2-Year-Old Parenting Questions Answered

How to Choose Healthy Food

Congratulations, your child has officially entered toddlerhood! We are certain that you’ll have many questions related to parenting your two-year-old.

As your child enters the exciting (and sometimes terrifying) age of two, it’s natural for you to want to support your child’s growth and development during this stage. Life is somewhat different now that your little one is actively crawling, running and moving about!

This article will address the most common 2-year-old parenting questions. They cover developmental milestones, learning, toys, activities, books, eating habits, pacifier use, sleep, and tantrum management.

What milestones to look for in a 2-year-old

As your child enters the “terrible twos,” there are several developmental milestones to look for across different areas.
These can be classified as follows:

    • Movement skills, e.g. standing on tiptoes, kicking a ball, and climbing furniture without help.
    • Hand and finger development skills, e.g. scribbling, building block towers, and turning a doorknob.
    • Language skills, e.g. forming short sentences, following simple instructions, and pointing to named objects or pictures.
    • Social and emotional skills, e.g. being more independent and excited around other kids, although they tend to play alongside (rather than with) other children.
    • Learning and thinking skills, e.g., finding hidden objects, sorting shapes and colours, and following two-part instructions.

At age 2, participating in activities like drawing, reading, and counting can encourage your child’s development. By this stage, your toddler is likely walking, climbing, jumping, running, and brimming with energy. They will have an expanding vocabulary, acquiring new words consistently.

Your child should also demonstrate the ability to sort shapes and colours, and may even express interest in potty training. As your little one becomes more independent, you may notice signs of defiance as they start testing limits and exploring their surroundings.

Be sure to consult your paediatrician if you have concerns about your child’s development.

What should 2-year-olds be learning

At the age of two, your child should develop basic learning skills, be more independent, learn the basics of social etiquette, and start preparing for preschool. To determine what your child needs to know, examine the two-year-old milestones above, and assess your child’s current knowledge.

Here are some key areas to focus on with your two-year-old:

Language Skills: By now, your toddler should know at least 50 words and should be able to put at least two words together into a simple sentence (e.g. more milk, mama up). They should be able to understand simple sentences. Along with everyday words, they can be exposed to other words such as opposites and positional words like up, down, inside, and outside. At this age, they should also mouth off numbers (by simple counting) as well as tell their parents about the things they see in their environment.

Life Skills: Preschool teachers often emphasise the importance of independence. This can be simple things like asking your child to help you set the table, or wipe the table with a cloth after dinner. Thereafter, you should move on to let them eat by themselves, share with others, or learn how to dress and undress themselves.

Fine Motor Skills: Activities like cutting with a children’s scissors, playing with playdough, using tongs, scribbling and solving simple 3-piece puzzles help develop fine motor skills. It is important to ensure that your child exercises those little muscles from a young age.

Gross Motor Skills: Encourage your child to balance on one foot, walk in a line, jump with both feet together, and catch and kick a ball. At Shaws, we do a lot of sports that work on gross motor skills — it doesn’t have to be a specific sport as the idea is to expose children to all kinds of sports at a young age.

Other Concepts: Introduce your child to colours, shapes, counting, sorting, the alphabet (starting with lower case alphabets, and their name), spatial concepts, opposites, and descriptive words.
Remember, every toddler is different, so tailor your approach to your child’s needs and progress. These foundational skills will help your child succeed in preschool and beyond.

What are the best toys for 2-year-olds

Need recommendations for toys that meaningfully engage your toddler? Toys that promote creativity, problem-solving, and motor skills are ideal for 2-year-olds. Some examples include building blocks, simple puzzles, art supplies, play kitchen sets, and age-appropriate board games.

Here are some recommendations for toys that cater to the varied interests and developmental stages of two-year-olds:

