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Your Child's Development From 2 to 3 Years

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

Movement and Physical Development

  • Can jump up and down.
  • Can climb on a playground.
  • Can catch a large ball from up to 2 feet away.
  • Can pedal a tricycle (3-wheel bike).
  • Can walk up and down stairs with help.
  • Can walk backwards.
  • Can run.
  • Can stand on tiptoes.
  • 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 to accept help.
  • Can hold a small cup in 1 hand.
  • Touches fragile items carefully.
  • Can brush his or her own teeth with help.
  • Can use 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.
  • Can recognize self in photos.
  • Knows the 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

  • Can name 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 You Can Do to Help Your Child's Development

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. Here are some things you can do:

  • 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.

Call Your Child's Doctor If 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 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 minor changes in environment (such as noise level or lighting).
  • Doesn't feel comfortable trying to balance on different types of surfaces.

Contact Information

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

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