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Your Child's Development (2 to 3 years)

This information describes what skills your child is likely to develop between the ages of 2 and 3.

Movement and Physical Development

  • Jumps up and down
  • Climbs on a playground
  • Can catch a large ball from up to 2 feet away
  • Pedals a tricycle (3-wheel bike)
  • With help, can walk up and down stairs
  • Can walk backwards
  • Can run
  • Can stand on tip toes
  • Can kick a ball

Social-Emotional and Self-Help Skills

  • Is shy or nervous around strangers
  • Whines
  • Enjoys spending time with different people
  • May have temper tantrums
  • Plays pretend, such as feeding a doll
  • May get upset with major changes in routine
  • Takes pride and enjoys doing things on his or her own
  • Does not like help
  • Can hold a small cup in one hand
  • Touches fragile items carefully
  • Can brush his or her own teeth with help
  • Uses a fork
  • Can button large buttons
  • Can eat by him or herself
  • Likes to set the table for meals

Learning, Thinking, and Problem Solving Skills

  • Can point to pictures of items when they are named
  • Recognizes self in photos
  • Knows names of body parts
  • Understands daily routines
  • Plays make-believe
  • Can match identical pictures
  • Listens to stories
  • Can put a ring stack toy together

Speech, Language, and Communication Skills

  • Names pictures of objects
  • Uses past tense
  • Uses size words, such as “small” and “big”
  • Uses plurals, such as “cars,” “dogs,” and “cats”
  • Talks in short sentences
  • Will get upset if he or she is not being understood
  • Uses the words “what,” “where,” and “when”
  • Has a vocabulary of 300 to 1,000 words

What can I do to help with my child's development?

  • Let your child make choices.
  • Encourage your child to play with other children in social situations such as on the playground.
  • Let your child do as much as possible without assistance.
  • Have your child help with simple chores.
  • Encourage coloring and tracing.
  • Teach your child to take turns while playing with others.
  • Encourage your child to help with getting dressed.
Talk to your child's doctor if you notice that your child:
  • Doesn't use 2-word phrases (e.g., “drink milk”)
  • Doesn't speak in sentences
  • Doesn't know what to do with common objects, such as a brush, phone, or spoon
  • Doesn't copy other people's actions and/or words
  • Can't follow simple instructions
  • Doesn't walk with ease and falls down often
  • Loses skills they once had
  • Drools or has very unclear speech
  • Can't work simple toys (such as simple puzzles or peg boards)
  • Doesn't play pretend or make-believe
  • Doesn't want to play with other children or with toys
  • Doesn't make eye contact
  • Doesn't like to change position
  • Doesn't like changes in environment (such as noise level or lighting)
  • Doesn't feel comfortable trying to balance on different types of surfaces

Although your child is undergoing cancer treatment and may not feel energetic, it is still important to encourage movement, communication, and play as part of his or her daily routine.

If you have questions about your child's development, ask your child's doctor if a referral to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) Physical and Occupational Therapy team would be helpful.

MSKCC Physical and Occupational Therapy
(212) 639-7833
Monday through Friday, 8:00 am to 6:00 pm