Toddler
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2 - 3 years

Developmental Milestones for Toddlers (2–3 Years)

Track developmental milestones for 2-3 year olds and identify potential issues.

author
Jessica Guht

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Welcome to the toddler stage. As the name suggests, from 2 to 3 years, your child will be toddling about, using the walking skills gained when they were a one-year-old to become a stronger walker, and then adding on running, jumping, and climbing. 

Through their first year, your baby was just starting to enjoy pretend play, but they’ll discover a new love for playing in their toddler years. They’ll start playing with more than one toy at a time, and some of their favorite playtimes will involve them imitating what they see you do during the day. 

Your 2-3-year-old is also growing more independent, though, and the baby who was always happy may soon start showing some deviant behavior — including temper tantrums — as they try to work through their feelings. 

To help you navigate the toddler years, we have compiled a milestone checklist that includes physical, social, and cognitive development for your 2–3-year-old. 

2-Year-Old Toddler Milestones

Your child is two and officially entering their toddler years, which means they are also entering their years of exploration, and not always into things you wish for them to explore. Your two-year-old is also getting more confident in their motor skills, with walking, jumping, climbing, kicking, and running some of the fun developments they’re working on. 

Your child’s language skills are growing at two years old, with your child knowing anywhere from 50 to 250 words. Even more exciting — they can string together at least two words, so simple sentences are soon coming! Your child may also start to sort by shapes and colors, which opens up a new realm of games you can play with them. 

Your two year old can follow simple instructions, but whether or not they choose to obey those instructions is another matter. Their independence is increasing, and so is their defiance as they test what boundaries they have. As frustrating as it may be, it’s all a part of their development, and they make up for it when they choose to blow kisses or cuddle. 

To help your child grow, give them plenty of things to do and see. Take walks outside and visit the playground. Inside, create obstacle courses or buy some balls for kicking and throwing. This will help your child get some physical exercise while also helping them develop their physical and mental skills. 

As they use their hands more, you can encourage their fine motor skills by having a craft area stocked with paper, crayons, and sculpting dough. 

You can also help your child as they grow more independent. Let them have choices when possible, such as what fruit they want with their lunch or what shirt they want to wear. You can also let them help you around the house — they love copying you as you do chores!

Here are the milestones for a 2-year-old toddler:

Speech and Language

  • Can point to things when you ask (e.g., “Where’s the dog?)
  • Can point to at least two body parts when you ask
  • Recognizes the names of familiar people and objects
  • Uses simple phrases
  • Follows simple instructions
  • Repeats words overheard in conversation

Movement

  • Can blow a kiss
  • Can nod their head “yes”
  • Holds something in one hand while using the others (e.g., holding a container while taking its lid off)
  • Uses knobs, buttons, and switches on toys
  • Walks unassisted
  • Scribbles
  • Runs
  • Jumps with both feet
  • Can kick a ball

Sensory

  • Notices when others are hurt or upset — will pause what they are doing and look sad when they see someone crying
  • Begins to sort by colors and shapes
  • Looks at your face when in a new situation to see how you react

Feeding

  • Eats with a spoon and other utensils
  • Has some spills when eating

Strength

  • Walks (not climbs) up a few stairs with or without help
  • Can carry a large toy or several toys while walking
  • Climbs onto and down from furniture unassisted
  • May hop on one foot
  • Can pedal a tricycle
  • Stands on tiptoes 

Independence and Self-Help

  • Turns over containers to pour out contents
  • Might start to favor one hand over the other
  • Increasingly aware of themselves as being separate from others
  • Shows increasing independence
  • Begins showing defiant behavior

Play and Behavior

  • Plays with more than one toy at a time (e.g., feeding toy food to a stuffed animal)
  • Pulls toys behind them while walking
  • Builds towers of four or more blocks
  • Finds objects even when hidden under two to three covers
  • Begins make-believe play
  • Imitates the behavior of others, especially older children and adults
  • Is increasingly excited about the company of other children

2-Year-Old Developmental Red Flags

As the number of skills a child has grows, predicting when they will perfect a skill becomes challenging, as some children focus on one area more than another. As such, the developmental milestones above only serve to give a general idea of the changes your child will undergo as they get older, but don’t be alarmed if they do not hit all of them by this point. 

