Two-year-olds are amazing little beings. Two is one of my favorite ages, both to teach and to parent. They are so full of energy and excitement. Teaching your two year old is so fun because they are at a prime age to soak everything up!
But let me be clear. When I say “teaching” your two year old, I DO NOT mean you should sit down and work on flashcards. I don’t think you should make them watch “educational television shows” on repeat. I think you should P L A Y with your toddler. Play is the most effective way to teach children new things. And that is pretty amazing!
Two year olds are at the point where they are starting to have a better concept of self and are realizing they can have their own opinions and ideas. (This is mostly fun, but sometimes it’s rough because their opinion might be that absolutely every vegetable you put in front of them is “yucky”.) But you can harness those newfound opinions and ideas for good if you know what to do!
Check out my list of 4 different skills areas that you should be teaching your two year old below. The 4 areas are based on the Center for Disease Control (check out their checklist here) and my experience with evaluating two year olds in the following four areas.
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1. Social Skills
Social skills have been developing in your little one pretty much from day one. Babies first start social bonding with their caretakers through touch, and eventually progress to eye contact and “talking” to others. When a child is 2, they are continuing to hone these skills and you can help them with that!
Below is a list of ways you can focus on helping your child develop pro-social skills.
- Set up playdates for your child when possible.
- Start laying the foundation for sharing.
- Read books with them about positive social interactions. Some of my favorite books about being social are “Be Kind” and “Swapsies” (to name a few).
- Go to large group activities like storytime or music and movement activities. (Check out your local library or parks and recreation system for possible free activities to participate in.)
- Start talking to your child about what it means to share and play with someone else.
- Structure activities in order to promote play with other children (set up activities that are meant for more than one child). I love this game that is perfect for playing with friends and it can be adapted for different levels of understanding. This kitchen is big enough that multiple kids can play with it together.
2. Language Skills
You might know this already if you’ve hung around my blog, but I’m a certified speech-language pathologist. That’s to say, language is my jam. Helping your child communicate unlocks the world for them. Language is the foundation of so many other skills, so that’s why I know it’s so important!
Great activities for teaching your two year old more about language:
- Reading books, and reading more books. Also, reading those books again. (Check out my post here about how to choose great books for your child.)
- Sing songs with your little one to teach them new vocabulary and ideas. (I’ve got another great post here about all the times you can use singing with your toddler.)
- Talk with them as you do things throughout your day. Narrate what you are doing as you do it. (If you are baking, tell them about each ingredient you are putting in, the color of the ingredient, and the amount.)
- Give them new experiences so you can expand their vocabulary. Take a trip to a nearby farm or plant your garden. Do something they haven’t done before and tell them all about it!
- Let them practice following 2-step directions. Throughout your day, give them chances to do a few things at once since this will grow their ability to understand language. (Try something like, “Go to the table, and get your blue cup.”)
- Try doing some little “theme” days with your child. I have down “Farm Animal Day”, “Sheep Day”, “Ocean Day”, “Family Day”, and more. Basically, I try to find several ways for my child to learn about the theme of the day. I try to find a few books on the subject, a song about the theme, and if possible toys or stuffed animals that go with the theme. It’s so fun and your child will love it!
3. Problem Solving
Problem-solving is a super important part of cognition and overall thinking for your child. By targeting problem-solving you are teaching your two year old how to think for themselves and get creative.
Check out these ideas for helping your child with problem-solving:
- Give your child a container and some small objects they can place into it. It can be a piggy bank with coins, a shape sorter, or an upcycled water bottle with beads or beans.
- Provide your child with a few items they can sort. Let them sort the objects by color, shape, or size. You can save colored applesauce lids, use nesting cups, or cut out a few shapes from some paper. It doesn’t have to be fancy!
- Help them build block towers (check out this solid choice for blocks). Balancing blocks into a tower is a great skill for a 2 year old to work on because they have to pay attention to how they are stacking the blocks on top of each other.
- When you sing a song or read a familiar book, let them finish the words to the song or book. If you repeat songs and books often enough, your child will pick up on how they go.
- Point to pictures or objects in your house and see if your child can name them. (Yes, this is a language task, but it’s also cognitive!)
4. Physical Development
- Get your child a ball so they can start working on some of their motor movements. Both kicking a ball and throwing a ball are great skills for this age. (We love ball sets like these because of how cool they all feel.)
- Encourage your child to walk up and down the stairs while holding on to you or a rail.
- Work on your child with running. You can do this by modeling running while you play with them. (Be aware, it won’t look all that coordinated, but that’s okay.)
- Color with your child and model different kinds of strokes: circular, vertical, and horizontal lines.
- Show your child how to walk on tiptoe and help them try it out.
Let me know
I absolutely love toddlers! Their brains are so ready to learn new things if you are willing to teach them. And the best part? Teaching your two year old is best done through lots of play! Let me know what your favorite activity is to do with your budding two year old in the comments.