    • Dough: Playdough is a fantastic way to build fine motor skills. You can provide simple tools for your child to manipulate the dough, or better still, let your child use their fingers to do it.
    • Crayons and paper: Although not a toy per se, scribbling is a great activity to build fine motor skills, and creativity.
    • Building Blocks: Toys like LEGO Duplo or large wooden blocks encourage creativity, spatial awareness, and fine motor skills.
    • Puzzles: Simple jigsaw puzzles with large pieces or wooden peg puzzles help develop problem-solving skills, hand-eye coordination, and cognitive abilities.
    • Pretend Play Toys: Kitchen sets, tool sets, doctor kits, or dress-up clothes spark imagination and promote social and emotional development through role-playing.
    • Art Supplies: Crayons, washable markers, finger paints, and large sheets of paper encourage creativity, self-expression, and fine motor skills.
    • Interactive Books: Touch-and-feel books, lift-the-flap books, or audiobooks help improve language skills, vocabulary, and engagement with reading.
    • Musical Instruments: Simple instruments like tambourines, maracas, or mini-keyboards introduce children to rhythm, sound, and creative expression.
    • Shape Sorters: Toys that involve sorting shapes and colours help develop spatial reasoning, problem-solving, and fine motor skills.
    • Push and Pull Toys: Toys that can be pushed or pulled, such as toy cars, wagons, or walkers, promote gross motor skill development and coordination.
    • Stacking Toys: Stackable toys like nesting cups, rings, or stackable blocks encourage hand-eye coordination, problem-solving, and spatial awareness.
    • Educational Toys: Look for toys that introduce basic concepts like letters, numbers, colours, and shapes, such as puzzles, flashcards, or electronic learning toys.

Always choose toys that are age-appropriate and safe for your child. By offering a variety of toys that cater to different interests and developmental areas, you’ll be supporting your 2-year-old’s growth and learning in a fun and engaging way. And remember to give your child time to explore the toys on their own. You don’t need to hover over your child. Rather, you should ask your child questions along the way, but give them autonomy to play on their own.

What activities are suitable for 2-year-olds

Is your hyper-energetic toddler driving you up the wall? You need to burn off that energy!

Engaging in a variety of activities with your 2-year-old can promote bonding, learning, and development.

Consider reading, singing, and engaging in imaginative play with them. These are excellent ways to bond with your 2-year-old while supporting their development. You should also encourage interaction during storytime and foster their creativity through pretend play.

Outdoor activities like nature walks and educational outings provide further opportunities for physical development, cognitive growth, and exposure to new experiences. Visit parks, playgrounds, or educational venues like zoos, aquariums, and children’s museums for a mix of learning and fun.

Do also expose your child to arts and crafts, sensory play, and cooking activities. These help them to develop fine motor skills while introducing basic concepts. You can nurture their creativity with simple projects that they can do, create sensory bins for exploration, and involve your child in cooking or baking tasks.

While online games and TV programmes are pitched at toddlers, we strongly advise you to minimise screen time for your 2-year-old where possible.

What books are suitable for 2-year-olds

Your toddler will enjoy books with colourful illustrations, simple stories, and repetitive text at this age. They should also be sturdy, feature familiar characters, and offer interactive elements to engage your toddler.

Here are some recommendations for you to consider:

    • “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle – This timeless classic features vibrant illustrations and a simple, repetitive story about a caterpillar’s journey to becoming a butterfly.
    • “Dear Zoo” by Rod Campbell – This lift-the-flap book is perfect for little hands, as your child can explore different animals hidden behind the flaps and learn about their characteristics.
    • “Peepo!” by Janet and Allan Ahlberg – This book features a series of holes for toddlers to peek through, allowing them to explore the world through a baby’s eyes.
    • “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle – This book introduces toddlers to various animals and colours with simple, repetitive text and vivid illustrations.
    • “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury – This interactive, repetitive story encourages children to join in as the characters go on an adventure to find a bear.
    • “Spot the Dog” series by Eric Hill – Follow the adventures of Spot the Dog in these lift-the-flap books, which combine simple stories with interactive elements to keep your toddler engaged.
    • “Guess How Much I Love You” by Sam McBratney and Anita Jeram – This heartwarming story of the love between a parent and child features gentle illustrations and simple, repetitive text perfect for bedtime reading.

Reading with your 2-year-old helps promote language development, fosters a love for literature, and strengthens parent-child relationships. To make it come alive for your tot, try to dramatise the stories with voice impersonations and facial expressions that mimic the characters in the book!

How to encourage your 2-year-old to eat

Getting your 2-year-old to eat can be a challenging task for many parents. Children can be picky eaters at this age and often prefer specific tastes and textures.

However, by following some best practices and introducing a variety of foods, you can help your child develop healthy eating habits and enjoy mealtimes.

Establish a routine: Create a consistent meal and snack schedule. Aim to serve meals and snacks at the same time each day, as this can help your toddler understand and anticipate mealtimes.

Provide a variety of foods: Offer a range of different colours, textures, and flavours. This can encourage your child to try new foods and develop a more diverse palate.

Make meals visually appealing: Serve food in an attractive manner, arranging it in fun shapes or designs. This can make the meal more enticing for your 2-year-old.

Offer small portions: Start with smaller portions and allow your child to ask for more if they’re still hungry. This can help prevent overwhelming them with too much food.

