100 years of research and development

2-Year Old: Development Stages

2 Year Old: Language

How many words will my 2-year-old learn in a year?

Your 2-year-old is learning more than a word a day. Most 2-year-olds learn about 50 new words per month.

Remember, too, that at any age, children can understand more words than they can say. During the third year of life, a toddler's "receptive vocabulary"—the number of words understood—will grow by a few thousand words.

How does my toddler manage to learn so many words so fast?

Body language is helping your 2-year-old to absorb words quickly. Toddlers very carefully observe facial expressions and hand gestures. This helps them to understand the meaning of the words that they hear.

What are the most common words that that 2-year-old learn?

Young 2-year-olds use nouns ("ball," "cat," "car") most frequently. Action verbs ("go," "carry," "eat") are their next most popular part of speech, followed by prepositions ("up," "down," "out").

How long will it take for my 2-year-old to start using complete sentences?

Right now, your 2-year-old may be using "telegraphic speech"—short phrases with only basic informational words, such as "Mommy play ball." This is a child's way to get "up and running" to practice speech.

By age 3, your toddler will likely be stringing 5 or 6 words together in a sentence.

My 2-year-old says a lot, but mixes up consonants. Should I worry?

It is not unusual for toddlers this age to mix up their sounds. So if your child says "runny babbit" instead of "bunny rabbit," don't worry.

My child says a lot of words, but not many sentences. Should I be concerned?

Remember, "normal" language development varies. Some toddlers may combine words earlier, others may combine words later. What's most significant is that your toddler is combining words and learning new words continuously. If you're worried, talk to your health care professional.

How can I help my 2-year-old learn to talk?

Talking to your toddler frequently and using a rich variety of words can greatly influence speech development. In fact, some experts say that language is the area of development most affected by intervention.

Here's how you can help:

  • Keep talking. Research shows that children who converse often with adults have more advanced language skills than children who are not verbally stimulated as frequently by their caregivers. Strike up conversations about daily activities as often as you can.
  • Read books with rhyming words and repeated phrases. These types of books help toddler become aware of the individual sounds that make up words.
  • Re-read books. Repetition is important for language development because repeated experiences reinforce the pathways in the brain.
  • Expand on the topic at hand. Use "parallel talk" to fill in words and help expand your child's language skills. If your child says, "Daddy home," you can say, "Yes, Daddy will be home from work soon.".
  • Don't interrupt if your child is talking to himself/herself. Even if what your child is saying doesn't make sense to you, don't interfere. Your child is simply thinking aloud while trying to figure things out.
  • Don't consider television a substitute for interaction. Only a live person can provide the social interaction and feedback that toddlers need to learn language.

Is there anything else that I can do to help language and brain development?

Most of what happens occurs automatically. But you can help to nurture your toddler in two ways.

First of all, spend time talking, listening, and helping your toddler discover the world. You are your child's best teacher.

Secondly, provide an appropriate diet for your child. Experts have found that brain development is sensitive to a child's nutrition. Your child's brain is still growing during this year. It will reach about 80% of its adult size by the child's third birthday.

What nutrients help brain development?

To help support brain development, your toddler's diet should include:

  • Adequate calories and protein. Your toddler's brain depends on calories and, in particular, protein, to grow. Remember, your child's brain is still growing—from 25% of its adult size at birth to 80% of its adult size at age 3 years. Inadequate brain growth can lead to slower language development.
  • Iron. Iron is essential for maintaining enough oxygen-carrying red blood cells. These red blood cells are necessary to fuel brain growth.
  • Zinc. Certain brain cells contain a high concentration of zinc. Zinc also plays a role when the brain's axons—the long "wires" that connect brain cells—are coated with myelin, a dense fatty substance. Myelin helps protect the brain's nerve fibers and helps the axons send messages more quickly.
  • DHA. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is a major component of the lipids—or fats—found in the brain's cerebral cortex.

What foods contain the nutrients that help brain development?

