You’ll hear the term “terrible two’s” from family and friends, but really Two’s are misunderstood! Two’s can be exhausting. . . they are curious! They are more independent and aware of their own self (being separate from others). Two’s are beginning to socialize with other children and while they will sometimes just play near another child, they are beginning to engage in play such as chase. They want to know what adults are up to and will enjoy mimicking behavior of older children or adults in their life. Parents, be warned that little eyes and ears are watching your every move. Their independence is bittersweet, because while they are beginning to do things themself like put their shoes on or button their shirt, they also become more defiant. These new found opportunities along with more freedom and combined with curiosity, will often lead to your Two doing what they are told not to do. They want to see what will happen! Midway through Two, you may notice episodes of separation anxiety. Know that this is a developmental stage and should fade.
Two recognizes so much more! Not only will they mimic you, but they are learning the names of familiar people, and they can label body parts and other objects. Two enjoys pointing things out in pictures and labeling things when given the chance. Many Twos have the ability to speak in simple sentences with 2-4 words such as “I want milk please”, “My turn!”, or “I love you.” It’s fun to practice these phrases with your Two and encourage them to mimic you - but adults beware! Your Two is a little sponge. How adults communicate to each other and to children is being watched, be mindful to create healthy communication!
Two is learning every waking second. They are developing problem-solving skills and can find things even when hidden under two or three covers. This makes hide and seek a fun game! Sorting things by shapes or colors can also be fun for your two. Encourage and ask them for help when sorting laundry or food. Two loves to be read to. Encourage them by having them help you complete sentences and/or rhymes in familiar books. Other games that are productive for Two are ones where they can follow simple instructions, such as Simon Says or Red Light Green Light. Remember, Two’s brain is learning and integrating so many things! Learning should be FUN and Two NEEDS PLAY to help them process all the new experiences that they are having. Interactive games such as Simon Says or Red Light Green Light are great, but also allow your Two to engage in simple make-believe games (kitchen, house, or doctor) so that they can share their imagination with you!
It should be no surprise that Two’s are on the move! The brain of a Two, is growing exponentially meaning they need as much sleep as an infant so that they can integrate all the information they are learning. This is often the time many children start sleeping independently, moving into big kid beds! They still need naps to help them regulate their bodies(12-14hrs of sleep in 24 is healthy). If Two’s are not getting enough sleep they tend to have more separation anxiety, moodiness, and overtired tantrums. They will still wake at times and nightmares may present, this is expected as their imaginations grow. Parents need to be aware of their own sleep patterns and how much sleep they are getting. Monitoring if lack of sleep is taking a toll on parental self care is notable at this time.
When not sleeping, Two’s will often run everywhere. They like to kick and throw a ball, climb on furniture without help, and stand on their tiptoes. Encourage your Two by assigning them tasks such as pulling or carrying toys to different areas, and get their energy out, because there is a lot of it! Two will enjoy going up and down the stairs on their own, and while this can be anxiety provoking for the parent, encourage and remind them to hang on to the hand rails! Two’s are developing fine motor skills. Sit down and draw (or scribble) with your Two! This is a great time to engage them in mimic or copying you by asking them to draw the same shapes that you are. Practice drawing lines or circles with your two. It’s during this time that you might notice them using one hand more frequently than the other. Sensory bins are another great activity for Two’s, as they LOVE to explore rice, beans, sand, and/or water bins. They also enjoy getting to pour things - because they watch Mom and Dad do this all the time and are usually not allowed to try it on their own with the orange juice or milk! So give them the opportunity to build this skill in play!
Two’s are tricky and child development is not one-size fits all. Some children just need a little extra time to learn skills, while others might master something early. The developmental milestones are a general idea of when children gain specific skills. If you have concerns about certain skills that your Two has not mastered, talk to your pediatrician. Concerns at two may be:
Doesn’t use 2-word phrases (for example, “drink milk”)
Doesn’t know what to do with common things, like a brush, phone, fork, spoon
Doesn’t copy actions and words
Doesn’t follow simple instructions
Doesn’t walk steadily
Loses skills they once had
Cannot walk by eighteen months
Fails to develop a mature heel-toe walking pattern after several months of walking, or walks exclusively on his toes
Does not speak at least fifteen words by eighteen months
Does not seem to know the function of common household objects (brush, telephone, bell, fork, spoon) by fifteen months
Does not imitate actions or words by the end of this period
Does not follow simple instructions by age two
Cannot push a wheeled toy by age two
Parenting is hard work, parenting a Two-takes balance. It can be stressful and as a result it can trigger even more stress in a parents life. It can help to strive to identify all the amazing things Two’s do and see daily. Be curious with Two and their view of the world. It can also be difficult to connect or attune with your child at times. When this occurs, it may be beneficial to engage in your own therapeutic work. Nothing makes you look at the way you were parented more than becoming a parent yourself. Parents who have experienced struggles with their own attachment figures may likely see these challenges arise when parenting their own children. The best thing you can do for your child is to heal your own past wounds. Parental health and wellbeing directly affects the parents capability of connecting and being with their child. Addressing issues sooner rather than later will reduce the likelihood of affecting the healthy development of your child.