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Toddler Development: An Overview of Milestones From 24 Months to 3 Years

Rebecca Desfosse
June 9, 2017

Your 2-year-old is about to hit a huge leap in social, language and gross motor milestones. Here's everything you need to know about toddler development from 24 months to 3 years.


Your 2-year-old is full of energy and is bursting at the seams to become more independent. In fact, you'll hear plenty of the refrain "me do" before the year is over. Unfortunately, as your little one struggles with her newfound sense of independence, you'll also deal with a lot of temper tantrums -- that's just a normal part of toddler development. There's a lot to experience as your little one checks off milestones on her way to becoming a preschooler.

"A lot of people call it the 'terrible twos,' but I like to call it the 'wonderful twos' because there's just so much going on," says Dr. Ajoke Ajayi-Akintade, a neurodevelopmental pediatrician at Mount Washington Pediatric Hospital. Your toddler is becoming more coordinated and controlled physically. He's also learning to be more adept in social situations and craves interaction with other children his age. He'll start the year off parallel playing next to his peers and by age 3, he'll start interacting, cooperating and even sharing with others (sometimes!).

Your toddler is also learning new words each and every day. "There's a huge language explosion during this time frame in both comprehension and expression," says Amelia Miller, an infant developmental specialist at La Rabida Children's Hospital. At age 2, she knows and uses fifty words.

By age 3, her vocabulary will grow to include hundreds of words. Meanwhile, she's understanding more and more of the things you say to her. According to Dr. Ajayi-Akintade, 2-year-olds should be able follow instructions if you give them a two-step command. She's also starting to understand more concepts, such as colors, numbers and size -- all ideas she'll need to know as a budding preschooler.

Your 2-year-old is developing all the skills he'll need as a preschooler and big kid, but he still needs input from Mom and Dad. "There's this back and forth struggle between wanting to be independent and still needing to be reliant on others," says Miller. Your little one is also still working on regulating her emotions, which may lead to both temper tantrums and defiant behavior. Be sure to set clear and consistent limits and follow through with consequences to help her navigate the rocky waters of her newfound independence.

Here are some amazing milestones to watch out for in your child between the ages of 24 months to three years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

And read  our guide to developmental milestones for kids

Physical Milestones

  • Goes up and down stairs. By the time he's 3, he can alternate feet going up and down
  • Catches and throws a ball
  • Shows more control walking and running
  • Can jump and may be able to peddle a tricycle
  • Scribbles with a crayon and will be able to draw circles and squares by age 3
  • Can manipulate small objects and toys

    Read more about physical milestones for 2 to 3 year olds.

Cognitive Milestones

Language Milestones

  • Uses 50 words and will be using hundreds of words by the time she's 3
  • Can have a two- to three-sentence conversation
  • Follows multi-step instructions
  • Speaks clearly enough for strangers to understand at least half of the time

    Learn more about language milestones for 2 to 3 year olds

Social Milestones

  • Shows interest in interacting with others
  • Imitates others
  • Shows increased understanding of his sense of self
  • Demonstrates defiant behavior and temper tantrums
  • Develops independent skills, such as self-feeding and dressing skills and, perhaps, potty training

    For more, check out these social milestones for 2 to 3 year olds

Keep in mind that while this is the norm for toddler development, all children will reach these milestones at their own pace. Always speak with your pediatrician if you have any questions about your child's growth and development.

Learn what other milestones to look out for in Stages of Development: Unrecognized Milestones You Don't Want to Miss.

Rebecca Desfosse is a freelance writer specializing in parenting and family topics.

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