At this age, children develop in very different ways. Some seem to concentrate almost exclusively on language skills while letting other skills stagnate. Other children concentrate on motor skills, either large or small muscles, and are not interested in using any more language than absolutely necessary. “Normal” development is a wide range from here on.
First Steps monthly bulletins will continue, but will not focus so much on the development that should be happening month by month and rather on more articles of interest during a three to six month period. In other words, some things discussed in this month’s bulletin, may not be an issue for you and your child for three to six months from now.
When there are age appropriate markers, these will be highlighted. Use these to determine if there is need to alert your pediatrician to specific problems in your child’s development.
The goal is to continue making these bulletins as practical and helpful as possible. If you have specific questions that you would like answered personally, please feel free to write anytime.
Milestones for 2 years:
- Pointing to an object that you name.
- Recognizing the names of familiar people, objects, and body parts.
- Using short phrases and two to four-word sentences.
- Following simple instructions.
- Repeating words he overhears.
- Finding an object hidden under two to three blankets.
- Sorting objects by shape or color
- Playing make believe.
If your child does not meet any of these milestones be sure to tell your pediatrician.
Speech Delay and Impaired Hearing
A specific area of concern at this age is your child’s hearing. The best way to know if there is any hearing impairment is to observe his speech development. It is estimated that 5% of children are hard of hearing, not including children with mild hearing loss.
A child who cannot hear well will have difficulty learning to talk and to understand the meaning of the sounds he hears. Even if he is alert and intelligent he will be slow to learn to talk. Even a mild hearing impairment will influence his learning now and in the future. Since this is a the year with the most rapid speech development, it is vital that he hears as well as it is possible for him to.
If by this age your child is not speaking, has a vocabulary of less than 50 words, or is almost impossible to understand, it is vital that you have his hearing tested. Make an appointment with your doctor. Be ready to answer the following questions:
- How much and what kinds of things does he seem to be able to hear?
- How well does he see?
- What letters or sounds seem to be missing from his speech?
- How many words or phrases does he say?
- Who can understand him, only family and caregivers?
Your doctor will probably refer you to an audiologist who can test your child with specialized instruments for a thorough diagnosis.
Stuttering and Stammering
Another area of concern for many parents during this year is the sudden appearance of stuttering or stammering. 90% of children who start to stutter between 2-3 years outgrow it in a few months. It is not a serious problem. But since it can be very frightening to parents when it suddenly starts, we want to help you know what you should and shouldn’t do about it.
Stuttering at this age is mostly caused by your child’s intelligence outstripping his verbal ability. When he is extremely excited, tired, angry, or upset, he has trouble putting his thoughts into words.
What should you NOT do?
- Don’t say, “Speak slower” or “Take your time” or “Try it again” or “Say it like this.” These only cause him to self-monitor his speech and creates more tension.
- Don’t emphasize speech. Let him develop at his own pace. Help him focus on learning more physical skills for the time being.
- Don’t rush to a doctor or speech therapist. If it is true stuttering, there is plenty of time to correct it before he starts school.
What SHOULD you do?
- Check daily routines to see if anything in particular is making him tense.
- Give him opportunities to talk with other children, not just adults.
- Relax and don’t worry. He is very sensitive to your moods.
- Tell your doctor if he is tensing his jaw or making odd facial grimaces, twitching or blinking when he stutters. These may indicate true stuttering that would be helped by speech therapy.
The Window of Opportunity
“I want to help!”
You have a brief window of opportunity to teach your child how to help and to love to help. You have heard parents of teenagers complain that their teens never help with anything around the house or want to do anything for anyone else. The cause of their problem happened when their child was a toddler.
When a little one says, “I want to help!” You must accept his offer and take advantage of it. It will mean extra cleanups for you, but that is a small price to pay. If you do not allow him to help, teach him ways to help, and encourage his joy at helping, he will quit offering. This is not an offer that will be repeated later in childhood. If you miss this window of opportunity, it will never be available to you again.
So, Mom, take the time to let him help you! Each skill he learns and enjoys is practice for bigger responsibilities later. If you are dusting, give him his own dust rag and let him “work” along with you. Talk to him all the time you are both working. Explain what you are doing, how to do it, and why you do it. He learns a new skill, new vocabulary, and proper grammar. When you put toys away, tell him what you are doing-first, second, and third. Talk about the sizes of toys– the big ones, medium sized ones, and small ones. Have him do the bending and stretching for you.
Don’t make commands of him when he is offering to help. Make a dance or game out of the chore. He will see it as enjoyable time with you doing something that makes you smile and reward him with hugs. The good feelings he gets for helping you now will make him want to help you when he is older and more capable of “real” help.
A Boy Becomes a Little Man- Dad’s Importance
At 18 months we talked about the importance of boys identifying with their dad. By this time, your son should be easily identified as his daddy’s boy. He should be trying to copy how his dad does things and trying to walk like him and talk like him. Let your husband know how very important he is to his son’s development. Impress on him the importance of his acceptance of his son and his affirmation that he is growing to be a man like him.
If your husband must be away from home a lot and your son has very little time with him, you will have to make a great effort for them to have time together when possible and help your son know what daddy likes and how daddy does things.
If your son cannot be around his dad, you must find good male role models for him to identify with. Perhaps a grandfather, uncle, or even a close family friend can take a special interest in your son’s development as a boy. Between 18 and 30 months is the window of opportunity for your son’s identity as a male to develop a healthy foundation.
The Reasoning Game
Slight of hand games are great activities for 2 year olds. He is now ready for some new more complex tricks. We have suggested hiding toys under different covers for him to find. Now he can learn more about cause and effect.
Show your child a coin and a ball of clay or play dough. Then under a cover, completely cover the coin with the clay. Then show him the ball of clay and ask him where the coin is. He most likely won’t be able to figure it out at first. To help him figure it out, show him a coin purse and a coin. Under a cover put the coin in the purse. Show him the purse and ask him where the coin is. Since he may have seen something like this before, he may be able to find it fairly quickly. Then show him a matchbox and a coin. Hide the coin in the matchbox and see if he can find it. Then give him the ball of clay again and see if he begins to try to “open” the clay. If not, you may take another ball of clay and twist it into two halves and shape it into little cups. Then give him the ball of clay with the coin and see if he finds the coin now. Once he finds the coin in the clay easily whenever you do this. Show him a card and a book. Hide the card in the inside cover of a book. See how long it takes him to find it. He understands the principles he has been learning when he applies them to new situations.
Another step in this reasoning game is making a false bottom cup for hiding small things. Take a paper cup and tape a false bottom about 2/3 of the way down inside the cup. Leave a space big enough to slip a small object below the false bottom. Put something soft that won’t rattle around in the bottom. At first he may think it is empty. Eventually he will realize that the inside is shorter than the outside and begin to poke at the paper in the bottom. He will be pleased when he finds the surprise.
Play, Play, Play
Two year olds are constantly learning. Play is his work. So encourage his play.
- Encourage him to continue to explore things around the house.
- Stimulate his senses with tactile toys like sand, clay, and water. Encourage him to play instruments like xylophones and maracas.
- Take him to new places like the zoo, a kid-friendly museum, a petting farm, and a swimming pool.
- Provide structured play like in a play group or arts and crafts class
- Provide opportunities for unstructured play like role playing being a doctor, a teacher, or a clown
- Motor skills develop at a playground or in learning to ride a tricycle.
- Act out a favorite story.
- Dance together to different music
Heavenly Father, please help me to take advantage of my child’s desire to help. Give me the patience I need to wait for him and not to overly correct his first attempts to learn new skills. Help us learn to work together joyfully. In Jesus’ name, Amen.