Woo-hoo! Your baby is two! How amazing is that? Those 24 months passed so quickly—except when they were passing so slowly. There’s so much to love about this age, despite the bad rep of the “terrible twos.” Time for some rebranding? Sure, there are lots of times when your toddler is frustrated or stubborn, with the loud, incoherent and sometimes aggressive meltdowns that go along with learning to manage emotions and figure out the big world. But there are plenty of sweet spots in the day, too. Toddler enthusiasm for the little things (blowing bubbles, exploring frozen puddles, stroking a soft stuffy and racing down a really, really long hallway) is just a fun way to view the world. Seeing their personalities unfold more each day, along with the burst in new and improved skills…. Well, it’s just really wonderful to be along for that ride.
2-year-old development & milestones
It’s easy to get hung up on milestones, but really, it’s better to think of them as checking in to see how your toddler is doing. At your two-year appointment with your doctor, they’ll be asking you and your toddler about a variety of skills. Can your two-year-old do the following tasks?
- Follow simple instructions
- Ask for help using words
- Learn and use one or more new words a week
- Join two words together
- Eat most foods without coughing and choking
- Eat with a utensil with little spilling
- Take off their own shoes, socks and hat
- Try to run
- Play in a squat position
- Walk backwards or sideways while pulling a toy
- Make scribbles and dots on a paper or in the sand
- Place objects in a small container
- Like to watch and play near other children
- Say “no” and choose to do something without help
- Use toys for pretend play
- Use learned skills and develop new ones
- Copy your actions
When your toddler is obsessed with being clean Most toddlers won’t be able to cross off every item on the list by age two, but it will help your healthcare provider assess how things are going.
Wondering about vaccinations at the two-year appointment? While it depends on your province or territory, after the 18-month vaccinations, your toddler isn’t usually scheduled for shots again until age four (aside from an annual flu shot).
In the next six months or so, there will be even more cool, new skills to watch for. By two and a half, many toddlers can use more than 350 words and pronounce words with two or more syllables, like “banana” and “playground.” They get the concepts of size (big versus little) and quantity (a bit, more, a lot). Remembering and understanding familiar stories—like the one about the train you’ve read a zillion times—as well as familiar signs and logos, such as a stop sign or a store you visit regularly, is another toddler skill at this age. Showing concern when another child is sad or hurt is also part of toddler development. When they’re playing, they begin to put several actions together, like putting play food in the wagon, pulling the wagon to the “restaurant” and handing the food to the chef. When it comes to physical skills, most kids who are two and a half can walk up stairs using one foot for each stair, kick a ball, jump with both feet, run without falling and draw a line if you show them how. As your toddler gets closer to 36 months, you’ll start to see them gain more self-control (waiting a little while for a turn) and play more with other kids, as well as hold a cup by the handle, build a tower of six blocks or more, open doors with knobs and containers with lids, and walk up stairs on their own while holding the railing.
Do you have a crib escaper?
Starting around age two, your little explorer could decide it’s time to climb out of their crib (this can happen even earlier, too, so heads up!). If they—or you—aren’t ready for a big-kid bed, you can try a few tricks: If the crib has a lower side, turn that side against the wall, put your toddler in a sleep sack and keep the mattress on the lowest setting. Still, a determined toddler who is intent on busting out of crib jail will find a way, so if it’s time to switch to a bed, make sure to childproof their whole room and gate the bedroom door or stairs.
Encouraging solo play
While you have spent a lot of time on the floor, on the couch and in the park playing with your toddler over the past eight months, you’ve probably also noticed stretches of time where they are playing on their own (whew, a few quiet or not-so-quiet moments to yourself!). This is a normal, healthy part of kid development and, by 24 months, it’s not unusual for that time to last for a whole 10 to 20 minutes (high five!). Keep the activities simple, like handing them a plastic container and some measuring cups, asking them to make artwork for a specific friend or family member or allowing them to explore the playground on their own—keeping a watchful eye, of course.
Handling the pick-me-up phase
On the other hand, there’s also the carry-me phase, which is pretty much the opposite of playing alone. This is typical toddler behaviour, too, as they explore the world and then head back to the safe security of your arms. Wanting to be picked up is often a sign of seeking comfort during a transition, like adjusting to a big-kid bed rather than a crib, as well as needing a snuggle when they’re tired or getting over a bug. And sometimes your little guy just wants a better view! You won’t spoil them by picking them up when they ask. And if you don’t carry them when they want you to, that’s OK, too—ask them to be your helper by carrying something, count the stairs together as you walk up or crouch down for a 30-second cuddle.