However, alert your pediatrician if you notice any of the following in your child by 2 years:

  • Cannot walk 
  • Only walks on their toes
  • Does not have a heel-toe walking pattern after walking for several months
  • Does not use two-word sentences
  • Does not speak at least fifteen words
  • Does not know the function of common household objects (e.g., telephone, brush, fork, spoon, bell)
  • Does not follow simple instructions
  • Does not imitate actions or words
  • Cannot push toys with wheels

3-Year-Old Toddler Milestones

3-year-olds are continuing to grow the skills that they have learned, with their movement and curiosity, in particular, huge developments. Get ready to enter the “why” stage as your child starts to wonder about everything around them!

Their play is expanding as well. Not only do three-year-olds love to play make-believe with their toys or family members, but they also know how to work mechanical toys and are starting to share with their friends. 

3-year-olds are incredibly active: walking, kicking, running, and throwing. They’re also learning new skills, like riding a tricycle. To encourage your three-year-old’s physical development, allow them ample time to practice and build on these skills. Going to the playground can also be fun for your toddler, and has the added bonus of allowing them to socialize with other kids their age.

As your three-year-old’s language grows, they’re starting to understand words crucial for forming longer sentences. For example, they now understand prepositions such as “on” or “under,” which can be especially helpful when you ask them to grab you something. They can also remember simple lyrics or rhymes and might want to repeat them over and over with you. 

Here’s a checklist of milestones for a three-year-old:

Speech and Language

  • Talks with you in conversation with at least two back-and-forth exchanges
  • Can say what action (e.g., eating, running, playing) is happening in a book when asked
  • Says first name when asked
  • Asks “who,” “what,” “where,” and “why” questions
  • Talks well enough where others can understand them, most of the time
  • Speaks in four-to-five-word sentences
  • Can remember simple lyrics or rhymes
  • Says words like “I,” “you,” “me,” and “we”
  • Understands “on,” “in,” and “under”

Movement

  • Can draw a circle when shown how
  • Strings items together, like macaroni or large beads
  • Runs and jumps easily
  • Easily draws straight lines

Sensory

  • Vision is nearing 20/20
  • Names colors
  • Understands size differences (e.g., big and little)
  • Temper tantrums are less frequent
  • Begins to show feelings in socially acceptable ways

Feeding

  • Uses a fork
  • Uses a spoon well

Strength

  • Walks upstairs unassisted
  • Rides a tricycle
  • Can stand on tiptoes

Independence and Self-Help

  • Calms down within 10 minutes after you leave them, like at a childcare drop-off
  • Avoids touching hot objects when warned not to
  • Puts on some clothes by themselves, like a jacket or loose pants
  • Washes and dries hands
  • Uses a potty chair or toilet
  • Separates easily from parents
  • Can tell you their age

Play and Behavior

  • Notices other children and joins them to play
  • Stacks 10 blocks
  • Uses “please” and “thank you”
  • Begins to share
  • Can take turns

3-Year-Old Developmental Red Flags

While every child grows and develops differently, looking for red flags specific to their age can allow you to get help from a professional sooner. Contact your pediatrician if you notice any of the following in your 3-year-old:

  • Falls down a lot
  • Struggles with stairs
  • Drools or has very unclear speech
  • Doesn’t understand simple instructions
  • Can’t work simple toys, such as turning a handle or peg boards
  • Doesn’t make eye contact
  • Doesn’t speak in sentences
  • Doesn’t want to play with other children or with toys
  • Doesn’t play pretend or make-believe
  • Loses skills they once had

Find The Best Care for Your 2-3-Year-Old Toddler

In addition to toddling around (and getting into everything they can), your 2-3-year-old is growing their vocabulary, establishing some independence, and learning to play with other children. Still, if there’s any area where they need a little extra attention, we know you want for them to have nothing but the best care.

At Coral Care, we will help connect you with the pediatric care your toddler deserves, whether that is a physical therapist, occupational therapist, or speech language pathologist. Let us help you find the best care for your 2-3-year-old toddler today.

Find effective support for developmental delays, quickly.

Self-pay or insurance
In-person and at-home appointments
No waitlist
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