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Milestones for 2-Year-Olds

Topic Overview

Children usually progress in a natural, predictable sequence from one developmental milestone to the next. But each child grows and gains skills at his or her own pace. Some children may be advanced in one area, such as language, but behind in another, such as sensory and motor development.

Milestones usually are categorized into five major areas: physical growth, cognitive development, emotional and social development, language development, and sensory and motor development.

Physical growth and development

Your child grows at his or her own pace, and healthy growth is different for every child. Your child's natural growth rate may be slower or faster than the example below.

Most children by age 2:

  • Have grown about 38 cm (15 in.) since birth.
  • Gain weight and grow at a steady but slower pace than during their first 12 months of life. Between 12 and 24 months of age, expect your child to gain about 1.5 kg (3 lb) to 2.5 kg (5 lb), grow an average of 7.5 cm (3 in.) to 13 cm (5 in.), and gain about 2.5 cm (1 in.) in head circumference (the measurement around the top of the head).

Thinking and reasoning (cognitive development)

Most children by age 2:

  • Begin to understand simple time concepts, such as "now," "later," or "a few minutes." (The distant future or "forever" are too complex to conceptualize at this age.)
  • Follow simple requests, such as "Put the book on the table." But two-step instructions, such as "Wash your hands and come here," usually cannot be completed.
  • Recognize basic symbolism, such as nodding the head for yes or no.
  • Often want to do two incompatible things at the same time. For example, a 2-year-old may want to go out in the snow and wear his or her slippers.
  • Start to play "pretend," such as by talking on a toy telephone.
  • Begin to recognize and sort objects by shape and colour.

Emotional and social development

Most children by age 2 are:

  • Developing self-awareness, the realization that they are individuals and are separate from other people. Although children are excited by their developing skills, they also are often struggling with their emerging independence. Your child may resist your comforting one minute, only to run clinging to you the next. They understand and use the word "no" as a way to assert themselves. Sometimes calmly redirecting your child or stating the request in a different way will help this behaviour. But a child can also stubbornly resist direction. Temper tantrums reflect related frustrations and competing feelings.
  • Aware that they may not always get what they want or that they may have to wait for it. Although many children also start to see a relationship between how they act and what happens next, they often act on impulse. They often do not behave consistently, because they can't yet completely anticipate the consequences of their actions.
  • Interested in observing and imitating other people.
  • Interested and excited about being with other children. But they still engage in parallel play—playing next to, but usually not with, other children. They usually have not mastered sharing and other co-operation skills.
  • Not concerned about gender differences, but start to recognize that they exist. Usually, they are noticing simple clues, such as hair length or clothing.

Language development

Most children by age 2:

  • Use at least 50 words.
  • Put two words together, such as "no bottle."
  • Name some body parts and familiar objects, such as "toy" or "cat."
  • Speak with a mix of made-up words and understandable words.
  • Repeat words they overhear, such as from adult conversations.

Sensory and motor development

Most children by age 2:

  • See and hear well.
  • Are rapidly developing motor skills. Around the second birthday, children can usually go up and down stairs one step at a time, kick a ball, and are starting to run. Most children can also stand on their tiptoes. You may see your child carrying toys, sometimes large toys, around the house. Pull-toys are also a favourite around this age.
  • Scribble and draw simple strokes with a crayon. They can also pour out toys or other objects from a container and build a tower with 4 or more blocks. You may notice your child using one hand more than the other.


Current as of:
September 20, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
John Pope MD - Pediatrics
Thomas M. Bailey MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Louis Pellegrino MD - Developmental Pediatrics