My daughter is on the cusp of her third birthday, and I know enough now to say the twos were not so terrible after all. Two-year-olds are known for temper tantrums and wild, drop-of-the-hat mood swings. And yes, this was the year of the tantrum, and of new fears and nightmares. But the twos also were a time when I began to know my daughter more intimately as her sense of humor and speech continued to flourish. This was the year she began to more openly show affection and to say, “I love you.” That alone would mark it as a winner for me, but the breadth of the changes and development at age two actually are so extraordinary that I have to dispel the myth entirely: the not so terrible twos are, in many ways, the terrific twos.
An ever-growing vocabulary
The Mayo Clinic says that by age two, a toddler should be able to say about 50 words, use simple phrases, and ask one or two word questions. By the time that same child is three, he or she may know as many as a thousand words, and will use at least 200 of them in speech. The ability to communicate has expanded exponentially; conversations are now possible, and even strangers should be able to understand much of what your child is saying. Gone are many of the tears precipitated by my daughter’s inability to express herself verbally. Now she can tell us what’s wrong, and oh, she isn’t shy about it. Each day of the not so terrible twos is a surprise as my daughter tries out new words and phrases, asks questions, and impresses us as she uses longer sentences and responds to two-step instructions.
Here are 12 tips from the National Association for the Education of Young Children on how to further expand your child’s vocabulary.
A show of love
When my husband or I get a “boo boo,” my daughter is quick to try to kiss it better. She also embraces us often, holding our faces in her hands, and planting smooches on our cheeks. Toddlers at this age are making huge social and emotional leaps, including the ability to show affection, kindness and empathy. This may manifest itself in various forms: sharing a toy or food, trying to comfort a family member who is upset, or giving a hug. By age three, a toddler can convey a wide range of emotions, and understands what it means to feel happy, sad, angry, surprised or scared. Moreover, your child, like mine, likely is imitating the behaviors he or she encounters at home. This is a time parents can begin to teach good habits, and to connect with children who are beginning to understand more about themselves and others.
For more on teaching your child about kindness, and how to express it, read my blog “Why My Child Has Made Me a Kinder Person.”
Strides at playtime
You may notice your child is now able to complete more tasks on his own at playtime: putting together simple puzzles, building a block tower, or working toys with gears or other parts. He or she also may be more interested in make believe, or playing with dolls and animals. These are all development strides that are helping your child make better sense of the world and how things work. The Centers for Disease Control offers a helpful printable page that details such developmental milestones between the ages of two and three, including suggestions on ways to continue building upon your child’s newfound skills.