What Is It Like to Be 2 year old boy development Years Old? On the one hand, you know a lot about things like trucks.
On the other hand, you don’t know concepts like what a secret is. This story is part of a series on 2-year-olds produced by the Hechinger Report and the Teacher Project, nonprofit news organizations focused on education coverage, in partnership with Slate magazine. Clark Tinker, then age 2 years, 11 months, did not find silly at all. It was just a fact he knew.
One of the wonders of the 2-year-old brain is how developed it is in some ways and how totally undeveloped it is in others. Bits of information an adult would find unimportant or unlikely are held in equal regard with facts that are critically important. Some tasks that come automatically for adults, like understanding the nature of a secret, are not possible for 2-year-olds. Anna Waismeyer, who has spent years researching toddlers at the University of Washington Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences. They have just enough language to get around, but they don’t really know what’s there yet. Everything is really new and exciting. They’re just exploring, learning the cultural customs, how the world works, and how to talk to people.
That lack of cultural awareness combined with a yen for uncovering new information can lead to some funny contradictions. Viewed through the right lens, all that change can be exciting rather than terrible. Clark said, crouching to point at the undercarriage of one of his toy trucks. It’s the cab that holds the trailer. And this is where the heat comes out. And this is where it moves, if the engine is on. This impressive lecture on vehicle mechanics followed several minutes in which Clark nonchalantly tried to hide his red toy dinosaur down the front of his mother’s dress.
Not once did he stop to wonder if I, his guest, might find such behavior awkward. And I didn’t, of course, because Clark was 2, and what can you expect? Exactly what can be expected of a 2-year-old is a question that plagues many parents during this year of rapid growth and change. The difference between a 24-month-old and a 36-month-old is night and day. In their 12 months of being 2 years old, most kids graduate from using a few disconnected words to speaking in nearly complete sentences. They also learn to jump, to understand that they may know things others don’t, and to use a toilet. And while the exact timelines for these developments vary for each child, the trajectory of the third full year of life bends sharply toward independence.
Viewed through the right lens, all that change can be exciting rather than terrible, said Clark’s mom, Laura Westwood. She began her son’s 2-year-old year nervous about potty training, tantrums, and napping, but as Clark approaches age 3, Westwood said the year had turned out to be surprisingly fun. I’m also fascinated with certain concepts that we will go over and over and that he’s still confused on. When children turn 2, most are producing some language. But toddlers’ vocabularies are limited, even when they are given lots of opportunities to hear and practice language. How much a child can verbalize is only one indication of what they can understand, cautions Waismeyer.
It’s important for parents to realize that kids understand way more than they can say. A 2-year-old should be able to follow a set of directions—touch your nose, give me a high five—but may not be able to explain in words what he or she has just done. Children know when their parents are complaining about them or disagreeing with each other, so it’s also time for adults to start watching what they say in front of their children. Significant delays in oral language during this year could be cause for concern. When children turn 2, many have been walking for less than a year and are still quite unsteady on their feet.
Ask a 24-month-old to jump with two feet together, and the result is likely to be comical. By 36 months though, most have learned to run fluidly, climb confidently, and balance well. The ability to execute large movements confidently is as important a sign of healthy development as language, said Waismeyer, and she urges parents to pay attention to such milestones. Some kids jump first and speak second, and that’s OK too, Waismeyer said. Everett Duncan, 2, is several months younger than his cousin Clark. And while he’s not yet speaking as clearly as his older cousin, he’s quite physically coordinated.
At the park one sunny day, Everett landed on two feet at the bottom of a slide and started running for the other side of the play structure to get back to the top. Many studies tie physical fitness to brain health in children. One Texas school district even found that offering four recesses a day improved academic outcomes. For younger kids, an increased ability to explore their environment may be the biggest benefit of more sophisticated movements: What’s under that rock? It’s frustrating, but it’s also how they learn about the world. As with every type of development, kids change at different rates. Most children still move fairly awkwardly at age 2 and most sports-type skills—like kicking and throwing—are quite beyond children this young.