Your toddler at 2-3 years

The baby stage is well and truly behind your child now, which probably brings about mixed emotions for you ranging from grief, relief, joy, and sadness. Your 2-3 year-old is still highly dependent on you and their trusted caregivers, and in terms of brain development they are still in infancy (which lasts from birth to three years) and require co-regulation.

In other words, although they’re becoming more and more independent, they still need your help to regulate their (often very big!) emotions.

Your toddler is more and more a little person now, and their personality will shine through even stronger. Toddlers are a lot of fun, chaos, giggles, mess, and cuddles!

Let’s take a look at what developmental milestones you might observe, or will do at some point, in your 2-3 year-old. And remember that this is only a rough guide, as every child has their own personal rate of development.

Your toddler at 2-3 years 

Toddlers like to do things their own way and in their own time, so it’s important to have a safe environment for them to play, explore, and learn in.

There’s so much going on for children at this stage. In terms of physical development, your toddler may be running, jumping on the spot, kicking and catching a ball, walking up and down stairs confidently, and perhaps falling less (phew!).

Socially, your little one will start to enjoy playing with other children, including imaginative play such as dress-ups and tea parties. They may be starting to get used to taking it in turns as well.

Your toddler is starting to understand how their actions affect others, and how others’ actions affect them. Now your toddler could be showing decreased separation anxiety and might not get as afraid or upset when you leave them.

Emotionally, this is one of the most important ages for development. Temper tantrums are normal, and a result of your little one not knowing how to put their big emotions into words or how to soothe themselves. All of these new emotions of embarrassment, shame, guilt, frustration, and anger are new and overwhelming to a little person.

As their independence grows, they’ll be starting to do a lot more for themselves, such as washing their hands, getting dressed, and perhaps learning to use the toilet or potty (to get started, see Toilet learning: A practical guide). They might be keen to help you with household chores, so get them involved with sweeping, dusting, and helping in the kitchen to boost their confidence.

With regards to their intellectual or cognitive development, they may be starting to understand concepts such as opposites, and they could be sorting objects, matching shapes and colours, and problem-solving by trying things over and over. They’re like mini scientists!

They will increasingly have more words in their vocabulary and begin to use 2-3 word sentences at 2 years of age, such as ‘I want milk’, and use 3-5 word (or more) sentences at 3 years of age.

Even though they understand the word ‘no’, they still can’t control their impulses enough to do what you say. The reasoning part of their brain is still very immature and underdeveloped. So, try to limit those negative words as they will have a powerful effect on how your child sees the world and themselves.

Instead, suggest alternatives or explain the dangers as simply as you can. By having ‘yes’ spaces in the home and when you go out where possible, your child will feel free to explore safely and positively.

What is your toddler eating?

Solid foods are your child’s main source of energy and nutrition, and water is still their main drink. However, breast milk still provides important nutrition and protection, but other foods should be offered first.

Your child may have once eaten pretty much anything you put in front of them, but toddlers at this age often start to go through fussy eating stages. We have lots of great expert tips for this in the following articles:

How is your toddler sleeping?

Nobody truly ‘sleeps through the night’. It’s biologically normal and healthy for toddlers to wake overnight. Their brain is undergoing significant development during this stage, which can impact their sleep, along with teething, illness, anxiety, hunger, food intolerance, environmental factors…among many other valid reasons for night waking. They may also develop nighttime fears and nightmares from about 2 years of age or later.

Your toddler at 2-3 years may or may not still be having a lunchtime nap. When they drop this nap depends on the individual child, and until then some days they may need longer daytime sleep than others, while other days they might not nap at all.

There’s no point in trying to force it. If they resist naps some days and haven’t fallen asleep after 20 minutes, move on. Go and do something else with them and try again after about half an hour. You don’t want to be creating a negative association with naptime or end up with any kind of battle.

Your 2-3 year-old may still need parental support to go to sleep, or in other words, some toddlers can self-settle while others still need help. When a child can fall asleep independently is developmental and will happen when they’re ready.


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