• Tip Sheet

19 to 36 MONTHS

Toddlers at this age are developing independence and gaining a strong sense of self-identity. More and more, they insist on working on tasks by themselves and exerting control over their environment. They have a growing interest in books, art, toys, and other activities. They are better at communicating and understanding the world around them.

Kids This Age May:

How You Can Help Them Develop:

  • Pedal a tricycle, climb ladders, or walk backwards a few feet.
  • Play games that require physical actions, like rolling, throwing, and kicking balls or chasing.
  • Use thumb, index, and middle fingers to draw or write with a crayon, marker, or pencil.
  • Provide art materials like large crayons, markers, and paint brushes or use play dough and clay to help the toddler develop squeezing, rolling, patting, and pounding skills with their hands.

Kids This Age May:

How You Can Help Them Develop:

  • Play with others by building a tall tower of blocks with one or two other children or handing a peer a block when building.
  • Provide opportunities to play with other children in a variety of settings.
  • Model how to act and suggest words to help them learn to share.
  • Move in and out of pretend play roles or tell other children what they should do in their roles.
  • Provide time and toys that encourage imagination by playing specific roles (e.g., cooking and eating).
  • Play pretend games and draw in children who aren't involved, "Would you like to ride on our train, Robert?"
  • Read about diverse families and people.

Kids This Age May:

How You Can Help Them Develop:

  • Begin to make comparisons between themselves and other kids. For example, they may communicate that "_____ is a boy/girl like me."
  • Recognize their ability to identify their own characteristics, such as size, hair color or gender.
  • Provide opportunities to interact with other kids of diverse cultures, ethnicities, and abilities.
  • Insist on zipping up a jacket or communicate, "Do it myself!" when a parent tries to help.
  • Allow them time to do things for themselves and acknowledge the actions using words of encouragement.
  • Use words to describe feelings; for example, "I don't like that."
  • Act out different emotions during pretend play by "crying" when pretending to be sad and "cooing" when pretending to be happy.
  • Share and discuss books and pictures of people showing emotions and help the toddler identify feelings as they happen.
  • Sing songs about different feelings (e.g., "If you are happy and you know it").
  • Show a substitute teacher or new babysitter that they like a back rub during naptime by patting their own back while lying on the mat.
  • Allow them to meet their own physical needs with comforting objects or actions (e.g., sucking their thumb).
  • Provide them with a sense of control by providing a choice of acceptable options (e.g., "You can have water or milk.").
  • Begin to share.
  • Acknowledge when they try to share (e.g., "You decided to play with another doll when Maya took yours. That was a nice choice.")
  • Talk with the toddler about rules, limits, and choices and why they are important.

Kids This Age May:

How You Can Help Them Develop:

  • Know the names of most objects in their typical environment.
  • Show understanding of words such as "no," "not," and "don't," like when an adult says, "There's no more milk," or "Those don't go there."
  • Use a total of 300–1000 words.

    * NOTE: Kids who speak more than one language may mix words from different languages in the same sentence.
  • Ask and answer simple questions, such as "What's that?" and "Where did it go?"
  • Ask questions, acknowledge how they are adding to the conversation, and then build on that by offering additional questions and information. (For example, if they ask "What's that?" Answer "It's a car. What color is the car?")
  • Resist the temptation to rush or interrupt them as they think of how to say something or answer a question.

Kids This Age May:

How You Can Help Them Develop:

  • Make a prediction about what will happen next in the story when asked, "What do you think will happen next?"
  • Help the toddler understand how her actions affect others (e.g., "Jasmine is sad because you pushed her. How can we make her feel better?").
  • Provide opportunities for them to watch and practice cause and effect (e.g., push and pull toys, rolling items down a hill).
  • Put all the soft stuffed animals in one pile and all the hard plastic toy animals in another pile and label the piles "soft animals" and "hard animals."
  • Encourage sorting and matching by pointing out the similarities and differences. For example, you can say, "This piece is blue. Let's find another piece that is blue."
  • Play make-believe. This may look like the child stirring "cake batter" while holding an imaginary spoon.
  • Provide opportunities to play pretend with simple make-believe toys, such as dolls, stuffed animals, dishes, and blocks.
  • Encourage imagination by joining them. For example, play make-believe with them, take on a role and follow their directions.
  • Start and follow through with some personal care routines like drinking from a cup without spilling much or helping set the table for lunch.
  • Provide tools, like a stool at the sink or a coat hook within reach, to allow them to begin to do things themselves.
  • Show them how to do it and assist when needed.

Kids This Age May:

How You Can Help Them Develop:

  • Place the triangle piece into the puzzle without first needing to try it in the round or square space.
  • Wait until they show the need for help before helping.
  • Help only as much as needed and talk aloud about how you or they solved a problem.
  • Recall an event in the past, such as the time a family member came to school and made a snack.
  • Provide photos and picture books of past family events, commonly seen animals, or things of interest to them.
  • Pound the play dough with a hammer while talking with a peer.
  • Allow adequate time for them to explore and get involved in activities.

Videos: 19 to 36 MONTHS

2 year old milestone video.
Used with permission, Minnesota Department of Education.

Note: It is important to arrange for regular health and developmental exams with a health care provider. These are usually part of a well-child visit and can include vision, hearing and oral health screenings.

Questions? Concerns?

The Guidelines describe how a typical child develops but it is important to understand that each child learns and develops at his or her own individual pace. Since each child is different, caregivers should talk with a health care provider or other trusted professional about any questions or concerns. For more information about questions or concerns you may have, please contact us.