2 year old milestones: Development, growth, speech, language, and more

Updated Jan 09, 2024
2 year old milestones: Development, growth, speech, language, and more | Huckleberry

At 24 months, your baby might not look and sound so much like a baby anymore. It’s exciting and a little bittersweet too. Children are growing and learning so fast at this age! Expected 2 year developmental milestones include speaking more clearly, learning to maneuver stairs, scribbling with crayons, and more.

In this blog post, we’ll look at the speech, emotional, and physical development your child will likely go through between 24 - 36 months. There’s also a useful 2 year old development checklist and tips for helping your child reach milestones. 

Note:

When we discuss babies and development at Huckleberry, we use their adjusted age (vs. actual age) which can still impact growth beyond toddlerhood. It’s normal for children to reach milestones at different times. If you have any concerns about your baby’s health and development, reach out to their pediatrician.


IN THIS ARTICLE: 

2 year old baby milestones at a glance

2 year development milestones

2 year development milestones checklist

8 development tips for baby at 2 years

Takeaway: Development milestones for 2 year olds

2 year old development milestones FAQ


Between 2 - 3 years old, toddlers are working on so many physical, social, and emotional skills. Most kids at this age are already walking and running well, so 2 year gross motor milestones are focused on new tricks like tiptoeing and walking up stairs. In the fine motor department, you may expect your little one to be able to stack a few blocks, scribble on paper, and feed themselves with a utensil. 

Language is usually exploding around 24 months. Most children are able to say between 50 - 100 words [1] by the time they reach 2! They’re speaking more clearly as well, which makes things easier for everyone. Socially, children at this age are usually excited to see other kids, even if they’re not quite developmentally ready to play with them yet. Instead, they continue to play alongside other children until closer to 3 when they’ll start interacting more through play. 

At 24 months, we recommend at least 12.5 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period, including one afternoon nap lasting around 1.5 - 2.5 hours. Occasionally 2 year olds protest naps and might even go on an all-out nap strike. 

Sometimes this nap resistance (aka the 2 year sleep regression) is linked to developmental advances like separation anxiety, milestones such as potty training, and being able to stay awake more easily for longer periods. Despite these road bumps in daytime sleep, it’s best to continue offering a daily nap at this age. Even if your little one skips the nap, it still gives them the opportunity for some downtime during the day. Continuing to offer the nap each day will help ensure that they start napping regularly again when this phase passes.

Most 24 month olds can feed themselves quite well. They’re typically able to use a spoon (although they might still prefer to use their quick fingers) and drink from an open cup [2] with one hand. 

At this age, little ones are able to eat a wide variety of foods, although this is around the time that they can change their eating preferences and become “picky” eaters. It’s normal if 2 year olds reject foods entirely (even if they’ve enjoyed eating them before) and only want to choose from a limited number of favorite foods. 

While this can be frustrating for caregivers, it’s usually a phase. Most of the time picky eating behavior arises from children trying to assert their independence combined with the fact that weight gain starts to slow at around 24 months. At this time toddlers experience a decreased appetite and reduction in calories per day, which can make picky eating more pronounced. 

It can be helpful to remember that it’s your responsibility to offer healthy foods to your child and it’s their job to decide what to eat and how much. Pressuring a 2 year old to eat might not actually lead to them consuming more. In a research study [3], children ate more when they weren’t pressed to eat. This is often easier said than done, though. 

Your baby is starting to look like a big kid now! Since children are so active at 2 [4], they often lose their baby-like features — like their round faces. Head growth slows down [5] in toddlerhood while height increases, so little ones start to look much more proportionate too. 

On average, 24 month olds gain about 4 - 6 pounds per year and typically grow about 2 - 3 inches each year [4]. Keep in mind that children grow at different rates. Your child’s healthcare provider will continue to plot their height and weight on a chart to make sure they’re growing at a regular pace. Doing this can help identify any health trends that need attention. 

Walking and running: Most 2 year olds can walk and run well [6]. They are often able to pull toys behind them while walking and can carry a few toys with them.

