You officially have a 2 year old! 24 months of developmental milestones later, we’re sure you’re in awe of your little one’s growth. Starting off with their 24 month old checkup with your pediatrician, you may have lots of excitement, and a little bit of caution, for all that’s ahead.
As you enter this new year, you may have been warned of the “terrible twos”. A rollercoaster of emotions is common at this age and part of your 24 month old’s developmental milestones. It’s hard for them to express themselves and understand why they can’t always have their way.
Don’t worry though—it’s not all tantrums this year! Their confidence, vocabulary, and budding humor are things to look forward to. Continue on for more on what our team of pediatricians and sleep experts have to say about what you may expect for 2 year old developmental milestones.
Life With a 2 Year Old
Parenting a 2 year old is both delightful and dynamic! 24 month milestones are marked by incredible growth and discovery, as your toddler continues to assert their independence and develop their personality.
Between boundless energy, endless curiosity, and an expanding vocabulary, don’t be surprised if you’re constantly answering the questions "why?" and "what's that?". It’s all part of them trying to soak up as much knowledge as possible, and a big developmental milestone at 2 years old.
Their physical advances are often displayed on the playground or when running around the house. They are much steadier on their feet, but don’t let their confidence fool you—they likely still need help to do things such as climb the stairs.
As your toddler navigates the complexities of their emotions and newfound desires for autonomy, expect some tantrums. Establishing routines can provide a sense of stability for you all, but still expect the unexpected reactions and behaviors. Your 2 year old’s world is constantly evolving—and potentially overwhelming.
Cherish the small victories, savor the sweet moments, and remember that each day brings new opportunities for laughter, growth, and the joy. Take a breath and enjoy the ride—it goes by fast.
Sleep and Naptime at 2 Year Old
Your 2 year old should be sleeping around 9 to 13 hours a day with one nap that’s about two hours long. Too much daytime sleep can affect their nights at this age. Try the Smart Sleep Coach by PampersTM app to optimize and adjust your 2 year old’s schedule to align with their circadian rhythm and ensure they’re getting the right type of sleep and when. The app promotes the most restorative sleep, which is a big part of them reaching their 24 month old developmental milestones. It’s also super helpful in getting your toddler through a sleep regression which could occur around this age because of teething or separation anxiety.
The start of night terrors and nightmares
Night terrors a normal part of a 2 year old’s development and most will outgrow them. They are thought to be related to the development of their central nervous system and their ability to regulate sleep cycles. Unlike nightmares, which are more common in older children, night terrors usually happen within the first few hours of sleep during a deep sleep cycle (called non-REM or non-rapid eye movement).
Night terrors can be scary for caregivers because your toddler may appear extremely distressed, crying, screaming, or thrashing around. However, they aren’t fully awake and it’s better for you to let it run its course. They may even seem confused if you try to comfort them. Luckily for them, they rarely have any recollection the next day.
How to reduce the frequency of night terrors in a 2 year old
- Establish a consistent bedtime routine
- Make sure your toddler gets enough sleep
- Reduce stress
The Smart Sleep Coach by PampersTM app can help you create a bedtime routine that is based around making sure your toddler gets enough restorative sleep. The stability of a routine can help reduce stress in 2 year olds, too. If night terrors continue, get in touch with your pediatrician.
Motor Skills Milestones for 2 Year Old
At 2 years old, toddlers typically reach various motor skills milestones. By now they already should be able to walk and run and have started attempting to draw and use their hands for various activities such as eating. They’re less clumsy now than they were when they were closer to one and are much more confident with the stairs and playground structures. Remember all toddlers develop differently and not all will achieve these milestones at the exact same time. Here’s a general list of physical 24 month old developmental milestones you may expect.
- Gross Motor Skills: Climbing, jumping, kicking, carrying large toys, and even throwing balls! The confidence in their physical ability is leaps beyond where it was last year.
