Toddler by month

Your toddler: 2 years old

There’s so much to love about this age, despite the bad rep of the “terrible twos.” Learn all about life with your 2-year-old.

By Today's Parent

Your toddler: 2 years old

Photography by Nicole Duplantis/Clothing provided by babyGap and Joe Fresh

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

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).

Upcoming skills

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).

Toddler discipline

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?

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

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.

Best apps for Toddlers

Puzzle Shapes

Your kids can build all kinds of things, like a windmill, a tractor and a bird, by matching the colourful 3-D shapes. Free, itunes.ca

Your toddler: 2 years old

Find the Sound Hide & Seek: Animals

One person hides the phone and the others must listen for its sound, whether it’s mooing or neighing. First one to find it wins! $1, play.google.com

Your toddler: 2 years old

Sago Mini Road Trip

Put your kids in the driver’s seat with Jinja the cat and watch them go on fun-filled adventures. With over 10 cars to choose from and six magical places to explore. $4, itunes.ca

Your toddler: 2 years oldPhoto: iTunes

Yum Yum Letters

A chubby little worm and a cute snowflake make learning to write letters fun and easy in this interactive tracing game. $3, itunes.ca

Your toddler: 2 years oldPhoto: iTunes

Bob Books #1

Enjoy teaching your kids to read with this fun, phonics-based game. They’ll spell words they’ve read, sound out simple words and make the connection between sounds and letters. $5, itunes.ca

Your toddler: 2 years oldPhoto: iTunes

Sago Mini Toolbox

Kids love to tinker and fix! Get them to help the Sago Mini friends build tons of fun projects with simple tools like hammers, saws, and wrenches. $4, itunes.ca

Your toddler: 2 years oldPhoto: iTunes

Chifro ABC: Kids Alphabet Game

Your tots will love learning the alphabet with this easy-to-use game. They’ll solve puzzles, trace the letters of the alphabet, improve their hand-eye cordination and much more. Free, itunes.ca

Your toddler: 2 years oldPhoto: iTunes

Kiko’s Thinking Game

Help your kids with their memory, focus and reasoning skills with this fun game designed by neuroscientists. Free, itunes.ca

Your toddler: 2 years oldPhoto: iTunes

Mr. Potato Head

Head out on adventures with your very own cartoon spud and 200 mix-and-match parts. $6, itunes.ca

Your toddler: 2 years oldPhoto: iTunes

Another Monster at the End of This Book…Starring Grover & Elmo

Grover and Elmo are excited to teach your kids reading and logic skills in this animated storybook. $6, itunes.ca 

Your toddler: 2 years oldPhoto: iTunes

Look At Me

Doctors designed this app to help kids on the autism spectrum improve their facial recognition abilities and make better eye contact. You can customize the music and voice recognition to suit your childrens’ preferences, and they’ll earn points and rubies as they progress. Free, play.google.ca

Your toddler: 2 years oldPhoto: Google Play

Learn With Homer

Designed by teachers, this reading app features new content added every month. Your kid will build over 50 skills including phonics, pronunciation, spelling and vocabulary$8/month with the first month free. itunes.ca

Your toddler: 2 years oldPhoto: iTunes

TreehouseGO

Treehouse subscribers can now get Dora and the Bubble Guppies anywhere with TreehouseGO, an app that lets you play your kid’s favourite TV shows on demand. Free, play.google.com, itunes.ca

Your toddler: 2 years oldPhoto: Google Play, iTunes

Starfall Learn to Read

Zac the rat can’t wait to help your kids learn how to read! Through his many games, movies and songs, your kids will eventually master the relationship between spoken and written words. $4, itunes.ca

Your toddler: 2 years oldPhoto: iTunes

Train Builder

Choo-choo! Your little conductor can build his own train before heading out to pick up his cargo—be sure to go to the zoo to collect the animals. Free, itunes.ca

Your toddler: 2 years oldPhoto: iTunes

Word Wagon

Kids can learn how to read while playing hide and seek, collecting stickers and earning stars with Mozzarella the mouse and his best friend Coco the bird. $3, itunes.ca 

Your toddler: 2 years oldPhoto: iTunes

Charlie & Lola

What better way to develop creativity and encourage learning than with CBeebies very own Charlie and Lola. Kids can dress Charlie, Lola, Marv and Lotta up, make music and build their own little town. $4, itunes.ca

Your toddler: 2 years oldPhoto: iTunes

Curious About Me

In this story building app, your child will become the star of his or her own adventure with the help of Curious George. $4, itunes.ca

Your toddler: 2 years oldPhoto: iTunes

Metamorphabet

The alphabet comes to life in this hands-on app that helps kids expand their vocabulary. $4, itunes.ca

Your toddler: 2 years oldPhoto: iTunes

Happy Daycare Stories by PlayToddlers

Your tot will love watching over five toddlers, exploring interactive rooms and finding treasures. $4, itunes.ca

