Two year olds are so much fun! And SO hard at the same time. They yearn for independence but they still need help.
They have ideas but have a hard time explaining them (and executing them). They refuse to nap but they still need one to make it to bedtime.
Recently, I went to a motherhood retreat and I told my kids I was “learning how to be a better mommy”.
When I got back, I was helping my two year old understand why she couldn’t make a loud timer go off right in her newborn brother’s ear.
Her response: “Mom, you went to that house to learn how to be a better mommy. You are NOT being a better mommy now”. Oh the joys.
We’ve all heard the phrase “terrible twos”, and somedays really might feel like that. But I want to challenge you to think differently about your two year old.
When we choose to label our kids a certain way then we see them through that lens. We tend to focus on the “terrible“ things they are doing.
But what if instead we rephrased it to “terrific twos”? We might find that our little friends have some great things about them. Try to focus on the positive and there will be more of it. AND you’ll have a more enjoyable time with this stage of life too.
Two year olds still need coaching (as all kids do) and their minds are like little sponges at this age!
So instead of just holding out until they turn into 3-year olds and stop whining so much, let’s still take advantage of this age where their minds are so malleable and teach them a few simple things that will help them for the rest of their life!
Here is a list of ideas of things you can teach your 2 year old during this TERRIFIC time in life!
Things To Teach 2 Year Olds
1. New Vocabulary Words
Kids academic skills can improve on a daily basis. Try helping them learn one new word everyday in a fun creative way.
It’s such a great activity for brain development.
You could sing them a song with a new word, use a new word in your instructions to them, or point out something on a drive home from the grocery store.
2. To Sit Through A Book
We’ve all been there before… you just want to cuddle up and read to your toddler, but they have a different agenda.
They want to turn all the pages (before you finish reading them), bounce on your lap while you try to see the words, pat your cheeks, or even try to read the book on their own.
It can be frustrating, but don’t give up. Next time you read, try it during snack time when they are strapped into a chair.
You might have to start with short board books that only have a few words.
If you are in a book rut, check out some of our favorite 2 year old stories to get your home library going again.
Younger children want independence so badly! My 2 year old daughter wants to buckle herself up in the car.
Sometimes it takes us 20 extra minutes to leave, but I’m trying to adjust my schedule and expectations to allow her the opportunity to develop that independence.
Need more ideas on how to help with this skill? Head over to fostering independence in toddlers for some great tips and tricks.
4. To Play Independently (For Short Periods)
We all long for the day when we can have some time to ourselves to get things done around the house (or sleep or read a book or shower for goodness sake!).
2 year olds can make those tasks tricky because they don’t quite know how to play alone yet.
Start with a short amount of time with them playing next to you and then slowly increase the time when they are ready.
Try out these independent activities for a perfect way to get your started.
5. To Use Their Words
Daniel Tiger anyone? We use this song A. LOT. At our house. I have a very small “cup” for sound and whining fills that cup up faster than anything.
Even though your toddler is starting to speak more and more, they still find it easier to whine!
Sometimes it can be hard for their brains to compute what they are wanting into words. That’s a lot of effort for them at this age.
Be patient and keep working on it. When they do whine, gently remind them to try again using their words. Model it for them if they need help.
This will increase a child’s vocabulary at rapid speed because they are taking time to slow down and think about what words they know.
6. To Make Choices
Up to this point, you’ve probably made a lot of choices for your child. Now it’s time to start shifting that roll.
You can make it easy for them by providing two options. For example: When they get dressed in the morning, lay out two outfits for them. That way they won’t be so overwhelmed with all the options when they open their drawer full of clothes.
This is especially important for younger siblings who might have older siblings always making choices for them.
Remind the older kids to allow their younger siblings to make their own choices.
7. Personal Hygiene
Help them learn their body parts in the process. When you give them a bath, start letting them wash themselves.
Teach them to brush their teeth everyday. You can even incorporate it into a daily schedule like we do at our house.
Every morning we do High 5’s (Get dressed, make bed, say prayers, brush teeth, brush hair). This will help them start to learn the importance of taking care of their body from a young age.
8. To Feed Themselves
It’s so much easier to just spoon feed them, right? It goes faster and it is a way for us to feel in control (of how much they eat and the kitchen staying clean).
It’s so important though for your child to learn to feed him or herself and 2 is a great age to start teaching this.
This will help them develop a healthy relationship with food as they decide when their tummy is full. And it also can help with hand-eye coordination as they are learning to pick things up and put it to their own mouth.