Stairs: By around 24 months, many children learn to walk up a few stairs [6]. At this age, they “walk” stairs instead of climbing them, which means they place one foot and then the other on the same stair before climbing higher. This can be done with or without help. 

Tiptoes: Babies at around 2 are able to get up on their tiptoes [7]. 

Dexterity: Expected 2 year fine motor milestones typically involve the development of good finger and thumb control [4]. This means being able to turn pages of a book one at a time (maybe not gently yet!), turn doorknobs and lids, and hold a crayon [8]. 

Scribbling: Clear off the refrigerator for those baby masterpieces! At around 2, many children can scribble spontaneously [7].  

Building blocks: You might expect a 24 month old to be able to build a tower of four blocks [7] or more. By 3, they will likely be able to stack 10 blocks [4]. 

Words: By the age of 2, most children are able to say between 50 - 100 words [9] and can be understood by adults around half the time. Between ages 2 - 3, you might expect your little one to say somewhere around 200 - 1,000 [9] words! Kids at this age can probably be understood most of the time by familiar adults, like family members.

Sentences: Typical 2 year speech milestones also include being able to speak in 2- or 3-word phrases [9]. Most of the time these early sentences contain a subject, verb, and object, like “me want car.” Often, children at this age refer to themselves with pronouns (I, me, my, or mine) though they might not be used correctly yet. It makes for some cute interactions though. 

Naming things: Children are learning to name body parts [4] and animals at around 2. In addition to being able to name objects, they can also point to things in a book when you ask questions like, “Where is the ball?” This makes reading so fun and interactive! 

Gestures: Your little one might be able to blow you a kiss around 24 months. Children this age have probably already been using gestures like waving and pointing. Now most toddlers use additional gestures like blowing kisses [10] and nodding yes. 

Expressing and understanding emotions: Toddlers between the ages of 2 - 3 are experiencing a wide range of emotions while also learning about other people’s feelings [11]. They often notice when people are hurt or upset and might react [6] by looking sad or pausing to assess the situation. Expected 2 year old emotional development includes children looking to adults to see their facial expressions to gauge how they respond to a new situation.  

Temper tantrums: With increased independence around 2, your toddler is likely to be even more defiant. One of their favorite words is probably “no!” [4] Most children start having temper tantrums at the age of 1 and they typically continue between 24 - 36 months. While they’re not fun for anyone, these fits are a normal part of toddler development. The good news is that they typically subside when children are better able to verbally communicate their needs and emotions, around 4 [12]. They don’t last forever, even if that’s hard to imagine at this point! 

Parallel play: This is the phase where most children begin parallel play [4], which means they play alongside other children without interacting. Around 3 is when kids typically start to interact while playing.

Interaction with children: At around 24 months, toddlers are typically excited to be around other children. However, your little one does not understand sharing [4] yet. Instead, they’re more likely to copy other children and adults.

Make-believe: Welcome to the wonderful world of toddler make-believe! According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, this type of cognitive play is developing [7] at around 2. This pretend play might look like acting out a familiar routine [13] with a doll — feeding, rocking, etc.

Imaginative play becomes more complex when children start to understand symbols and do things like use a block to stand in for a piece of birthday cake. 

Sorting: Children between 24 - 36 months are starting to figure out how to sort shapes and colors [7]. This is setting the foundation for problem-solving [13]! 

Not all 2 year milestones will be met by children at exactly the same time. It’s helpful to keep in mind that there’s a wide spectrum of normal when it comes to children’s growth and development between 24 - 36 months. However, most children will reach the milestones below between the ages of 2 - 3. Some earlier, some later. If you have any concerns about your child’s growth or potential development delays, consider having a conversation with their healthcare provider. 

