Child Development Milestones for 2 to 3-year-olds

A Guide for Stages & Child Development Milestones for the Third Year with Your Baby

child development young asian girl playing soccer

From birth to the age of 5, the human brain develops more rapidly than any other time in our lives. Two-year-olds fall right in the middle of that development whirlwind! At this point, children have spent two curious years soaking up everything they can to develop a solid foundation for language, motor, social-emotional, and cognitive skills.

In the 24-36 month age range, this foundation is built upon further as children are more thoroughly able to explore their world, ask questions, and discover limits and boundaries.

Cara May, Parent Educator & Motherhood Advocate, shares some important child development milestones that will emerge during this age range as well as ways you can support and encourage their further development!

child development milestones language
Language Development

Two-year-olds’ language skills are increasing as they are exposed to new words and hear adults speaking every day. Children will demonstrate this by using more words and longer sentences. To help them build this skill, use complete and descriptive sentences when speaking with them. Give your two-year-old opportunities to watch and listen when other people are having conversations. Their language abilities will reflect what they are exposed to!

child development milestones cognitive
Cognitive Development

Two-year-olds develop all sorts of mental skills that adults often take for granted. They’ll be able to focus more, notice details and similarities, and remember events and places. To support these new abilities, allow them to concentrate on tasks for as long as they show interest. Offer games that involve matching and sorting, and talk with them about recent events and experiences they’ve had. As they work on developing their problem-solving skills, it may be tempting to jump in and fix things for them, but it is important that a two-year-old learns that they have the ability to figure things out on their own. While these skills may seem simple to us, a child’s brain has spent the past 24 months making millions of neural connections for them to get to this point!

child development milestones social emotional
Social Emotional Development

During the first 24 months, children are deeply emotionally and physically entwined with their caregivers. Moving forward, they will continue to depend on adults to support their needs, while also learning and demonstrating that they are individuals who are separate from the people around them. This could look like saying “no” frequently or insisting on doing things in their own way. While it may be challenging for adults to understand this behavior, remember that the child is learning healthy independence. As long as they are safe, allow them to express what they are feeling and work through any complex emotions. Once they begin to show interest in executing tasks like hand-washing without help, encourage them to do it. Put the soap and towel within reach and give them plenty of time to do this task by themselves. Patience is a key skill during the toddler years!

child development milestones motor
Motor Development

When children are 24-36 months old, both their large and small muscles do a lot of strengthening and developing. You’ll notice those gross (large) motor skills demonstrated as they climb, jump, balance, and catch. Two-year-olds have so much energy to burn, so giving them challenges like balancing on one foot and playing catch will encourage them to practice these abilities in a fun way! The fine (small) motor skills come out when they use their hands to operate tools, like crayons, toys, and child-safe scissors. They will be able to improve in this realm when you do art projects together. These may be guided or not—an unstructured art session can allow a child’s imagination to run free. While it may be nerve-wracking at first to see them climbing or using scissors, the only way a child can improve in these areas is through supervised practice!

As parents, caretakers, and educators, it is our responsibility to encourage children to participate in these vital developmental experiences while also ensuring they are safe and supported. There will be times when a two-year-old may test our patience or push our buttons—just remember that everything they are doing contributes to learning about their influence on their environment, and everything you do helps them understand how the world works! By demonstrating limits, setting boundaries, and offering safe outlets for curiosity and exploration, these two-year-old minds will create a strong foundation of understanding about how clever, capable, and independent they can be.

Acenda Cares for Moms

Our team of Motherhood & Family Advocates provide pregnancy and child development milestones resources for new and expectant parents from prenatal care through kindergarten. We're here to help answer your questions and provide useful pregnancy and parenting support when you need it most. Best of all, our resources and support services are completely free for all families.

For more information about our SPECIALIZED PREGNANCY AND CHILD DEVELOPMENT SERVICES, please call 856-431-4180.