderful adventure. 

In general, your 2-year-old will not be interested in gender differences, but they will begin to recognize that there is some broad differences between 2-year-old girls and boys, as well as the signifiers that are typically tied to each of them: for example, that boys don’t wear skirts or that girls generally cultivate long hair.

As it has been hinted in the first paragraph of this section, they will still have a hard time behaving as if they are a part of a group. Among peers, they will rather engage in parallel play, independent of each other, whilst refusing to share any of their toys with passion. In spite of this, they will almost universally be excited to dwell in the company of other peers.

Learning the broad strokes of what fundamental developments a 2-year-old goes through is akin to owning a map to a well-trodden region of the world. You are bound to come across notable differences along the way, and maps simply cannot reproduce genuine landscapes 1:1, but you will be confident about the general direction to follow.

While this knowledge doesn’t change what is about to come, it does represent a point of relief for parents that have ample time to prepare and a little room for doubt.

Author: Jonathan M. Ward
Author: Jonathan M. Ward

Himself a father of two, John is obsessed with getting the most out of every children’s product on the market, finding value wherever it can be found. His years of study in developmental psychology coupled with his passion for parenting make him an invaluable asset to our team.

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