  • Walks and runs well 

  • Can walk up the stairs with or without assistance 

  • Turns a single page of a book 

  • Holds and crayon and scribbles spontaneously

  • Stacks 4 blocks by 24 months and 10 blocks by 36 months 

  • Says 200 - 1,000 words by 3 years old 

  • Uses short sentences and phrases 

  • Starting to name body parts and animals 

  • Expresses a range of emotions

  • Notices when other people are upset or hurt 

  • Says “no!” frequently and has temper tantrums 

  • Engages in parallel play with other children 

  • Enjoys being around kids

  • Starts to sort shapes and colors 

  • Engages in early make-believe play

A helpful way to foster 2 year old speech milestones is by correctly naming [10] things for your child. Instead of using cute “baby” words for people, places, and things, it’s best to use their proper names. This teaches your little one to say the correct word too. Kids are like sponges at this age! 

Use bathtime as a learning opportunity for your 2 year old. Great bath activities include naming body parts while you wash them to promote speech development and encouraging your child to pour water from one cup to another to improve their fine motor skills. Have them participate in getting undressed and dressed too for another fine motor activity [4]. 

You’ve probably been doing a great job of reading with your little one since they were tiny and reading is just as important now. At this point, reading should be part of your daily routine. 

Between 24 - 36 months, kids can follow a storyline [14] and remember ideas and information they see and hear in books. You might not be able to leave out any lines of their favorite books without them knowing!

Give your 2 year old a sheet of stickers [4] and a piece of paper for a creative activity that keeps them busy and improves fine motor skills and pincer grasp. Creating pictures with stickers also improves visual motor skills. 

A great way to teach your child about numbers and how to count is by modeling. You can do this by counting out loud [4] throughout the day during regular activities. Repetition helps children learn! Try things like counting blueberries on a plate during breakfast and buttons on a jacket while getting dressed. 

Make-believe play can encourage 2 year old language development and help them become better problem solvers and creative thinkers. A great way to foster this “symbolic play” [15] is by giving them a pretend playmate (a teddy bear, doll, or other stuffed animal). You might see your little one help their toy do the things they do throughout the day, like eat, sleep, and play. 

It’s normal for toddlers to want to exert their growing independence. To help them feel validated, offer control over some little things. For instance, let them pick between two snacks or two outfits when getting dressed. Allowing control when the outcome doesn’t particularly matter helps avoid tantrums and boosts self-expression too. 

Tantrums are a normal part of toddler brain development but you can help minimize them by limiting the attention you give your little one for defiant behavior. Instead, give positive attention and praise when your 2 year old follows instructions and shows they’re upset in constructive ways. 

  • Toddlers are busy! Typical milestones for 2 year olds include running and walking easily and learning to maneuver stairs on their own and with assistance. Kids this age are also busy with their hands. Little ones between 24 - 36 months are generally able to stack between 4 - 10 blocks, scribble spontaneously, and feed themselves with a spoon due to increased hand-eye coordination.    

  • Speech tends to explode between 2 - 3 years old. Your little one will likely go from speaking 50 - 100 words by 24 months to being able to say 200 - 1,000 words by 36 months. They’re also able to use short sentences and phrases around this time, which can greatly help them express themselves. 

  • Your child may get excited to be around other children at 2, though it’s not expected that toddlers play with each other at this age. Instead, they engage in parallel play, which means they play alongside each other. Closer to 3 is when you might expect kids to start playing together and understanding how to take turns and share. 

  • This period of your child’s life is pretty exciting. At 2, children learn and grow every day! However, keep in mind that these are general guidelines, and not all toddlers will reach all of these milestones at the same time. Development is on a spectrum and it’s normal for some children to reach milestones sooner than others. If you notice any 2 year old milestone or health red flags, it’s best to consult your child’s healthcare provider. 

2 year old development milestones FAQ

Q: What should a 2 year old be able to do?

A:

At 2, kids are able to get up on their tiptoes and also walk up stairs (not climb) with or without assistance. Some 2 year olds may be able to jump awkwardly [4] too. When it comes to fine motor skills, children between 24 - 36 months can turn single pages of a book, hold a crayon and scribble, and feed themselves. Expected speech development includes speaking in short sentences with a vocabulary of 200 - 1,000 words by age 3. They’re starting to be able to name body parts and animals at this age as well.

