Toddler development and milestones: your 24-month-old
They don’t call it the “Terrible Twos” for nothing! Read on to understand the reason behind your little firecracker’s behaviour, along with tried and tested tips on how to deal with it.
Whining, screaming, tantrum throwing. Now you’re beginning to understand the reason why they call this stage the “Terrible Twos”! But not to worry. Aside from the extreme bouts of frustration and anger it presents, this month also brings lots of chatter, eagerness to learn, and growing independence that will elicit plenty of “oohs,” “aahs,” and “awws” from you as your child demonstrates them all.
Your 24 Month Old Toddler’s Development
One moment, you’re holding a sweet wee bairn, quietly sleeping in your arms, then poof! You have an active two-year-old whose sole purpose is to make you chase the spry roadrunner all over the house until you’re both out of breath.
But despite the mini heart attacks you experience from watching your little one stand on tiptoe to reach up and pull things off high surfaces or draw lines and scribbles (egad!) all over your white walls — these are moments to rejoice. Your child is definitely showing signs of improved gross and fine motor skills!
List of movements a two-year-old can typically do:
- Stands on tiptoe
- Climbs up and down furniture
- Walks up and down the stairs
- Kicks a ball
- Throws a ball overhand
- Empties a container
- Draws lines or circular scribbles
- Stacks blocks
Activities that boost physical development:
- Take family walks.
- Let your child run around at the park.
- Bring your child to a toddler playground.
- Encourage your child to sort and pack her toys to enhance her fine motor skills.
- Give her drawing materials like paper and crayons for fine motor skill development.
Your 24-month-old’s brain is almost 75% of its adult volume and will grow to its full size until the age of 18. That growing brain is improving your little one’s memory as observation skills are fine-tuned.
This means your child remembers how to categorise objects (e.g. shirts and shorts are clothing, bird and fish are animals, dolls and blocks are toys). She can also recognise landmarks and shop logos, especially those she sees on frequent routes travelled. Your little homebody will even notice if any furniture at home has been moved or added.
Your child still explores objects using her senses, but she can already make sophisticated observations like the blanket is “soft” and that daddy’s stubble beard is “rough” and “scratchy.” In fact, with a more sophisticated ability to retain information, your child can also distinguish between “up” and “down,” “now” and “later,” and “less” and “more.”
You’ll even find yourself pleasantly surprised when she reminds you of activities you’ve done several weeks back. This could be a big one like visiting her grandparents’ house or a small one like a watercolor painting session you did together. Your little observer is intent on absorbing everything she sees and experiences, and then using what she retains in the future.
Unfortunately, at the same time, the memory retention can bring up some distressing moments, inciting sudden fear of her visits to the paediatrician (who gives her those painful shots!) or even a simple haircut (as she may not like the way the stylist holds the scissors close to her face).
At this age, expect your toddler to play make-believe games and carry on imaginary conversations with toys and pets.
Cognitive skills a typical two-year-old is able to do:
- Points to an object if you call it out by name.
- Follows 2-step commands. (“Pick up your toy and put it inside the toy box.”)
- Plays make-believe or engages in pretend-play (like feeding her baby doll).
- Finds objects hidden under two or three layers of covers/blankets.
- Begins to sort shapes and colours.
- Builds towers of four or more blocks.
Activities to boost cognitive development:
- Sing along together.
- Practice the alphabet and counting.
- Point at objects and identify them together.
- Ask questions.
- Explain simply every step you take. (“Mummy’s tying your shoelaces now.”)
- Offer choices and let your child decide. (“Do you want the red ball or the blue ball?”)
- Offer a variety of games to encourage creativity and problem solving.
- Talk about where the people in your child’s life are when they’re not around. (“Mummy’s at the office,” “Daddy’s at the supermarket,” “Grandma lives in different house.”)
Social and Emotional Development
Playtime presents plenty of learning opportunities for your toddler on how to relate to others and manage her emotions.
So even though she may start to welcome playmates in her play area, it doesn’t necessarily mean she’ll be willing to share her toys in a group activity, like building a block tower together or letting their dolls occupy the same dollhouse.
Your child will be possessive of her toys. And while she does lend a friend a toy, she’ll soon want it back. If she doesn’t get a toy back, expect her short fuse to blow up, but try not to be quick to referee. Give the kids a chance to negotiate and sort out their mini conflict, stepping in at the first sign of aggression (e.g. kicking, biting, hitting).
