There’s a whole host of exciting things you can teach your 2-year-old.
Your child will have come on leaps and bounds since becoming a toddler and there’s a whole lot more to come after they turn two.
At this stage your child will be extremely mobile – although still tripping here and there – and very chatty with lots of questions.
I loved this stage with both of my children, as they were still keen for lots of cuddles with their mum but also wanted to try a lot of new things.
Plus the conversations you have with a child at age two are pretty hilarious!
This article will talk about the things you should be doing with your two-year-old at home, or when out and about at the playground for example, to help them learn new skills and improve their wellbeing.
In the early years children do their learning through play. So all of these things should be done with fun at the very centre of it.
Most of these things to teach your 2-year-old have ideas for what to actually do to help with this, but keep them in mind in anything that you do.
There are probably many opportunities, for example, to teach your child independence in your own unique daily routine.
So I hope these give you some great ideas for encouraging your two-year-old’s development, while also having a lot of fun too!
You may also like: 50 toddler crafts
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Things to teach a 2-year-old
By the time your child is two they may well be counting to 10. Start encouraging them to learn numbers 1 through to 20, but of course keep doing so at your child’s own pace.
Encourage them to keep practicing this by using numbers and counting in play. If you’re playing with blocks then ask your child how many they have in one pile. Add another block and ask how many there are now.
Use numbers in your conversations regularly and they will become more confident with their counting.
It’s also great to show them what numbers look like when written down. A number puzzle can help with this so that they get a sense for reading numbers. Also point out any numbers written down in a book when reading together.
Speech is the foundation of so much learning for children.
By now your two-year-old will likely be using around 50 words and be putting together short sentences with two or more words. From the age of two to three your child will begin to use 200 words regularly, according to Mayo Clinic.
Your child is probably already using the words mummy, daddy and no quite a lot. Now you can start to broaden their vocabulary by exposing them to new words frequently.
A lot happens with language development from age two so you can help to nurture that by encouraging them to speak often.
I found that reading books with my kids regularly was particularly useful in their language development. My children’s nursery key workers frequently remarked that it was clear both kids read a lot at home, and this has been hugely useful for helping my eldest daughter when learning to read.
Ways to help your child learn new words include:
- Talk to them about everything and anything – when you’re cooking tell them what ingredients you have and what you’re doing with them.
- Ask your child questions and respond to what they say.
- Read books together every day. Discuss what is happening in the story and pictures with your child, and ask what they think.
Your two-year-old may have already started to learn the alphabet. Now is a good age to help nurture this so that they recognise the letters when written down and can recite the alphabet in order.
One great way to teach the alphabet is with song. You can sing it to them or find a video on YouTube of the alphabet song like this one.
At school your child will be learning to read and spell using phonics and it’s never too early to start using phonetic sounds with your little one. This is basically the sound the letter makes when used to spell a word. There’s a great introductory video to that for parents here.
Colouring sheets with letters on can really help your child to become familiar with the letters of the alphabet too.
There are some cool free alphabet colouring pages for you to download here.
Finding and making patterns
Recognising patterns is another useful and important skill. This helps children to understand the world around them.
These don’t have to be complex patterns, even recognising simple repetition like where you have square, circle, square circle, drawn on a page helps them begin to understand about patterns.
Patterns help kids to make predictions about what comes next, so it’s a logic and reasoning skill.
Finger painting is another great way they can explore patterns. Encourage them to make different marks in a row and get them to repeat those marks. It may turn messy but they will love it!
A love of reading
Enjoying books and being exposed to reading regularly has many benefits for children of all ages.
At this age it helps to foster a love of reading, shows children new words with a fun way of explaining their meanings in context and promotes the ability to sit still and listen (which is a skill!).
Understanding language and being exposed to a wide range of words from an early age has been proven to be extremely beneficial for childhood learning. It’s the building blocks of going on to learn other subjects when your child is at school.
This study found that children who were read to from an early age can help children’s language abilities and concludes reading should begin “the sooner, the better”.
It is wonderful to now see my six year old thoroughly enjoying books in the evenings before she goes to bed. I still read her a bedtime story but she also reads independently and that is wonderful to see. Reading should be fun!
