Development in 2-year-olds

2-year-olds develop at an astonishing rate. A secure knowledge and understanding how children develop is critical for early years practitioners as it affects and influences every area of work.

  • understanding and providing for the nutritional needs of children at different ages and stages
  • the amount of rest and sleep children need
  • how routines are structured
  • how the environment is laid out
  • how activities, experiences and resources are provided and accessed, and much more.

Read more about 2-year-olds' development below


There can be a lot of pressure on practitioners to complete paperwork related to observation, assessment and planning as well as the 2 year check and reports to parents. Whilst it is important to keep records of children’s development these records need to be useful and relevant.

It is important to remember that whilst practitioners need to understand child development to ensure that children's needs are being met, children haven't read the manual and will not always do what is written down.

We need to know where children are developmentally when they start in a setting and what may influence their development. We need to celebrate what a child can do and help them to grow, develop and enjoy life. It is not about ticking boxes or rushing children onto the next stage. We also need to remember that children will grow and develop at different rates in each area of development.

Let's remind ourselves of some the fundamentals of child development. Development follows a sequence/ directional pattern. 

  • From head to toe / top to bottom (Cephalocaudal development)  e.g. babies hold their head up first
  • From inside to outside (Proximodistal development) e.g. muscles around the core / trunk of the body develop first followed by the extremities ending with the fingers and toes. 
  • From simple to complex e.g. a child will walk before hopping, and say single words before sentences
  • From general to specific, e.g. a young baby shows pleasure with their whole body, an older child shows pleasure by smiling.

One way to remember the areas of development is using the acronym SPICES

S = Social development is about relationships, how children build relationships with peers, children of different ages and adults and how they interact with others.

P = Physical development is about how the body grows and develops. This incorporates gross motor skills i.e. large motor skills such as moving arms and legs walking, running and moments of the whole body and fine motor skills i.e. pickling things up, wriggling toes, using lips to feel things.

I = Intellectual development is about the development of reasoning, knowing, judging, conceptualizing and thinking.

C = Communication development is about how children communicate, this may be through body language, signs and symbols, spoken and written communication.

E = Emotional development is about the emotions, how children feel about themselves as well as being able to express and understand their emotions and the emotions of others

= Spiritual development is about awe and wonder. It does not have to be linked to religion.

It is important to remember that all areas of development overlap and interlink e.g. how a child feels about themselves can affect and influence all other areas of development. We need to look at the whole child, not just parts of their development. All children are individuals and no two children will ever be the same. Every child is a unique individual with their own personality and temperament

Remember! There is a big difference between a child who is 24 months old and one who is 35 months old but they are both 2! A lot can happen in a year.

Adults can help and support a child's development by providing children with the things they need.

Additional resources:

Activities and toys that support caregiver–child interaction in the early years; This guide from the Early Intervention Foundation (EIF) describes over 80 activities that support children’s development in their understanding of objects, other people, numbers and language. The EIF champions and supports the use of effective early intervention to improve the lives of children and young people at risk of experiencing poor outcomes.