Congratulations on your baby's second birthday! You've both had a year packed full of changes and your baby has gone from crawling tot to busily active and chatty toddler. Once you've recovered from the chaos of the birthday party give yourself a little time to mull over how far you've got in the last 12 months before looking ahead to another 12 months of constant change and, hopefully, lots of fun.
Mobility / physical development
It's not all that long ago that your toddler was still finding her feet, and here we are with her running around, dodging obstacles, walking on tip-toes, kicking and throwing balls and clambering all over the place. By the time your toddler is two years' old she might well be able to jump both feet off the ground, although she'll probably start off by jumping off a low step. Jumping might seems a simple skill, but it actually requires a lot of confidence, coordination and strength. Another skill that appears deceptively easy is walking backwards, but again, if she hasn't yet taken a few steps backwards together then she soon will.
She has most likely been able to throw and kick a ball for a couple of months now, and sometime around the two-year mark she may be able to catch a large ball thrown gently into her arms from a short distance away. She'll also be becoming more accurate with her kicks and throws and might be able to get her ball into an upturned laundry basket a few feet away, or at least have fun trying.
Her fine motor skills are improving all the time and while zips and buttons are still too difficult for most 24-month-olds, she will be able to manage lots of quite fiddly tasks, like screwing the tops off jars and opening tupperware containers. If you haven't already updated your kitchen to take into account what's newly accessible to her then it's definitely time to do so.
Communication / emotional development
The average two-year-old has a vocabulary of around a couple of hundred words and is starting to link two or three (or occasionally more) of them together in phrases and questions. As her sense of self is developing she's keen to communicate her likes, dislikes and interests, some of which will be quite marked.
If you've been grappling with questions about the differences between boys and girls then don't worry, by 24 months it's perfectly normal for your toddler to be aware of gender and know which groups she fits into. She's also working out basic family relationships and beginning to understand that babies grow up and eventually become adults. You can help her make sense of everything by explaining how your family fits together. If you show her pictures of herself when she was younger and talk about then with her she'll be able to understand that the pictures are of her, and may recognise her younger self. You can also show her pictures of other family members in their younger days and she'll probably be fascinated by the notion that mummy and daddy were children once.
By twenty-four months your toddler is becoming both more able to express her own emotions and more aware of the emotions of the people around her. If other members of her family are distressed then she may now lovingly try to offer some them some comfort with a kiss and a cuddle.
By the time they are two years' old, most toddlers will only be having one nap of between one and two hours a day. Some toddlers may start resisting the idea of any nap at all, but it's better for both of you if you can keep up some daytime sleep for as long as you can. A daytime sleep is important to give your toddler time to process the first part of the day and to recover her energy levels. A toddler who doesn't nap at all in the daytime will probably become very groggy and grumpy as the afternoon wears on and is likely to find it harder to settle down for a good night's sleep at the end of the day.
Play is still the main means of learning for your toddler and she is now able to concentrate for longer stretches of time on her own. She'll be interested in taking things apart and maybe trying to put them together again, and probably in solving simple puzzles. Around now she'll also start to sort objects by shape and colour or by sort.
Pretend play is becoming more prominent all the time and by the time of her second birthday your toddler may be able to enjoy simple make-belief games such as a teddies' tea party or dressing up games.
Socially, your toddler is learning important skills at the moment, not the least of which is the notion of sharing toys. Of course, just because she's beginning to understand that it's nice to share doesn't mean that she'll always want to! And if you hadn't already noticed she's now using pronouns, like 'mine!' While many toddlers will be showing signs of interest in other toddlers and cooperating together in simple games, they're still likely to spend most of their time engaged in parallel play.
What you can do
Once she can jump with two feet, your toddler might like to have a go at hopping on one foot on the spot and you can encourage her by showing her how it's done. Don't expect her to get it right away though, hopping isn't easy!
At this age your toddler will still be taking great delight in imitating you and grown-up activities like shopping, cooking and cleaning are great games to her. If you make the effort to involve her in these things when she shows interest then it may slow you down but you'll still get the things you need to do done, while she has a good time. Do be clear to establish clear rules for things that she can't try to do because it isn't safe, and encourage her instead to copy you with her own, safe, versions of these activities. Why not set her up with her own set of pots and pans using the seat of a kitchen chair as a cooker? Or, if you can take the time, let her push a mini shopping cart around the supermarket and fill it together.
While it's great to share learning experiences and make plenty of time for communication, she also needs time to get on with learning for herself and improving her powers of concentration, so there's no need to feel bad about leaving her to get on with things when she's contentedly exploring how her toys come apart or whether she can fit all her teddies into the laundry basket. Just be around to keep an eye on her and be there when she needs you.
Toddlers at this age need plenty of time and space to run about and clamber on things, so making sure that you regularly get out in the garden, park or playground is important, particularly if your home is on the small side. As she's getting older she'll want new challenges and you might find that a playground that didn't have much to interest her is suddenly far more entertaining, so it's worth while branching out a little and revisiting playgrounds that previously didn't have much to entertain her.
You can help develop your child's social skills by encouraging her to take turns with other children with toys. Practice turn-taking with her yourself at home so that she gets used to the idea and is better disposed to trying it with children of her own age.
NB: All babies develop at their own pace and some will reach developmental landmarks more quickly than others. This time line is meant only as an approximate guide for parents. Premature babies will develop more slowly than full-term babies and can be expected to develop in line with their age calculated from their due date. If you are worried about your child's health or progress consult your doctor.
Conforters and dummies- If your toddler is still using a comforter by her second birthday you might be wondering whether it's time to get her to kick the habit, but there's no need to worry, using a comforter is a normal part of her development right now.
Potty training? - My son is 2 1/2 and I started potty training 5 weeks ago and for the first week things were going great then it has went down hill from there. Lorraine wonders whether he son is ready for the potty.
Blogging your baby's development -
Keeping a diary of your baby's development is a great idea, on ThinkBaby you can keep an up-to-date online blog that you can email to your nearest or dearest or print out later for yourself, so why not start your own?
Stay in shape - If your'e looking for exercise to keep you toned and trim and relax you as deeply as a massage while you're at it, then look no further than
Get support -
You can join in the discussions and share parental experiences and advice with other ThinkBaby members in the baby and toddler forum folders.
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