Developmental milestones for 2-year-olds

By Amanda Morin

Developmental milestones for 2-year-olds, 2 year olds, little boy building with blocks

At a glance

  • At this age, toddlers gain many social, language, learning, and physical skills.

  • They typically reach new milestones throughout the year.

  • Some 2-year-olds have delays in their development.

The toddler years are in full swing for 2-year-olds, and it’s a big time for growth. But you may not be sure what skills are typical for kids this age. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a list of milestones, which it updated with many changes in 2022. The agency moved some of the milestones to different age ranges, which some experts question. The CDC milestones below can help you know what to expect. If your child isn’t meeting them, it can point to possible developmental delays. If you have concerns, be sure to talk to your child’s health care provider.

The CDC milestones below can help you know what to expect by 24 months30 months, and 36 months.

You can also learn more about: 

At 24 months

Social/emotional milestones

  • Notices when others are hurt or upset, like pausing or looking sad when someone is crying
  • Looks at your face to see how to react in a new situation

Language/communication milestones

  • Points to things in a book when you ask, like “Where is the bear?”
  • Says at least two words together, like “More milk.”
  • Points to at least two body parts you name, like nose or toes
  • Uses more gestures than just waving and pointing, like blowing a kiss or nodding yes 

Cognitive milestones (learning, thinking, problem-solving)

  • Holds something in one hand while using the other hand; for example, holding a crayon box and taking out a crayon
  • Tries to use switches, knobs, or buttons on a toy
  • Plays with more than one toy at the same time, like putting toy food on a toy plate 

Movement/physical development milestones

  • Kicks a ball
  • Runs
  • Walks (not climbs) up a few stairs with or without help
  • Eats with a spoon

By 30 months

Social/emotional milestones

  • Plays next to other children and sometimes plays with them
  • Shows you what they can do by saying, “Look at me!”
  • Follows simple routines when told, like helping to pick up toys when you say, “It’s clean-up time.”

Language/communication milestones

  • Says about 50 words
  • Says two or more words together, with one action word, like “Doggie run”
  • Names things in a book when you point and ask, “What is this?”
  • Says words like “I,” “me,” or “we”

Cognitive milestones (learning, thinking, problem-solving)

  • Uses things to pretend, like feeding a block to a doll as if it were food
  • Shows simple problem-solving skills, like standing on a small stool to reach something
  • Follows two-step instructions like “Put the toy down and close the door.”
  • Shows they know at least one color, like pointing to a red crayon when you ask, “Which one is red?”

Movement/physical development milestones

  • Uses hands to twist things, like turning doorknobs or unscrewing lids
  • Takes some clothes off without help, like loose pants or an open jacket
  • Jumps off the ground with both feet
  • Turns book pages, one at a time, when you read out loud

By 36 months

Social/emotional milestones

  • Calms down within 10 minutes after you leave (if they have separation anxiety)
  • Notices other children and joins them to play

Language/communication milestones

  • Talks with you in conversation using at least two back-and-forth exchanges
  • Asks “who,” “what,” “where,” or “why” questions, like “Where is Mommy/Daddy?”
  • Says what action is happening in a picture or book when asked, like “running,” “eating,” or “playing”
  • Says first name, when asked
  • Talks well enough for others to understand, most of the time

Cognitive milestones (learning, thinking, problem-solving)

  • Copies a circle when you show them how
  • Avoids touching hot objects, like a stove, when warned

Movement/physical development milestones

  • Strings items together, like large beads or macaroni
  • Puts on some clothes without help, like loose pants or a jacket
  • Uses a fork

All kids develop at their own rate, and some take more time than others. But if your toddler isn’t meeting the majority of these milestones by 3, let your child’s health care provider know. You can talk about whether an early intervention evaluation makes sense for your toddler.

Key takeaways

  • By the end of this year, kids are usually asking many “why” questions.

  • Most speak clearly enough that strangers can understand what they say.

  • If kids don’t meet many of these milestones, it’s a good idea to talk with a medical provider.

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    About the author

    About the author

    Amanda Morin is the director of thought leadership at Understood and author of “The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education.” She worked as a classroom teacher and early intervention specialist for more than a decade.