Taming the tantrums
Studies report that 60 to 90 percent of two-year-olds have tantrums (and for the 10 to 40 percent who apparently don’t, we say, really?!). Their frequency peaks at 30 to 36 months, when flipping out may happen daily. Tantrums are usually triggered by frustration, and when you look at the world from a toddler POV, you can see how things are just so not fair. Even though meltdowns are a normal part of development, you can still help your toddler cope—and head off your own breakdown, too. Keep an eye out for triggers: Is your toddler tired, hungry, thirsty or hot? Are you distracted? Is the day too rushed? Is there something fun but unusual going on, like a party? Those are all classic set-ups for a tantrum.
When a tantrum does happen, your response should be simple: Stay calm, and don’t try to reason with your kid—they simply can’t hear you when they’re in full meltdown mode. If the tantrum is about demanding some neon sugar cereal at the grocery store, just remove yourselves from the situation and ignore the request and the tantrum until they settle down. If the tantrum is about something like not wanting to pick up toys, it’s OK to have a family rule along the lines of “We count to three and then I’ll put your hands on the toys to pick them up.” A big hug when the tantrum is over makes everyone feel better (as opposed to a mid-tantrum cuddle that indirectly rewards the fuss).
At this stage of the game, discipline is about managing behaviour and setting expectations, not giving timeouts or resorting to similar tactics. Some ideas for your toolkit: Be clear on consequences (“Crayons are for paper, so if you draw on the wall again, we put the art away”), model the behaviour (“I put one block in the bin and then you put one block in the bin”), name the feelings (“I can see you’re upset that Avery took the blue Play-Doh. Do you want to go to the couch with me and calm down?”) and redirect them (“I’m not buying those shoes, but can you help me pick out the socks we need?”).
Your life after baby
Still considering baby number 2?
Was I selfish for putting off another baby? Maybe it’s been on your mind lately. Maybe your MIL has been making oh-so-subtle hints. Or maybe your own toddler has announced they’d like a baby brother or sister. How do you know if you’re ready for a second baby? Will you wait another year or two or is that too much of an age gap? Or perhaps you’ll stick with your one and only. There are often no easy answers for couples pondering when—and if—to grow their families as you consider big stuff like family dynamics, personalities (Can your relationship handle it? How will it affect your toddler?), careers and finances. Many couples find that, whether they discuss it endlessly or decide to simply go for it, there comes a time when they (mostly) “just know” if it’s right for them.
Stuff no one tells you
An alarm clock for toddlers?
FOMO, toddler-style, can be one reason your kiddo is waking up so freaking early. Other reasons could be that they’re ready to shorten their afternoon nap, it’s time to change their bedtime or they’re just wired to be early birds. One thing to try (unless, of course, you like starting your day at 5 a.m.) is a special toddler clock with a light that comes on at a preset time or sun and moon symbols to help your toddler understand if it’s an OK time to get up. The goal is to gradually get them to stay in bed longer in the mornings, even if they’re not actually asleep. (This really does work for a good percentage of kids, we promise!)
Breastfeeding beyond age two
I tried the weirdest hack EVER to wean my toddler Extended breastfeeding is one of those parenting decisions that either works for you or doesn’t. Both options are fine: If nursing a toddler is not what you want to do, awesome! And if you and your toddler still enjoy breastfeeding, that’s cool, too. If you are breastfeeding past age two, there are a few things to consider, like how your toddler will let you know if they want to nurse (“Boobies now!” is not really ideal), what to do if those toddler teeth make things uncomfortable and what to do if you want to breastfeed at night.
Just for fun
Best apps for toddlers
A little screen time can be a lifesaver at a super-delayed appointment or on a drive derailed by construction. Apps that combine fun and age-appropriate learning are the way to go and, yay, the latest ones include learning the alphabet and simple phonics, mixing and matching, recognizing faces, developing empathy and building structures.
When everyone else is in bed…
What’s your after-hours secret? Ignore the yoga mat, watch that trashy show that only you like or scroll through some puppy videos? #momlife