Some great books for two-year-olds include:
- The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson
- Guess How Much I Love You
- The Very Hungry Caterpillar
How to tell a story
Your child will be encouraged to do this once they start school but it’s a fun thing to start with them right now.
Part of their English studies in the first couple of years of school is that stories have a beginning, a middle and an end.
So have a conversation with them about their favourite book. Ask them if they have thought about a different ending to that story, or share an idea you have for a different ending.
You could also make up stories for your kids – my two absolutely love this – and then encourage them to make up their own stories. Ask questions as they go prompting them about what happens next.
Having a conversation
Basic communication is a great skill to encourage at this early age.
Speak to your two-year-old regularly and ask them questions, listen to their responses and then respond.
Even simple exchanges about what their favourite foods are or what their favourite colour is help to build their confidence with language and expressing themselves.
How to dress themselves
To you your two-year-old is still your baby – and that probably won’t change even when they’re 22!
However now is a good time to encourage them to dress themselves, and they will probably love doing it.
If they’re not that keen then you can encourage them to do this by offering them choices of clothing. Lay out two outfits and ask them which one they want to wear and then encourage them to put the clothes on themselves.
Make this easier for them by choosing clothes that they can put on simply – so nothing with buttons at the back or very small buttons that they may struggle with. Help them with tricky bits but praise and be really enthusiastic when they manage to do bits of it themselves.
Your child isn’t ready to solve complex problems just yet but they can start to develop these skills through simple activities.
Things like puzzles, building blocks and crafts can help them to figure out how to find solutions to problems.
You could also challenge them to sort out their toys into piles by colour or try this colour sorting game.
If they have blocks, such as Lego, you could challenge them to build a bridge for the Lego characters to cross.
How to play independently
Independent play is a valuable skill. It encourages your child to use their imagination and helps nurture their creativity and confidence.
You can encourage your toddler to play independently by doing the following:
- Create a space that is safe for them to play in alone. Of course you won’t be far away, but a playroom that’s full child-proofed is a safe place for them to choose how they want to play independently.
- Placing out toys that they can play with alone. Blocks, dolls and imaginative toys such as tea sets are a great choice.
A two-year-old is never going to be the world’s most patient individual. Chances are your two year old loses their patience on a daily basis!
However you can start to encourage patience. It can help to have a routine so that your child has boundaries of what to expect and when, for example they know when snack time will be and that they can’t have a snack before that time.
It can help to have a clock on the wall, or a timer to make it simpler, to encourage your child to wait when you need them to.
The key with kids at this age is accepting they are learning, praising them when they get it right and keeping their cool when they have a bad day. It’s all about repetition and consistency of message.
Saying please and thank you is such an important part of social etiquette and your toddler is not too young to learn this.
To help teach your toddler good manners try to do the following:
When reminding your toddler to use good manners do so in a positive way, so that it’s not like you’re scolding them when they forget.
Lead by example. Say please and thank you to your toddler in your interactions with them.
- Praise then they get it right.
- Keep gently reminding them.
- Practice at home.
Learning the different body parts is an important part of language development and understanding of their own bodies and how they work.
You can try singing songs about the parts of the body, such as Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.
Keep repeating the names of their body parts to your child and point them out on yourself too.
Teach your child about the different types of shapes using puzzles or blocks.
A shape sorting toy can be a great way of introducing shapes in a fun way.
Repetition is the key, so keep saying the shapes and showing them examples as you see them. Challenge your child to spot the different shapes in the world around them when you’re out and about.
Encouraging curiosity and a sense of adventure is also an important lesson for a 2-year-old.
Take them to different places and let them explore by climbing, touching and looking at new things.
Places to encourage your child to explore include:
- Swimming pool
Safety and spotting danger
I am a parent who says the word “careful” way too often. I have to stop myself from doing it so much!
It’s important to strike a balance between telling your child about potential dangers and allowing them the freedom to take some, acceptable, risks.
For examples dangers you should be educating your toddler about include:
- How to cross the road safely.
- Using their scooter or bicycle – wear a helmet and cycle on the pavement.
- Speaking to strangers.
However it’s also important to allow your child to explore their boundaries, within a safe environment. At two your child may be trying to climb up everything at the playground, even the things slightly beyond their reach. Strike a balance between keeping them safe and letting them explore.
