Developmental Milestone Series: Ages 2 and 3

From Tantrums to Triumphs: Navigating Ages 2-3 Development

Put on your seatbelt and get ready! We are sharing a lot of information here in the hopes of helping you continue to develop as the wonderful nanny you are!

Client families know that the nannies we represent are not only experienced and professional, but knowledgeable about the various developmental milestones that children experience. Monitoring these milestones determines whether a child’s development is on track, and can provide warning signs for developmental delays. It also can explain children’s behavior (what is healthy development versus concerning), and give you direction for age-appropriate activities to reach those milestones.

Here are some key milestones to be aware of for children ages 2-3 years, although there are many more.

  • Emotional Rollercoaster: Around ages 2 and 3, kids become emotional whirlwinds. Tantrums are their go-to when they’re feeling things like frustration, anger, embarrassment, guilt, or shame, mainly because expressing these emotions is like cracking a code. They’re also tuning into how their actions affect you and how yours affect them. While they might not throw a fit when you step away, they’re still all about clinging for attention, especially when they’re tired, scared, or just in need of a cuddle.
  • Chatting Away: At 2, toddlers start stringing together 2-3 word sentences, throwing in pronouns like ‘I,’ ‘you,’ and ‘me.’ Fast forward to 3, and they’re nailing sentences with 3-5 words, maybe even more. They’re also getting the hang of taking turns in conversations and chatting about their day. With a bit of help, they might even whip up a simple story like, ‘I went to the store.’ ‘What did you do there?’ ‘Got milk.’ At 3, they’re the kings and queens of short, made-up stories based on their adventures. They’re throwing around 2-3 word phrases, asking ‘what’ and ‘where’ questions, and keeping nannies in the loop with most of their chatter.
  • Little Thinkers: Thinking caps are firmly on as toddlers start wrapping their heads around time and opposites like big/small and day/night. They’re into pointing at body parts, sorting stuff, and matching shapes and colors. Plus, they’re starting to remember what things look like (e.g., apples are red and round). Problem-solving? They’re all about trying things out and figuring it out as they go.
  • Movin’ and Groovin’: Physically, toddlers at this age are on the move. Running is their jam, and they’re falling less (cue the applause). Stairs? No biggie. They’re tackling them with both feet on each step, using the rail for backup. Kicking a ball? Check. Maybe even standing on one foot for a sec. Their throwing and catching game is on point, and they’ve probably picked a favorite hand for these activities. Exploring with a watchful eye from a caregiver boosts their confidence to try new stuff solo. And yes, it’s wise to toddler-proof the home because they’re also into jumping, tricycle riding, naming objects, and recognizing things that aren’t even around.
  • Playtime Wisdom: Playtime isn’t just fun; it’s serious learning time. Toddlers love teaming up with others, playing dress-up, hosting pretend tea parties, and getting artsy with finger paints. Taking turns? They’re getting better. Storytelling, singing, and reading are their jam too. Through play, they’re soaking up two- to three-step directions, sorting stuff by shape and color, mimicking adults, and unleashing a whole spectrum of emotions.
  • Everyday Superstars: Between 2 and 3, toddlers want in on the action. They’re rocking everyday tasks like washing hands, maybe washing themselves (bath time independence, anyone?), feeding themselves, and attempting the wardrobe struggle – putting clothes on is a work in progress, taking them off, though, is a breeze. They’re your little helpers, and pitching in with chores like sweeping or dusting boosts their pride. And hey, potty training might be on the horizon, so get ready for that next adventure.

While each child is on their own pace, and there is no formula to make sure each child hits every milestone on time, there are some ways to encourage the child’s development in years 2-3, including:

  • Reading Time: Set aside a special time for reading with toddlers to foster a love for books and a foundation for literacy.
  • Communication: Engage in conversations with the toddler, naming everyday items to boost language development. Prompt the child to share their name and age, building communication skills. Teach easy tunes like “Itsy Bitsy Spider”. Give meaning to the toddler’s talking by actively listening and responding.
  • Play: Encourage engagement in imaginative play, fostering creativity. Have fun with activities like parades or following the leader to promote interaction.
  • Explore Outdoors: Take the child on walks or wagon rides to explore the world around them. Spend time outdoors for physical and sensory development, ensuring sun safety.
  • Positive Reinforcement: Offer attention and praise for positive behavior, setting limits for defiant actions. Teach acceptable ways for the child to express their feelings when they are upset.
  • Playdates for Social Skills: Provide opportunities for the toddler to play with others, fostering social skills.
  • Cooking Activities: Involve the toddler in cooking to promote interest in healthy food, introduce new words, and familiarize them with basic math concepts. Toddlers might change what food they like from day to day. It’s normal behavior, and it’s best not to make an issue of it. Encourage them to try new foods by offering small bites to taste.
  • Everyday Skills: Encourage small and big muscle movements through everyday skills like using a spoon and putting on shoes.

Safety tips:

  • Do NOT leave the toddler near or around water without someone watching them. Drowning is the leading cause of injury and death among this age group. All it takes is 2 inches of water.
  • Encourage toddlers to sit when eating and to chew their food thoroughly to prevent choking.
  • Check toys often for loose or broken parts.
  • Encourage the toddler not to put pencils or crayons in her mouth when coloring or drawing.
  • Do NOT hold hot drinks while the child is sitting on your lap. Sudden movements can cause a spill and might result in the child being burned.
  • Make sure that the child sits in the back seat and is buckled up properly in a car seat with a harness. Safe Ride 4 Kids has an article on how to properly install car seats.
  • Set limits for screen time for toddlers to no more than 1 hour per day of quality programming.

Whew! You made it through all of the information – congrats! Hopefully you picked up a few nuggets of information to take with you as you continue to help raise and teach children. The toddler years are extremely dynamic, and we encourage you to celebrate the triumphs of toddlerhood, and foster an environment where each child can thrive, learn, and joyfully discover the world around them.