Your toddler: 2 years oldPhoto: iTunes

Sago Mini Superhero by Sago Sago

Join the Sago Mini Superhero, Jack the Rabbit, and help him explore on his adventures! $4, itunes.ca

Your toddler: 2 years oldPhoto: iTunes

Artie’s Magic Pencil

There’s a monster on the loose! Help Artie save the day by matching dots, tracing shapes and getting creative. $4, itunes.ca

Your toddler: 2 years oldPhoto: iTunes

Playhaus by Oops Yay

Ready, set, build! Create a house with building blocks and see some surprises pop up along the way. $2, itunes.ca

Your toddler: 2 years oldPhoto: iTunes

Space Adventure: A Family Board Game

Go on an exciting journey with the whole family around a tiny alien world. Earn badges while taking tons of pictures. $3, itunes.ca

Your toddler: 2 years oldPhoto: iTunes

Curious About Letters

The uppercase letters have been separated from their lowercase partners and it’s up to your kids to bring them back together. They’ll get help from Curious George and The Man with the Yellow Hat. Together they’ll search high and low for all the letters and once they find them, they’ll trace them out and match them up. $4, itunes.ca 

curious about letters spelling appPhoto: iTunes

Wee You-Things

Teach your kids empathy and encourage an understanding, confident, and creative personality with this app that helps kids grasp why people are different. $4, itunes.ca

Your toddler: 2 years oldPhoto: iTunes

Thinkrolls 2 by Avokiddo

Get rolling in this cool game that combines fun with physics and logic. Kids can guide their colourful Thinkrolls through vertical mazes by moving the objects around them—expand an accordion to create a bridge or use a barrel to float across water. With more than one solution, this game encourages kids to learn through trial and error. $4, play.google.com. $6, itunes.ca 

Your toddler: 2 years oldPhoto: Google Play, iTunes

Avokiddo ABC Ride

Kids can join Beck and Bo on a ride-along spelling adventure. They’ll see mind blowing things like the letter E being hatched from an egg or the letter K jumping out of a kangaroo’s pouch and, in the process, will learn how to associate letters with words. $4, itunes.ca

avokiddo spelling appPhoto: iTunes

Endless Alphabet

Meet some very adorable monsters that would love to teach your kids the alphabet and how to read in this interactive educational app. Free, play.google.com

Your toddler: 2 years oldPhoto: Google Play

Ooka Island Reading Program

Reading is fun with Ooka Island’s more than 1,000 games and 85 eBooks for kids in preschool to grade two. Free, itunes.ca

Your toddler: 2 years oldPhoto: iTunes

Dinosaur Train A to Z

The PBS Kids show Dinosaur Train comes to life in this fun early spelling app. $3, itunes.ca

dinosaur train spelling appPhoto: iTunes

Monkey Preschool Animals

Take a trip around the world to meet more than 100 different cute wildlife pals! Match animal patterns in the jungle, play letter games in the Arctic and more. $3, itunes.ca

Your toddler: 2 years oldPhoto: iTunes

abc PocketPhonics: letter sounds & writing + first words

If your preschooler needs a little help learning their first words and mastering handwriting, this award-winning app might do the trick. It rewards kids with certificates for great work, and you can also receive weekly emails that help you monitor their progress as your little one learns how to write letters with her fingers. $10, itunes.ca

Your toddler: 2 years oldPhoto: iTunes

Cookie Monster’s Challenge

Your kids can play more than 10 educational mini-games to help Cookie Monster build a delicious machine. $2, itunes.ca 

Your toddler: 2 years oldPhoto: iTunes

Trace It, Try It: Handwriting Exercises for Kids

Help your child develop their handwriting skills with Trace It, Try It! Guided and independent letter and number tracing will allow your child to practice handwriting in a fun and engaging way. $4, itunes.ca

Your toddler: 2 years oldPhoto: iTunes

Sesame Street Alphabet Kitchen

In Cookie Monster’s alphabet kitchen, your child will bake words into tasty cookies and decorate them too! With the help of Chef Elmo, your child will learn how to combine letters to create words. $4, itunes.ca

Your toddler: 2 years oldPhoto: iTunes

PINKFONG Mother Goose: Nursery Rhymes and Games!

Sing along to classic nursery rhymes from your childhood! Read along narration will help your child learn the words to favourites such as Old MacDonald, The Wheels on the Bus, Humpty Dumpty, and more! Free, itunes.ca

Your toddler: 2 years oldPhoto: iTunes

Duckie Deck Homemade Orchestra

Everyday objects are transformed into musical instruments in Duckie Deck Homemade Orchestra! Your child will explore their creative thinking by combining different homemade instruments to play songs. $4, itunes.ca

Your toddler: 2 years oldPhoto: iTunes

LumiKids Park

In this digital playspace for kids, your child will sort, feed, and keep track of colourful critters all while developing their cognitive, motor, and attention skills. Free, itunes.ca

Your toddler: 2 years oldPhoto: iTunes

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

Read more: ‘You’re STILL nursing?!’ and other things to never say to a mom who breastfeeds her toddler Parents with two kids are the happiest: Study

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