From Baby to Kid: Knowing Your 2-3 Year-Old

The year between 2 and 3 is an exciting one for parents and children. The changes you see in your child will be remarkably fast and sometimes frustrating. Some 2 year olds experience what many call the Terrible Two’s. Other kids wait a little and have the Terrible Three’s! If you understand the tremendous changes going on in their little brains and bodies, it’s easier to understand outbursts and tantrums.

The Basics

It is important to keep in mind the developmental milestones your child will be experiencing during this year. Resist the urge to rush your child or to worry that you child is behind. Kids work on their own timetables and all milestones are variant. Children this age need 10-13 hours of sleep. Some will sleep that long at night, others need a nap (or their parents do!). If a child is sleep deprived you are more likely to experience melt downs. The same holds true for diet. A regularly-scheduled diet of healthy meals and snacks is important. Two-three-year-olds will often get particular about their food. Continue to offer healthy choices but do not make mealtime a battleground.

Play time

This is a year for fun! Your child is not only walking well, he’s starting to run and maybe even jump as he closes in on three. Regular activity is important - take walks, visit the park, run around the back yard. Build in extra time to your outings. Your child will be constantly stopping to pick up rocks and examine cracks in the sidewalk. Talk about what he is looking at and remember everything he does constitutes learning.

Favorite activities for the 2-3 year-old include: building towers with blocks and smashing them to the ground; dumping things from containers (picking them up doesn’t really come for another year or so); playing side-by-side with other children and beginning to engage with them as he become close to turning 3; hand play with fingers (Itsy Bitsy Spider) and puppets; play dough; learning to hold and use crayons; music and dancing; and being read to by you.

Language Skills

A 2-year-old has an average vocabulary of 50 words. By the time he’s 3, his vocabulary will be well over 500 words. The best things you can do are to talk to your child (avoid baby talk) and explain things simply as they occur and to read, read, read to him. Kids love books with lots of repetition where, after a couple of readings, they can help you read. Dr. Suess is always a big hit with this age group (“Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb,” “Go, Dog, Go”) and books with lots of pictures get a lot of use as well. You may choose to introduce your child to a few educational websites at this point. As long as you’re sitting together and talking about what he’s doing, limited screen time can be fun and useful.

Setting Boundaries

As a parent, be ready to move this year. Children this age will run off, climb things they shouldn’t and pick up nasty things as you walk around your neighborhood. Often, you saying/shouting “No!” is not enough. Physically move the child to a new location repeating “Mommy/Daddy said no!” as you move him. Long explanations or lectures are not effective for this age group. Keep redirecting them and they will start figuring it out for themselves.

Have fun! Take lots of pictures and write things down during this year. You’ll never have another like it.

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