The ideal protein is a complete protein, which contains all of the essential amino acids in the right proportions. Animal foods, such as milk, meat, and fish are complete proteins.

Iron-rich foods include lean red meats, turkey, eggs, lamb, fish, and seafood. Iron is also found in beans, broccoli, spinach, and dried fruit.

Zinc is found in meat, fish, poultry, and dairy products, as well as whole grains, dried beans, and whole nuts.

Seafood and liver are good sources of DHA.

Related Topics: 2-Year-Old: Think & Learn

Why does my 2-year-old ask "why" about everything?

When your toddler asks you "why," he or she is expressing a child's natural curiosity. Toddlers quickly learn that asking "why" provides them with information about a world that they are trying desperately to understand.

While you may sometimes be tired of explaining every little thing by the end of the day, remember that responding to your toddler's curiosity will keep him or her motivated to explore and learn.

You can also help your child learn (and give yourself a bit of a break) by trading roles—ask the questions sometimes. Ask about the pictures in a book, such as "Where is the boy going?" and "Why do you think the boy is happy?" This will help develop your toddler's conversation and thinking skills.

Why is make-believe play so important for my 2-year-old?

Make-believe play helps develop thinking skills that will benefit a child later in school. Through pretend play, a child learns to separate thoughts from actions, which is essential to later development of abstract thought. Abstract thought—the ability to think about or visualize a concept without it really being there to recognize—is an important component of math, logic, and creativity.

How much will my toddler remember about these years?

Your toddler is gradually developing the ability to retain memories over several weeks and months. But because the brain's limbic system—which stores long-term memories—isn't completely developed yet, children may not remember much about their toddler days a few years from now.

Keep in mind that even though specific memories may linger only for the short term, all of these experiences are accumulating and helping your toddler to make sense of the world.

How can I help my 2-year-old to develop memory skills?

You can help your toddler build memory skills by talking about past events. As your child becomes accustomed to your questioning, he or she will start to develop the capacity to remember things.

How can I help my 2-year-old to develop superior thinking skills?

The most helpful thing that you can do is create an environment that is filled with language—reading, talking, and singing. Studies have shown that toddlers who are spoken to a lot and urged to communicate have larger vocabularies and higher academic achievement scores once they enter school.*

Ref:*https://www.meandmychild.com.au/toddler/development/2-year-old/learn/,accessed on 14 Feb 2012

When should my toddler be able to follow directions?

Most 2-year-olds should be able to follow a 2-step command ("Pick up that toy and put it in the toy box.") at least some of the time. Of course, recognize that a toddler's normal stubbornness will sometimes get in the way of following your directions.

To help your child learn this skill, try to keep directions simple and specific. Break down a large task, such as "clean your room" into a series of smaller tasks, such as "put your books on the shelf," "put your shoes in the closet," etc. Be sure that the tasks are within your child's capabilities and try to give the tasks one at a time.

Is it normal for my 2-year-old to have an imaginary friend?

Yes. Many older toddlers find imaginary friends to be ideal companions—they're always there and always willing to do what their "creator" wants. It's estimated that two out of three children have an imaginary friend at some point during early childhood.

Research shows that children with imaginary friends are just as sociable with real friends, as well as creative and independent*. They also tend to have a rich vocabulary.

Ref:*http://www.wisegeek.com/is-it-healthy-for-my-child-to-have-an-imaginary-friend.htm; accessed on 28 Feb 2012

Accept and welcome your child's imaginary friend. Play along with your toddler, just as you might join in other pretend play. As long as an imaginary friend doesn't completely replace real playmates, that friend can be good company for your growing toddler.

I want my 2-year-old to do well in school. Should I start teaching my child to read and write?

While you should certainly encourage any interest that your child has in letters and books, experts tend to recommend against "early teaching." While some young children may be capable of being taught early to read and write, research suggests that pushing children to achieve when they aren't developmentally ready does more harm than good in the long run.