PS- If this list is a little too simple, check out my list of what to teach 3 year olds.
9. To Get Dressed
This age group is a great place to start for teaching getting dressed. Starting at an early age will help your child fulfill their need for independence.
They will love that you are giving them a task to do in the morning all by themselves. Work on zippers, buttons and snaps at a different time during the day to help them feel more capable when the time rolls around to actually get dressed.
10. To Clean Up
What a tricky task! I feel like I’m pulling teeth and herding cats at the same time when I constantly nag at my kids to clean up.
If you can teach at a young age how to do household chores and clean up after themselves, life will be a whole lot happier for them (and for you).
Try this fun song and tell your two year old to finish cleaning up before the song ends!
11. How To Play
You’ll have to model this one because 2 year olds don’t inherently know how to play. First off, get them around some creative toys.
Try a play kitchen and teach them how to do store. A cardboard box is also a great way to encourage imaginative play.
This one can be fun if you make it a routine. A fun way to do this might be that every time you walk up the steps, count them!
Every child will have a favorite color by a pretty young age. However, some kids will get mixed up with their colors before they solidify them in their minds.
Try using Play dough to teach colors. Separate the play dough into 6 different balls and then dye them each a color from the rainbow. Take fruit loops and help them match the fruit loops to the ball of play dough.
14. A Few Letters
Start with these letter A activities and then gradually increase their knowledge of letters from the alphabet!
15. Building With Blocks
This can be a lot of fun! Help them build block towers and then take turns rolling a ball and knocking it down. This will help with both fine motor skills as well as gross.
16. Gross Motor Skills
This gross motor skills challenge gives your child one skill to focus on and improve upon each day! You’ll be laughing and having fun together while you do it!
17. How To Use The Potty
I used this potty training method in order to train both of my girls at age two. Try it out and share it if you find it helpful!
If you have a boy, these potty training tips for boys just might do the trick.
18. A Sense Of Time
This is one of those great life skills that they will use for the rest of their lives.
Create a daily routine board and put pictures of breakfast, lunch and dinner on it. Then fill it in with pictures of what you’ll do in between each of those to help them understand time a little bit better.
19. How To Keep Himself Safe
Help them learn to be safe around older children (especially if they play at friends houses with high school age children).
It might be a good idea to teach them communication skills to know what to say if they are feeling unsafe around people.
Remember “look both ways” is such an old saying, but it works when crossing the street!
A great one for this is Brooke Romney’s 52 Manners. We go over one of these every week and my girls have even started reminding ME of when I’m not using good manners.
“Mom, you shouldn’t use your phone when someone is talking to you” 🙂 Gotta love when they try to teach you!
21. A Daily Routine
This helps kids to feel productive and ready for the day! Check out these things to do everyday with your 2 year old for some great ideas.
22. The Alphabet
Young children don’t need to know how to spell or even know the sounds of all the letters. But learning to recognize the alphabet is a great activity to promote early literacy.
Check out these letter recognition activities to get you started.
23. How To Have A Conversation
You can be a good role model of this by being engaged during conversations with them.
Start with a short conversation about some of their favorite things and then gradually increase the time you talk for.
Make sure to maintain eye contact and model turn taking.
24. How To Be Patient
”Have patience. Have patience. Don’t be in such a hurry. When you get impatient, you only start to worry”. This is the song my own mom would sing to us when we would get frustrated as little kids!
It’s so important for kids to learn that the world doesn’t revolve around them. These next few tips are focused on this principle.
25. How To Share
This is great for a child’s development and although they can’t master this task until a bit later in life, it is a good time to start trying to encourage it.
26. How To Take Turns
Try playing board games to help them understand this important concept. It might be frustrating for them at first, but they’ll get the hang of it!
27. How To Be A Helper
This will help your child to realize that there are tasks that have to be done and there aren’t magic fairies that accomplish all the housework (although we all wish there were).
Use fun block toys to help them recognize their shapes. Say each shape when they put it in its correct spot. They will love the praise!
29. Making Healthy Choices
When you offer them snacks, give them the choice between two healthy foods (or as we like to call them “strong foods”). And help them understand why it is important to limit screen time.
You can do this with stuffed animals by having them get hurt and having your toddler give them a hug or something to make them feel better.
These new skills can be tricky for kids to develop at first. Have patience and keep working on them! Don’t get discouraged because you are the parent your child needs.
Each day will get easier and remember that the most important thing is that they feel loved in the process of you teaching them. You’ve got this mama! Now, go enjoy that terrific two year old of yours!