Updated: Dec 8, 2022
Welcome to the toddler years! Your baby is becoming a mini person with a full blown personality, and I bet you are very aware that they have things to tell you (whether you understand it or not)! Might be my speech-language pathologist (SLP)/speech therapist bias, but it is my personal theory that half the reason “terrible twos” are a thing is because this is the age where children start having a lot to say without the skills to say it… and the frustration is REAL. So what should a two year old be able to say and understand? Here’s where the 24 month milestones come in!
What are milestones?
Milestones are the skills that 90% of children can do at a particular age, and missing them could be an indication of a communication disorder that needs speech therapy. As a registered speech therapist, it is my job to work with parents to see if children are meeting milestones for social skills, ability to understand, using words, and speaking clearly as they grow up and learn to talk. Each of those areas are outlined below, with the main skills I would expect to see for little ones at this age.
2 year old Milestones for Understanding
When you give your child directions (and they’re actually paying attention), most two year olds can follow two steps after only being told them once (e.g., “Go get your coat and shoes” or “Find your teddy and bring it inside”). Your child should be starting to understand the location words up, down, in, and on, and be following directions when you use these words. They should be able to point to or find a wider variety of named people, animals, body parts (head, tummy, toes), every day items, and early actions (eat, sleep, run, etc.). Your child should also understand the word “more” or “another”, as well as accurately answer yes/no and choice questions.
Check out our post on concepts your child should know to follow directions and how to teach them!
2 year old Milestones for Talking
The biggest milestones for 2 years include having a 50 word vocabulary, and beginning to use little 2 word phrases (e.g., “Mommy look” “Car go” “Help up”). Children at this age should have enough variety in their words to start making those little sentences, which means they need to know and use words for people, things, actions (eat, go, sleep), places (in, on, up), and describing (big, yucky, red). They also are able to answer the question “What’s this?” to name items and pictures. Children at 2 also may start to use the words “I” or “me” and “it” as well as “-ing” at the end of their action words.
2 year old Milestones for Speech
By age 2, you should be able to understand about half of what your child says, while strangers (even speech therapists) will likely understand a whole lot less. Your little one should be able to accurately say all their vowel sounds, including longer ones such as “eye”, “oi”, “aye”, “ew”, and be using the correct vowels in their words (e.g., saying “ha” for ‘hat’ rather than “huh” or “haw”). Your child should also now be using the consonants p, b, m, h, w, n, d, and y, especially if they are at the beginning of the word (e.g., “no”, “yay”, “whoa”, “baba”, “dada”, “mama”, “hi”, “pop”). It is also important to make sure your child is no longer using a bottle or pacifier by age 2, and is practicing drinking from an open cup regularly.
2 year old Milestones for Social Skills
Two year olds can typically refer to themselves by their own name, and use “hi” and “bye” with others. They begin to imitate adults and show early pretending, like talking on a make-believe phone. Children at two are also now able to engage in verbal turn-taking, and can respond to adults’ questions and comments with their own short little answers and ideas.
2 year old Milestones for Reading
The general rule of thumb in the early years is that children’s attention should match their age in minutes, so a 2 year old should be able to play with a toy or look at a book for about 2 minutes once it thoroughly has their interest. Two year olds should also enjoy listening to your little stories, songs, and rhymes, and be turning pages and labelling pictures in books all on their own. Do not worry if listening to a whole book is still difficult for your little one! Keep it short and fun to match their interest and overall level of busyness! Check out our post on reading tips for little ones for some ideas on how to encourage your child to read more.
How to see if your child is meeting their milestones
Now that you know a little more, you might be wondering where to go next, especially if some of these skills are missing. I always say it never hurts to make an appointment and talk to a professional! Sometimes it can immediately alleviate your concerns, or put you on the right path to helping your child.
If you’re not sure about some of the milestone skills, try some of these activities at home with your little one!
Tell your child to bring you 2 different things in a single sentence, and see if they can remember them both without any repetition or extra help.
Get a box or container and flip it on it’s side. Have your child put small items either “in the box” or “on the box” and see if they know the difference without any pointing.
Get a book and ask your child about the ACTIONS instead of getting them to name the people or animals (e.g., “Who is climbing?” “Who is running?” “Who is sitting?”)
Write down the next 50 things your child says spontaneously (i.e., when they are not answering a question), and see how many words and sentences they are using.
See if your child can imitate all of the sounds expected at their age in little words.
Try to get your child to pretend to talk on the phone with you, and see how many turns they take
Time how long they can pay attention to a favourite toy or game when you play together
Let your child choose a book, and wait on each page to see if they will flip the page or label the pictures all on their own.
If you have any thoughts or questions, please head over to @chattytherapy on Instagram and send me a DM! I’d love to hear if this was helpful (or not) and answer any additional questions you might have about milestones.
Thanks for stopping by, I appreciate you and hope to see you soon!
Chatty Therapy has wonderful speech-language pathologists who can give you more specific ideas on how to work with your child and tailor it to your daily routine. Or we can come into your home to help your child learn the concepts they need. Speech-language pathologists specialize in helping children understand others and express themselves better. If you are worried about your child’s speech, language or feeding abilities, learn more about our services or book a free 15-minute consultation. It may be helpful for us to do an assessment to identify specific areas that your child could use more support with.