Your two-year-old may play briefly with others, but you will normally see her playing alongside them. Being the keen observer and imitator that she is, your child enjoys watching others play and may mimic the precise way they play. You’ll witness this copycat behaviour at home if your child has older siblings to play side-by-side with.
As your child still has a short attention span, expect her to move from one play area or activity to another. She would want you to play with her as well, giving you an opportunity to model some basic life skills like taking turns and cleaning up by packing away the toys.
You’ll also be amazed at — not to mention frustrated by — your child’s persistence and the effective way she gets what she wants, which is to whine repeatedly until you give in. Do your best not to relent so easily to avoid reinforcing this behaviour. Plan before you respond so you can better manage your child’s demands and expectations (as well as your dwindling patience!).
But when things don’t go your child’s way, you know a tantrum is underway. It’s healthy for your child to express her emotions, including the unhappy sort. However, try not to swoop in so quickly to placate an upset child. Allow her to experience the emotions and explain to her that it’s normal to feel this way.
Rushing to mollify your temper tantrum-throwing child may send the message that: 1) throwing a tantrum gets mummy’s or daddy’s attention, and 2) being unhappy is a bad thing. So let your toddler experience a spectrum of emotions and learn to sort through them on her own.
You can show her acceptable ways to vent her emotion, especially the negative ones. For instance, when she’s feeling frustrated, screaming and hitting others are not okay, but stamping of feet and hitting a pillow are acceptable.
Regression is a common toddler phenomenon you may become familiar with at this stage. One day your child hates it when you hold her hand because she’s a “big kid” already, then the next day she clings to you and demands to be carried like a baby.
Regression happens for a variety of possible reasons:
- as an effect of a toddler’s improving memory, as she recalls the happy moments when she was a baby and would like to experience them again;
- as a way for your toddler to let you know that her attempts at becoming a “big kid” and independent are overwhelming and she’d like a break; or
- your toddler simply wants your attention and care, especially when she’s faced with changes in routine (e.g. new baby in the family, moving houses) or an uncomfortable situation (e.g. parents fighting, meeting strangers).
If or when your toddler shows regressive behaviour, refrain from lecturing her and instead focus on positive reinforcement of appropriate behaviour. Praise your child when, for instance, she uses a cup instead of the baby bottle or uses the potty instead of soiling her undies.
At this age, your toddler is also becoming more familiar with differences in gender. Your daughter will start imitating mummy’s behaviour, while your son will imitate daddy’s behaviour. Your little copycat will also get mimic your usual routines like putting on makeup or the way daddy wears a tie.
However, you shouldn’t feel the need to encourage your child to follow gender stereotypes, like only girls play with dolls while only boys play with balls. Children will benefit from a variety, so give yours lots of options for toys and activities and allow her to choose what interests her.
Typical social-emotional behaviours of a two-year-old:
- Imitates adults and older children.
- Gets enthusiastic around other children.
- Plays side by side with other children.
- Aware of herself as an individual separate from others.
- Increasingly independent.
- Shows defiant behaviour.
- Experiences fewer episodes of separation anxiety.
- Fears loud sounds and certain animals.
Activities to boost social-emotional development:
- Set playdates.
- Allow your child to interact with people of all ages.
- Identify your child’s emotions to help her recognise each.
- Give your child toys and tools that encourage pretend-play and make-believe like a baby doll, kitchen set, or creating a fort using her blanket.
- Let your child help you with simple chores like putting her laundry in the hamper.
Speech and Language Development
Lots of chatter from your 24-month-old tot this month! She can now string together two to three-word sentences like, “I want milk!” and “Give me dolly.”
The vocabulary of a two-year-old is typically comprised of 50 to 75 words. She can name the people and objects she sees regularly, such as items inside her bedroom (e.g bed, pillow, lamp) and around the house (e.g. couch, TV). She can also name the usual food she eats and may even ask for specific ones, such as cookie, apple, and milk. And since your child understands the concept of “less” and “more,” expect her to say “more please” when she sees she has less food on her plate or it’s already gone.
She may also already be able to know and call out the color of objects and count up to five or ten.
You will notice that, with her growing vocabulary, your little tot has become quite the conversationalist. She will ask you questions about why things work as they do — but hold off on giving her a long winded explanation, as she will only listen to the first three to four words in your answer before her short attention span drifts to another topic or activity. In other words, if you want her to understand the answer, keep it short and to the point.
