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What To Expect And How to Support Your Toddler During the Ages of 2-3

"At this stage, acceptance and love are the most important gifts a parent can give the rapidly growing toddler." 

~Eric Erikson

Eric Erikson was a psychoanalyst who studied and identified the developmental progression of humans in specific stages of life. His work is known as Erikson's Developmental Stages. During the Autonomy versus Shame and Doubt stage,(ages 2-3), your child develops a sense of adventure and independence but is still highly dependent on their parents as they learn to master their newfound abilities.

Physical Development

  • 12-18 months: Your child will begin to expand his use of physical abilities by walking and climbing, pushing toys and squatting, kicking a ball, walking up and down stairs, and gross motor skills such as drawing lines.

  • 18-24 months: Your adorable toddler will play games that involve moving wheeled toys, jumping without losing balance, opening and closing doors, walking on their tippy toes, dressing themselves, and expanding fine motor skills via cutting with age-appropriate scissors, and use of crayons.

  • 24-30 months: Not only will your toddler be more active and increase in their skills to run, jump, and use toys that require balance, but they will also test your patience in their will to explore and play for longer periods. Show more skill in scribbling art, beading, or putting string together in a fun art activity, and be ready for potting training, whether via the use of pull-ups or the use of the toilet.

  • 30-36 months: During these months, your toddler will have significantly gained skills towards action games (running, twirling, skipping); copy more complex lines like zigzags, use of toys like legos or muppets, and turn pages of a book.

Social and Emotional Development

  • 12-18 months: At this time, your precious darling will continue to remain in a more self-centered version of him or herself. Meaning, they still have not developed the ability to understand how their behaviors affect those around them. Your little darling will also display mimicking behaviors like wanting to cook, drive, and do activities you do. Further, because they have not developed the ability to understand another’s needs or point of view, he or she will often resist directives like “It’s time to put your toys away.”

  • 18-24 months: Your toddler will desire more alone play time, or that with a trusted adult rather than a peer, increase their desire to dress themselves, increase their ability to empathize with others, and may develop new fears that can be soothed with a safety blanket or favorite toy.

  • 24-30 months: Your little one will begin to develop a greater sense of others' feelings: i.e., cry if they see a peer cry, begin to identify gender preferences, continue preferences for parallel play, and gain comfort being around strangers.

  • 30-36 months: He or she will develop the use of pretend play and a desire to include others in this imaginary world, gain a better understanding of others' feelings all the while expressing their feelings, increase skill towards cooperative play, and take pride in offering his or her help.

Cognitive Development

  • 12-18 months: Your toddler will begin to master object permanence (asking for a toy or remembering a favorite object), he or she will be able to use their mind to fit objects into their corresponding space, further grouping things in categories, use 2 to 3-word sentences, and expect and follow routines.

  • 18-24 months: Your sweet darling will begin to remember and repeat words in a song or what an adult will state, they will recognize faces more readily, use tools as intended (i.e., spoon), and use counting.

  • 24-30 months: At this time, you will notice a surge in the following skills: categorizing, imaginative play, better memory and concentration, and the use of “I” or the word “why.”

  • 30-36 months: Your toddler will begin to associate things with time. For example, nap time, storytime, or meal times. Use longer sentences, increase skill in counting, and notice little details like the color of a butterfly's wing.

Practical things to apply in your parenting during this time: Provide your toddler with age-appropriate tools they can manage with their current fine motor skills, like appropriate-sized crayons, toys, or books. Provide age-appropriate examples of helping, like putting their toddler plate or cup in a cubby their height. Encourage your toddler to use their imagination outdoors as well as indoor play. Provide him or her with consistent schedules like regular bedtime hours, putting away their toys, breakfast/lunch/dinner hours, and expectations like reading a book with them at bedtime. Let them know their feelings are important by encouraging them to share their thoughts and feelings, and by making it a normal and healthy part of your bond. Cheer them on in trying new things (age-appropriate to their abilities) and when they seem overwhelmed in trying, let them know they did their best and continue to give them love and support.

As your toddler begins to explore his or her world, filled with newness, variety, wonder, and magic, do your best to take time out for your self-care. Your toddler’s energy, and resolve to independently do things without your help, can and will often feel exhausting and emotionally draining. Remember they are trying to understand how they fit into this new world and need your patience, guidance, and love to remain safe and protected from harm. Words of encouragement, constant but gentle reminders, and consistency on your part will provide them with a secure space to develop their skills and feel good about themselves.

For more tips, please check out our other tips here: You can always find us at 954-903-1676 for counseling services. 

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