- Fine Motor Skills: Stacking and building to completing puzzles, most 2 year olds have much more hand strength! Some can even make marks on paper and turn pages of books. They likely will be using their hands to touch and explore basically everything.
- Hand-Eye Coordination: At this age some 2 year olds may be physically ready to catch a ball. Their self-feeding skills also are way improved.
- Coordination and Balance: Some 2 year olds may start to attempt to walk backward or even turn in a circle or pivot. Others may be able to stand on one foot for a few seconds.
Remember, these are general 24 month milestones, and there is a wide range of normal for how toddlers develop. If you have concerns about your 24 month old’s motor skills development, discuss them with your pediatrician.
Communication Skills Milestones for 2 Year Old
Cognitive development at 2 years old is amazing to see, and this year your 24 month old’s vocabulary will continue to explode! At this age they may be starting to string together a few two-to-four-word sentences, but it’s completely normal if they can’t.
At 2 years old many toddlers know their name and can point out things when asked—such as a body part, family member, or favorite toy.
You also may be able to understand them better, which could limit tantrums or frustration they may show when they don’t convey what they want.
Imitation continues all through toddlerhood as they keep learning and soaking up the world around them, so try and model good behavior when they’re around and use words that you want them to use, too.
Emotional Development of a 2 Year Old
Temper tantrums are a big part of the “terrible twos.” At this age your toddler has opinions and is independent, and if they don't get their way they’re unable to process the disappointment or frustration. However, it’s important to remember tantrums are normal and temporary and all part of them learning how to emotionally regulate.
On the flip side, a 24 month old developmental milestone includes empathy. You may see them comforting a peer if they are sad or even you if you seem unhappy. Keep talking to them about your own emotions to help them learn the words they need to explain how they feel.
Separation anxiety may continue into their second year. Be quick with goodbyes and remind them that you’ll be back and when.
More on Temper Tantrums at 2 Years Old
According to the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, nearly 90% of 2 year olds have had a tantrum. Tantrums may include yelling, stamping, screaming, and crying and are a completely normal part of your toddler trying to figure out their emotions and how to communicate. Even more aggressive tantrums (with hitting) are developmentally appropriate.
While tantrums are normal and decrease with age, it can be frustrating for parents in the moment. Help your toddler communicate their feelings—for example, “I understand you’re sad that it's time to go to bed” is a good thing to say to validate them. Modeling calm behavior is also a good tool to calm and regulate them. You can also try to distract or redirect during a tantrum, or even give them some physical love such as a big hug. While it works for some toddlers, others may need the tantrum to get out their feelings.
What to Expect at the 2 Year Old Checkup
Here’s a list of what you may expect from the pediatrician at your 24 month old’s 2 year checkup:
- Measure their weight and height
- Observe their physical development and ask questions such as if they can kick a ball, balance, and use the stairs
- Ask questions to assess their sensory development
- Talk with them to observe their emotional development (stranger danger, empathy)
- Ask questions about how many words they know
- Discuss potty training (they are likely not there yet) and school
- Talk about screen time
- Give tips on how to incorporate more foods into their diet, if they’re picky
- Answer any questions you may have
Your pediatrician is there for any support you may need with your 2 year old. They know how to assess 24 month old developmental milestones and will flag if something surrounding their development needs attention. Make sure to ask questions and share any concerns you may have—you know your toddler best!
How We Wrote This Article
The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.
CDC, “How Much Sleep Do I need?”
American Academy of Pediatrics, “Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5”
American Academy of Pediatrics, “The Wonder Years”
American Academy of Pediatrics, “Media and Young Minds”
Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, “Toddler Bedtime Routines and Associations With Nighttime Sleep Duration and Maternal and Household Factors”
Behavioral Sleep Medicine, “The Family Context of Toddler Sleep: Routines, Sleep Environment, and Emotional Security Induction in the Hour before Bedtime”
Mayo Clinic, “Infant and toddler health”
Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, “Temper Tantrums in Toddlers and Preschoolers: Longitudinal Associations with Adjustment Problems”