During playtime, listen to the imaginary conversations your child conducts with her toys and pets. You’ll be amused to discover that these conversations are similar to ones you have with your increasingly talkative tot.
Your child is also now able to hum and sing, especially the words to common nursery rhymes if she has been taught to sing them. She may even delight in joining group singing sessions, so definitely get your spouse to duet with you as you sing to your child.
If your child is still using a dummy, now would be the time to stop as dummy use tends to affect speech and language development.
Typical language skills of a 24-month-old:
- Says around 50 to 75 words
- Says two- to three-word sentences
- Can be understood half the time by strangers
- Recognises the names of familiar people
- Names many body parts
- Names pictures in a book, like dog, cat, ball
- Follows simple instructions
- Repeats words overheard in conversations
Activities to boost speech and language development:
- Refrain from correcting your child’s grammar. Simply repeat what she said using the right words.
- Talk to your child normally but concisely and clearly to expand her vocabulary and sentences. Instead of saying, “Okay,” say instead, “Okay, Mommy will help you tie your shoes,” or, “Okay, Daddy will read you a book.”
- Read picture books to your child often. Pause between scenes and prompt your child to answer questions about what she sees on the pages like, “Can you find the cat?” or, “Do you like the colours?”
- Continue singing nursery rhymes with your child. She’ll love the repetition, the rhyme and the tune.
- If your child still uses a dummy, replace it with a “transitional love object” like a doll or teddy bear.
Health and Nutrition
Your child’s torso and limbs will start to get longer and proportions appear to resemble an adult’s. Beginning to look more like a “big kid,” she will grow about two and a half inches and gain five pounds during the year ahead.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends reducing your toddler’s fat intake by less than 30 percent of daily calories required. But don’t cut out fat totally as your child’s growing brain and body need it to develop properly. It’s important to note as well that many dairy that contain fat are also good sources of calcium.
Take careful note that some children start to become picky eaters at the age of two. They are more open to trying new food between the ages of six and 18 months. By 24 months old, they are developmentally more neophobic and may not be as easily persuaded to try new things, including new food. A two-year-old is also trying to assert herself, hence, expect push back against trying new food and activities.
If you haven’t taken your toddler to see the dentist at all, now is the time to have their teeth examined. If your child is still on the bottle, it’s strongly recommended to transition her to a sippy cup. Milk bottles, when left inside the mouth for prolonged periods (like falling asleep with the bottle still inside the mouth), can cause dental caries in toddlers because of the sugar content in the milk.
Your child may also experience sleep disturbances, as these are common at this age. She may start waking in the middle of the night, possibly caused by a nightmare or night terror. Your toddler’s imagination may be causing the nightmares, as her cognitive ability to reason is not yet able to distinguish between what is real and what is not. Other reasons for your child waking up in the middle of night are fear of the dark, an illness or an erupting molar causing discomfort, and even stress.
Activities to boost your two-year-old’s health and nutrition:
- Switch from whole to 2 percent to reduce your child’s fat intake.
- Look for low-fat versions of cheese, yogurt and ice cream.
- Provide a balanced diet of whole grains, leans meats or beans, fruits and vegetables.
- Give your child a variety of food every chance you get; and let her see you eat the a variety of food and model good eating habits.
- Give your child enough sleep (a child this age would need 14 hours of sleep a day) as sleep provides much needed downtime for physical and growth, not to mention rest from all that playing.
- As comfort and reassurance are the best way to address sleep issues, simply staying with your toddler and even humming or singing a soft tune until she calms down and falls back to sleep will prove effective.
When to Talk to Your Doctor
There are signs that indicate a delay in development, so act early by speaking with your child’s paediatrician if your child:
- Doesn’t run or always walks on tiptoe.
- Doesn’t walk steadily.
- Shows weakness on one side of the body.
- Doesn’t mimic actions or repeat words.
- Is unable follow simple instructions.
- Doesn’t speak two-word phrases (“drink milk,” “get ball”).
- Makes vowel sounds but consonants or words.
- Doesn’t respond with or express appropriate emotions.
- Doesn’t engage in pretend play.
- Is unable to use everyday objects like spoon, brush and pillow.
- Loses skills she once had.
Children develop at their own individual pace, and 2-year-olds are definitely a work in progress. Having an open attitude and a keen sense of observation will help parents to identify and understand any improvement or changes in a child’s physical development, behaviour, communication skills and health.
Your child’s previous month: Toddler development and milestones: Your 23-month-old