Be patient and persistent: It’s common for toddlers to reject new foods initially. Please don’t give up; it can take multiple tries before a child accepts and enjoys a new food.

Encourage self-feeding: Allow your 2-year-old to feed themselves using child-friendly utensils. This can help them feel in control and encourage independence during mealtimes. It’s ok if they’re a little (or a lot) messier than if they’re being fed!

Discourage snacking before meals: Don’t offer a lot of snacks or milk before mealtime — no one will eat if they are already full!

Limit providing alternatives: This is a tricky one, but if your child knows that you’re going to provide an alternative (be it another type of food or a bottle of milk), they’ll know that they don’t have to eat what’s provided in the main meal. We are not saying to not provide alternatives, but do bear this in mind.

Involve them in food preparation: When you can, involve your child in the preparation of the food, no matter how simple their roles are.

Finally, avoid using food as a reward or punishment. Remember that your toddler is still trying to figure out what tastes they enjoy or dislike.

How to stop pacifier use for your 2-year-old

It’s natural for parents to wonder how to wean their 2-year-old off of pacifier use — prolonged use can lead to dental and speech issues.

However, pulling it off and throwing it away can lead to colossal battles with your toddler, and we don’t want that, do we?

The key to successfully stopping pacifier use is to approach it with patience and understanding, as your little one may rely on it for comfort and self-soothing. To simplify the process, you can break it down into a few manageable steps.

Start by gradually reducing the time your child uses the pacifier during the day. Encourage them to engage in activities that keep their hands and mouths busy, like blowing bubbles, drawing, or playing with toys.

You can also set specific rules, such as no pacifiers during playtime or outside the home. By limiting its use, your child will slowly become less dependent on the pacifier for comfort.

Lastly, offer alternative comfort methods to help your child transition from the pacifier. For example, you could introduce a comfort object, like a stuffed toy or blanket, to provide security.

In addition, be sure to provide plenty of hugs, cuddles, and reassurance during this period. With time, patience, and consistency, your 2-year-old will learn to let go of their pacifier and embrace new ways of self-soothing.

PS — Kids at Shaws Preschool do not use pacifiers. This should be good news to parents!

How to get your 2-year-old to sleep

Getting your 2-year-old to sleep can sometimes feel like a monumental task! We know because we’ve all been there.

Try to establish a consistent and calming bedtime routine. It should begin about 30 minutes before your child’s desired bedtime and include activities such as taking a warm bath, reading a story, or singing lullabies.

Creating a sleep-friendly environment further helps your 2-year-old to drift off to dreamland. Keep their bedroom quiet, cool, and dimly lit, ensuring it’s a space for relaxation and sleep.

In extreme cases, consider using white noise machines or soft music to help block out any outside noises that could disrupt your child’s slumber. Additionally, providing a comfortable object, such as a favourite stuffed toy or blanket, can offer security and make it easier for your little one to settle down.

Finally, make sure your child has ample opportunities for physical activity during the day. Encourage playtime, outdoor exploration, and other age-appropriate activities that help burn off energy.

Ensuring your 2-year-old is physically tired by bedtime increases the likelihood of them falling asleep more easily. With a consistent routine, a comfortable environment, and plenty of daytime activity, your little one will soon be on their way to a restful night’s sleep.

How to manage a 2-year-old’s tantrums

Last but certainly not least, the topic that every 2-year-old’s parent wrestles with: toddler tantrums!

Managing a 2-year-old’s tantrums can be a test of patience. But, with a few helpful strategies, you can navigate these emotional outbursts more effectively.

Firstly, prevention is key. Pay attention to your child’s cues and try to address their needs before they become overwhelmed. If they’re hungry, tired, or overstimulated, address those issues promptly to reduce the likelihood of a tantrum.

When a tantrum does occur, do stay calm and composed. If your child hits, bites or throws things at others, you should stop them immediately and remove them from the situation.
Take a deep breath. Do not yell. Instead, speak in calm and measured tones.

Offer comfort and reassurance, but avoid giving in to unreasonable demands. You would want to avoid sending the signal that tantrums are a successful way to get what they want.

If necessary, give brief commands. The more specific, the better. For example, “Don’t hit your sister!” or “Don’t throw your food on the floor!”

Finally, after the tantrum has subsided, use the opportunity to teach your child healthier ways to express their emotions. Encourage them to use words to describe their feelings and offer praise when communicating effectively.

Staying calm, maintaining boundaries, and teaching emotional regulation ensure you’re better equipped to manage your 2-year-old’s tantrums.