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You are your child's first - and best - teacher

2 to 3 Years

The "terrible twos" can be an emotional time for both you and your child. But the teaching, warmth and security you provide now will help her feel comfortable, capable and special. You will make her proud of herself as a person - and ready to succeed!


By the time she's 3 years old, you can expect your child to:

  • Express affection openly
  • Separate easily from her parents when they leave her
  • Make mechanical toys work
  • Identify common objects and pictures
  • Make herself mostly understood by a stranger
  • Take turns in simple games
  • Understand the meaning of "mine," "his," and "hers"
  • Walk up and down stairs alternating feet
  • Pedal a tricycle
  • Turn book pages one at a time
  • Hold a pencil in the writing position

Warning Signs

Every child develops at her own pace, so it's impossible to tell when your child will learn a particular skill. But here are some warning signs to watch for by the time she is 3 years old:

  • She falls frequently, or has difficulty with stairs.
  • She drools persistently, or has very unclear speech.
  • She's not able to build a "tower" of more than 4 blocks.
  • She cannot copy a circle.
  • She's not able to communicate in short phrases.
  • She has little interest in "pretend" play, or in other children.
  • She has extreme difficulty separating from mother.

If you notice any of these warning signs, be sure to talk about them with your pediatrician at your child's next checkup.

Tips for Success

  • Read with her every day.
  • Let her play with riding toys, building toys and a climbing structure in a safe and supervised setting.
  • Hug your child often and talk about everyday people, places and things.


Teach early math concepts by counting out everyday activities.

(What you will need: no special materials) Give your child practice counting objects even before she understands what numbers mean. Use everyday experiences as you go about your daily routine. Here are some examples:

  1. Count how many steps it takes to go upstairs and downstairs.
  2. Count how many people are in her family.
  3. Count the number of wheels on her tricycle.
  4. Count the number of windows (or chairs) in a room.
  5. When you do laundry, let her help sort and count the number of socks or other items going into the washer.

Tips for Success

  • Read books, the newspaper and magazines in front of her so she sees that you value reading.
  • Give her lots of writing and coloring materials (crayons, pencils, paper, etc.).
  • Listen to her and answer her questions.


Teach body parts and functions by playing this game.

(What you will need: no special materials)

Ask your child to say what a body part does. Then ask her to show you how to do it. Take turns pointing and naming body parts. Examples:

  • I see with my (eyes).
  • I smell with my (nose).
  • I talk with my (mouth).
  • I clap with my (hands).
  • I walk with my (feet, legs).

Tips for Success

Supervise your child's play with other children to help her learn to take turns and cooperate with other children.


Experiment with measuring by using various items and different sized containers.

(What you will need: Empty plastic containers of different shapes [yogurt cups, margarine tubs, etc.], uncooked rice, pasta, cereal, or water)

Have your child fill an empty container and then pour the contents into another container. Ask, "Is the container full? Not full? Too full?" Ask older children which container holds more, less, the same. This is a great bath activity with water.

Checkups and Immunizations

Take your child to a pediatrician for yearly checkups at ages 2 and 3. Ask the doctor or nurse about any problems you're having with your child. Remember to bring her immunization record to each checkup. Your doctor may choose to give your child some immunization shots at these checkups. Make sure your child visits the dentist regularly.

Content provided courtesy of Success By 6 ™ of United Way of Greater Cincinnati


Nurturing Your Child's Development From 24 Months To 36 Months

Key findings from a study by the National Academy of Sciences may help you to nurture your own child's health development. These key findings include:

  • Your relationship with your child is the foundation for his or her health development.
  • You child's development depends on both the traits he or she was born with (nature) and what he or she experiences (nurture).
  • All areas of development (social/emotional/intellectual/language/motor) are linked. Each depends on and influences the others.
  • What children experience, including how their parents respond to them, shapes their development as they adjust to the world.

Charting Your Child's Healthy Development

The following chart describes many of the things your baby is learning between 24 and 36 months and what you can do to support your child in all areas of his or her development. If you have any questions regarding your child's development, ask your pediatrician.

What's Going OnWhat You Can DoQuestions to ask Yourself
Two-year olds often lack the verbal skill to describe their emotions, which can make them feel powerless and frustrated. Converse and read with your child as often as you can and let him know you understand what he's experiencing. What does your child like to talk about? How does he manage difficult feelings and situations? What helps him cope?
Play is essential in aiding his development. It helps him interact with friends and learn concepts (up, down, big, small). Encourage pretend play and get involved. It will encourage creativity. Plan for him to spend time with other children to learn to interact and make friends. What kind of play does he enjoy and how do you know? What does it tell about him? How does he use imagination and what do you think he is learning by pretending?
Motor development of active two-year-olds allows them the freedom to explore in new ways as they run, jump and climb. Spend time outside to run, jump and climb. Go to park where kids are. Include him in family sports. Create a safe in-home place where he can explore. Take walks and teach him concepts such as big and small. How active is he? Is he in constant motion or happy to sit quietly and play? What do you think he is learning through pretend play?


Content provided courtesy of ZERO TO THREE.