Your child may benefit more from activities that encourage learning and exploration. Consider these:

  • Read aloud to your child every day. Hearing the sounds of words and seeing the letters in print will help develop pre-reading skills.
  • If your child shows an interest, write the child's name on his or her drawings, saying each letter as you write it.
  • As your toddler starts to recognize letters, provide your child with alphabet books and look for opportunities during the day to point out letters.
  • Keep books within easy reach so that your child can explore the pages alone. You may eventually hear your child tell stories to himself or herself—another important pre-reading skill.
  • Keep crayons and markers close at hand so that your child will have the chance to practice the fine motor skills that will eventually help in writing alphabet letters.

Related Topics: 2-Year-Old: Playtime

How can I choose toys that my child will remain interested in for a long time?

The first rule is to make certain that your child is developmentally ready for the toy you select. For instance, if you choose a building block set that your toddler won't be able to assemble without help, the child will quickly become frustrated and lose interest in the toy.

You should also look for toys that your child can play with in a number of ways. A toy that allows a child to pretend can become many things to him or her, and will certainly be more interesting than one that always does the same thing when the button is pressed.

It is also helpful if your child does not have access to too many toys at one time. Children with too many toys often bounce from toy to toy without really enjoying any of them.

If you already have too many toys, consider making only a few available at a time. Then when you bring out a toy that's been put away for awhile, it will seem new again and be of greater interest.

My 2-year-old seems to play and do the same things over and over again. Shouldn't a child be playing with a lot of different toys to have a range of experience?

While repetition may be boring for you, it's actually important for your toddler's development. Your child's brain is in the midst of strengthening its frequently used synapses, or pathways. Repetition solidifies these pathways and makes transmissions over them quicker.

So if your toddler wants to go down the slide 20 times in a row, remember, it's fun for your child and "exercise" for your child's brain.

Why does my 2-year-old seem to engage in "pretend play" so often?

Right now your toddler is concentrating on an important developmental skill. Pretend play is important for 2-year-olds.

When playing "make believe," your child has to separate thoughts from actions. For instance, in order to pretend that a block is a telephone, the child has to imagine the telephone being there without it really being there to see. This is the beginning of abstract thought, which is crucial to many skills such as math, logic, and creativity.

Encourage your toddler's pretend play by providing plenty of props to play with. They don't have to be toys—ordinary objects such as boxes, blocks, etc, work just fine.

It seems that my 2-year-old son wants to play with trucks, while my 2-year-old niece seems to prefer dolls. Why is this so?

Experts say that gender differences in play preferences occur because of a combination of nature and nurture.

Nature's influence gives boys and girls somewhat different mental skills and emotional styles. Boys tend to be more activity- and spatially-oriented, while girls tend to be more socially-oriented.

How we nurture boys and girls also affects their style of play. If a girl toddler has tended to see her mother engage in more nurturing activities, such as preparing a meal, she's likely to copy that behavior because she's trying to imitate activities that match her gender. If a boy toddler typically sees his father work with tools, he's more likely to copy that behavior because he's getting the sense that this is what boys do.

It is important to remember, though, that boys and girls are more alike than they are different. So it is a good idea to encourage both boys and girls to play with both trucks and dolls since each type of play will reinforce different aspects of development.

What toys are suitable for 2-year-olds?

Toys that are fun for 2-year-olds include:

  • Dolls and puppets
  • Items for pretend play
  • Toddler tape player
  • 4-6-piece jigsaw puzzles
  • Building blocks
  • Play dough or modeling clay
  • Musical toys
  • Books

Is it okay for my 2-year-old to watch television?

Some experts do not believe that television is appropriate for young toddlers. For instance, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not recommend television for children age 2 years or younger*.

Ref: * http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2011/10/12/peds.2011-1753; accessed on 21 Feb 2012

Significant brain growth and development occur during the first years of life. In order to support this development, children need to talk to and play with other children and adults. Because experts worry that television watching may discourage this interaction, they advise against it for young toddlers.

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