Sharing with others
Your two-year-old is not going to get this one right very often! My four-year-old is still terrible at sharing.
But it’s a lesson to keep trying to reinforce gently with them. They learn how to socialise and deal with conflicts with other kids best by playing with other kids.
This is why some childcare or group kids activities can really help them to develop this vital skill.
Music and rhythm
Music inspires children, provides great fun and helps them be more creative.
It’s thought exposure to music also helps with brain development, and songs with rhyming help with language.
Some great ways to inspire your child with music include:
- Sing nursery rhymes together
- Listen to different types of music and talk about how it made them feel
- Play music and dance together
- Make up a song that you sing to them (I used to have one I sung at bedtime)
- Explore musical instruments – there are tons of toddler friendly toys that are musical such as bells, rattles, shakers, drums and keyboards.
Giving your child small chores to do around the house is a great way of encouraging independence and responsibility in your child.
Chores your two year old can help with include:
- Putting their dirty laundry in the laundry hamper.
- Making their bed
- Tidying their room
- Putting away their toys once they’re done
- Fetching a clean nappy for a younger sibling
- Taking their finished plate into the kitchen after dinner
Table manners and skills
Your toddler may not be very skilled with a knife and fork now but they can learn good table manners.
This includes staying seated until they are finished, keeping the food on their plate, keeping their mouths shut when they chew and using cutlery.
Encourage them to eat with a fork or a spoon rather than their hands wherever possible.
Also remind them to sit up, without putting their feet on the table.
It can really help to sit down as a family and eat at least one meal all together. This helps your child learn how to sit and finish a meal together. Doing this every day so it becomes routine.
If your child is a fussy eater then encourage them to try new things. This can be made easier by using the familiar to introduce the unfamiliar. So with a dish that they like, add a new vegetable or a different meat and see how they get on.
What their name looks like written down
This will help your toddler particularly if they are going to childcare where they may have a peg or a drawer. But it’s an important skill to have anyway as it helps nurture their reading and understanding of the alphabet.
Help them do this by writing their name down for them. Have it on a banner in their room – you can get some really pretty ones to add a bit of decoration to their bedroom – and point it out to them regularly saying that’s your name.
Use printable colouring pages with letters from your child’s name and encourage your child to colour them in, then place them in the right order to spell out their name.
Completing a task
Toddlers do not have huge attention spans but it’s worth encouraging them to stick with a task until it is finished.
This may require a lot of encouragement and interaction from you but it helps them learn how to concentrate.
Keep the tasks short and easy. A task might be creating a picture of themselves or making a mosaic on a piece of paper with stickers.
Bathtime is probably one of your two-year-olds favourite parts of the day.
You may already be taking your toddler to swim classes, or to a pool, regularly. Continue to nurture this by taking them swimming whenever you can. They may not be swimming alone without armbands for another couple of years yet but helping them to feel confident in the water is really important.
This includes showing them it’s OK to be splashed in the face sometimes. Help them get used to this by encouraging them to lower their mouth to the water and blow bubbles.
Names of fruit and vegetables
Your child may well need no encouragement when it comes to getting excited about food!
Help to nurture an understanding of healthy eating and a balanced diet by getting them interested in vegetables.
Show them raw vegetables and explain to them what you’re doing as you cook them.
Teach them the names of the fruits and vegetables so that they learn those new words.
At age two your child will either be beginning or about to begin potty training, see below.
It’s important to encourage good hygiene practices at this age, and repetition makes it become a part of the routine so they do it without even being asked.
Encourage your child to wash their hands before dinner and after using the bathroom.
Make this easier for them by adding a stool in front of the sink so they can reach the taps themselves. Teach them about how to use the hot and cold tap so they can use the water safely.
Some parents might begin potty training before age two but most parents begin to potty train between two and two and a half, according to the NHS.
This is one of those milestones that can be a breeze or a bumpy ride for parents.
Some kids are ready and just pick it up within a few days. Others take a little longer to be ready for potty training. If your child is late to potty training, please understand this is totally OK!
My youngest was not ready until she was three and a half. We finally got there after a few false starts.