Q: What are 3 major physical milestones by 2 years of age?

A:

Most 2 year olds are able to jump with both feet leaving the ground. They’re also able to walk up the stairs with or without assistance. It’s expected that they’re walking and running well by 2.

Q: What does a 2 year old understand?

A:

Around 2, children are understanding so much more about themselves and the world. Perhaps most importantly (to them), is an understanding of the concept of “mine.” [4] They also know their age and name. Most children around 24 months can also count up to three objects and are starting to grasp the concept of numbers and colors.

Q: How to help a 2 year old reach milestones?

A:

You can help your little one reach 2 year milestones by interacting with them as much as possible. At this age, children learn through listening to you [10] and storing away that information. The more you speak, read, sing, and play with your toddler, the better. It’s also important to give them opportunities to safely explore the world and play. Free play helps children build strength and develop strong motor skills. This is an important time to make sure your home and backyard are safe based on your child’s new skills. Consider things like gating stairs, covering electrical outlets, and removing cords from the ground if you haven’t already.

Q: What milestones should a 2 year old have for a pediatric visit?

A:

At your child’s 2 year old checkup, you can expect a doctor to plot your child’s height and weight and to ask if anything has changed since their last visit. They will likely ask if you have noticed any developmental red flags when it comes to social, emotional, and physical milestones. They might inquire to see if your child can name at least 2 body parts and put at least 2-word sentences together, like “more water.”

Note: The content on this site is for informational purposes only and should not replace medical advice from your doctor, pediatrician, or medical professional. If you have questions or concerns, you should contact a medical professional.

15 Sources

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  1. American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Obesity (2022). Feeding & Nutrition Tips: Your 2-Year-Old. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/toddler/nutrition/Pages/feeding-and-nutrition-your-two-year-old.aspx

  2. Lumeng, J. C., Miller, A. L., Appugliese, D., Rosenblum, K., & Kaciroti, N. (2018). Picky Eating, Pressuring Feeding, and Growth in Toddlers. Appetite. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5817026/

  3. Children’s Hospital of Orange County (2023). 2 Year Old Child Development Milestones. https://www.choc.org/primary-care/ages-stages/2-years/

  4. American Academy of Pediatrics (2009). Physical Appearance and Growth: Your 2 Year Old. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/toddler/Pages/Physical-Appearance-and-Growth-Your-2-Year-Od.aspx

  5. CDC (2023). Important Milestones: Your Child By Two Years. https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/milestones/milestones-2yr.html

  6. American Academy of Pediatrics (2009). Developmental Milestones: 2 Year Olds. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/toddler/Pages/Developmental-Milestones-2-Year-Olds.aspx

  7. Kid Sense Child Development (2023). Fine Motor Development Checklist. https://childdevelopment.com.au/resources/child-development-charts/fine-motor-developmental-checklist/

  8. Mayo Clinic (2023). Infant and toddler health. Should I be concerned that my 2-year-old doesn't say many words and is hard to understand? https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/infant-and-toddler-health/expert-answers/toddler-speech-development/faq-20057847

  9. Nemours Children's Health (2023). Communication and Your 1- to 2-Year-Old. https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/c12yr.html

  10. Raising Children (2022). Suitable for 2-3 years 2-3 years: toddler development. https://raisingchildren.net.au/toddlers/development/development-tracker-1-3-years/2-3-years

  11. Zero to Three (2015). Stages of Play from 24–36 Months: The World of Imagination. https://www.zerotothree.org/resource/stages-of-play-from-24-36-months-the-world-of-imagination/

  12. American Academy of Pediatrics (2009). Language Development: 2 Year Olds. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/toddler/Pages/Language-Development-2-Year-Olds.aspx

  13. The Hanen Centre (2023). The Land of Make Believe: How and Why to Encourage Pretend Play. https://www.hanen.org/helpful-info/articles/the-land-of-make-believe.aspx