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The second birthday marks a turning point in your child’s development. By 24 months, there’s no denying the fact your child isn’t a baby anymore! (Even though they’ll always be your baby no matter how old they get.) But what specific 2 year old milestones should you watch for?

At this age, children are not only rapidly expanding their mastery of motor skills, but also expanding in their emotional intelligence and ability to meaningfully communicate and interact with others, and defining their own unique personalities.

Let’s take a look at 2 year old milestones, starting with physical development and then moving on to cognitive and social/emotional advances. Then we’ll talk a bit about what you can do to help your child master them.

Table Of Contents

Physical 2 Year Old Milestones


At the 24-month mark, the theme of your little one’s life is making big moves! Your child can now go just about anywhere, including places you would rather they didn’t go.

While they may have been a bit wobbly at 18 months, walking is no problem now, and their enthusiasm for new discoveries will have them running (and you running after them).

Most children can go up and down stairs by this age, although they may need to hold a railing (which you should encourage to be safe).

More concerning for mom and dad is the tendency for many two year olds to start climbing. Almost anything where they think they can find a hand or foothold can be used to put their budding mountaineering skills to the test.

If you didn’t already do it as part of baby-proofing, now is the time to look at anchoring heavy furniture items, like bookshelves and dressers, so they can’t tip over on a climbing tot.

On a less adventurous note, by age two, most children are proficient in using table utensils and drinking from a cup, can easily manipulate other objects (pushing and pulling, putting toys in bins or baskets, etc.), and can “help” with tasks like putting on or taking off their pajamas.

Your child will be part-way through teething at this point, with the full set of baby teeth likely complete by age two and a half or three.

Some other physical milestones at age two include:

  • Scribbling on paper (or walls, or furniture…)
  • Kicking a ball
  • Building towers of four or more blocks
  • Starting to favor a dominant hand (although they’ll probably still switch back and forth)

Mastering Milestones

To help your child develop more precision in their fine motor skills, give them opportunities to do “gentle” tasks.

This could be turning the page in the book when you read to them or putting together a simple puzzle. Show them how to fasten buttons when you’re getting them dressed. Consider a craft project like stringing beads.

Cognitive 2 Year Old Milestones

 Cognitive 2 Year Old Milestones

Cognitive developments at the two year mark are all about communication, comprehension, and copying.

Most two year olds understand about 50 words and can form two- to four-word sentences to communicate their desires, like “Pick me up” or “More juice.” They’re also often fond of repeating words they hear even if they don’t know what they mean (so watch what you say!).

Most two year olds are fully capable of understanding instructions more complex than they could express in their own words, for example, “Get the package of wipes from my purse and bring it to me.”

Object permanence is no problem by this age, and more of the people and things your child encounters get retained in memory. They should be starting to develop the ability to “categorize” objects by type, shape, and color.

At this age, children often start to play simple make-believe games, sometimes incorporating elements of imitation. An example would be acting out a bedtime routine for a doll which mimics their own bedtime routine with mom and dad.

Other cognitive 2 year old milestones to watch for might include:

  • Being able to find objects “hidden” under two or more covers
  • Completing sentences in favorite books when you read to them
  • Pointing at things to express interest

Mastering Milestones

Find opportunities to prompt your child to get a certain object and bring it to you, or try playing a simple game of “I spy” where you pick something in the room and have them guess what it is, giving them hints as necessary.

Talk to your child whenever possible while you’re doing other activities with them. Point out the names of things you see when you’re in the park together, and “discuss” your plans for the day while you’re getting them dressed.

Social And Emotional 2 Year Old Milestones

Social And Emotional 2 Year Old Milestones

The main themes of 2 year old milestones in the social and emotional realm are interacting with others and asserting independence.

At age two, children begin to take more notice of other children and might enjoy actually playing with their peers, although parallel play is more common. When interactive play does occur, it isn’t always harmonious, as possessiveness and jealousy can lead to squabbles over toys.

As your child develops their own preferences and becomes able to do more things for themselves, they may test the limits of their growing independence, seeing how parents respond to defiant behavior. You may also see your first temper tantrums at this age.

It’s common for children at this age to insist on doing basic tasks like applying sunscreen themselves to prove to you (and themselves) that they can, which can sometimes be frustrating if you’re in a hurry or if your child isn’t quite as good at the task as they think they are.

Although they don’t have much ability to regulate their own emotions yet, two year olds are starting to become aware of the emotions of others and react empathetically. You may see them take notice when others are upset, and react empathetically if a sibling or playmate cries.

Other social and emotional milestones that often happen around age two include:

  • Developing definite preferences for certain toys or clothes
  • Looking at mom or dad in a new situation to see how you’re reacting

Mastering Milestones

Work together with your child on a project like building a block tower or putting together a puzzle, or play a game that requires handing a toy back and forth. This will help them get used to sharing and encourage them to engage in collaborative play with other children.

If your child notices a time when you’re sad or frustrated, explain to them what you’re feeling. This can even work if their behavior is the reason you’re upset.

Relate your emotions to times when your child gets upset to help them understand other people have the same feelings they do.

Developmental Delays And When To Talk To A Doctor

So you now have an idea of the usual 2 year old milestones in the areas of physical skills, cognitive advancement, and social/emotional development. But what if your child has turned two, or is almost two, and they haven’t reached most of these milestones yet?

Before we continue, it’s important to remember that every child develops at their own pace. Some children might achieve certain milestones early while not hitting others until later.

Additionally, children who were born premature often lag slightly behind their calendar age in developmental milestones.

That said, certain skills and behaviors are generally expected to be observable by a child’s second birthday, and their absence can be a sign of developmental delay.

Talk to your pediatrician if your two year old:

  • Does not follow simple instructions
  • Does not use two-word sentences
  • Can’t walk steadily or walks only on their toes
  • Doesn’t show any inclination to imitate actions or repeat words
  • Doesn’t know how to use simple objects like a spoon or comb

Looking Ahead At Age Two

 Dad holding son on shoulder

A lot is going on in your child’s life at age two. Two year old milestones include ever-more-impressive physical feats, expressing their desires and personalities, and learning how to relate to others.

You can help your toddler master 2 year old milestones by taking time to interact with them and finding opportunities for them to practice in day-to-day life. Don’t fret if your two year old hasn’t hit every milestone, but talk to a professional if you have serious concerns.

The terrible (or maybe not-so-terrible) twos lie just ahead. Potty training is in the near future (if it hasn’t already begun), and before you know it they’ll be heading off to school!

Stay tuned to the Mustela blog for more tips on developmental milestones and baby and toddler parenting.