“Physical development consists of both gross motor (GM) and fine motor (FM) development,” says Cheryl Wu, M.D., of LaGuardia Place Pediatrics in New York City. “And while every child develops at their own pace, there are certain milestones I expect most of my patients (90 to 95 percent) to achieve by their second birthday.”
At around two years of age, a child should be able to have enough balance to jump up, with both her feet leaving the ground. She can climb a staircase holding onto the railing, using one foot at a time. She can make scribbles (straight lines) holding a pencil. She may not have a preference for either the right hand or the left hand at this age, or she may start to favor one hand over another. She can feed herself pretty well now, getting most of the food in her mouth, but she is by no means a neat or willing eater. She can stack a tower of blocks pretty high – at least eight to ten blocks.
“Encourage your child to achieve her physical development goals by playing with her,” says Brenda Rogers, M.D., a general pediatrician at Children’s Mercy Hospitals and Clinics in Kansas City, Missouri. "Go outside and play ball. Hop around the yard or play follow the leader, encouraging your child to perform new physical activities. The park is a great place to socialize and let your child see other children performing new activities. Just be creative and have fun!
We’ve all heard of the terrible twos, and there are some days you might feel like you’re experiencing them firsthand. A parent’s greatest source of stress: tantrums. If your child is having them, you’re not alone – they’re normal for this age group and a part of the process of your child trying to become independent and testing boundaries (mainly yours).
Tantrums can also take place because your child doesn’t understand his emotions yet and hasn’t fully developed the verbal skills to express his anger, frustration, fear, and other emotions. “A good way to deal with a tantrum is through distraction,” says Carl Sheperis, Ph.D., the director of doctoral programs for Walden University’s School of Counseling and Social Service. “It’s not punishment – it’s simply removing your child from the stimulant that is triggering the bad behavior.”
Two-year-olds also have a better sense of their own personal belongings, which causes them to be hesitant to share with other kids. You can model good behavior by letting your child see Mom and Dad sharing (a cookie, the newspaper, the remote control). But keep in mind that a child technically does not truly understand the concept of sharing until about age five, says Sara Lise Raff, an educational consultant.
And remember, a 2-year-old’s behavior isn’t all bad: Your toddler loves physical affection and can even return those hugs and kisses back to you. He also does better when he knows what comes next, so a consistent schedule is still important at this age.
Twenty-four months is the “magic” number in terms of deciding if a child is on track with speech or is a “late talker,” says Lauren Krause, Chief of Speech-Language Pathology at La Rabida Children’s Hospital in Chicago, IL. This is one reason why many children are tested and diagnosed with a speech delay during their second year. “By 24 months, your child should have a vocabulary of 50 words, such as ‘more,’ ‘juice’ and ‘Grandma.’” During the course of his second year, you should also notice him putting together two-word sentences (“My ball.” “Car go.”). Don’t worry about pronunciation at this point – only about 50 percent of what he says will be completely understandable. “There really is no reason to worry unless the child is not making any consonant sounds and it all still sounds like babbling,” says Krause.
A cause for concern would be if your child is not responding to you. “If you notice you have to repeat something three or four times, or your child continually ignores you when you speak to him, that is a red flag,” says Krause. “Many parents will say, ‘Oh, I think he’s just lazy,’ but I’ve found that isn’t the case with most children. Most want to engage with their parents and others.”
One culprit could be a middle inner ear infection; another is a speech delay. In either case, consult with your child’s pediatrician and trust your gut. “Even if the doctor thinks it’s nothing to be concerned about, if you feel there might be a delay, get it checked,” says Krause.