On the Move - Stage-based booklet on development (24-36 months)

Based on content from ZERO TO THREE®: National Center for Infants, Toddler and Families.

Look at Me Now! (24-36 months)

Between ages 2 and 3, children begin to gain more and more control of their bodies. Climbing, swinging, crawling, spinning, sliding, bouncing, and jumping are endless sources of fun that help children build strong bodies and develop an understanding about what they can do by putting their bodies to work. Through their explorations, they continue to learn all sorts of concepts-up and down, in and out, over and under.

Toddler play becomes filled with complex stories. Young children include real and imaginary friends in their play, turn ordinary objects into make-believe treasures, and act out familiar scenes. Two pillows leaning together can become a triangle bridge to push the toy train up, over, and down on the way to the station. By acting out tales with their favorite adults and friends, 2-year-olds develop new ideas and learn how the world works. By adding their own imaginative details, they show what they are enjoying about their world. Activities at this age should provide children with experiences that tap into their natural curiosity and encourage creative self-expression.

Q & A

Q: My daughter has always been very physically active, but since she turned 2, she seems to be more aggressive. She sometimes pushes and hits other children on the playground. What can I do?

A: This is a tough issue for many parents of 2-year-olds. It is important to remember that older toddlers are still more likely to use actions, instead of words, to express their feelings. Your daughter may know what she wants, but may not know the words to say it. Or she may have the words but may not yet be able to explain her feelings. Aggressive actions such as biting and hitting may be her way of expressing her frustration.

You can help your child by creating safe places for physical play and for redirecting those strong feelings. Teach her the words for these feelings. "You feel angry! Show me how angry you are in a way that isn't hurtful." Then build a pile of pillows together to roll on and punch. Kick a ball hard outside in the yard. Remember, children repeat behaviors as a way to test the results. A consistent response from you will help her learn what is not allowed and what is okay.

Movement activities for you and your older toddler

Take Me Out to the Playground

The playground is a rich learning opportunity for children. In the sandbox, offer your child different size pails and shovels to help her practice using her fingers and hands. Crawling through tunnels will teach her about in and out. She'll learn about up and down on the slide. Play with balls of all sizes. Figure out together which ones are best to kick, throw, play catch with and roll on.

Put It All Together

Play a game with your 2-year-old where he has to plan a series of actions to accomplish a goal. For example, "Can you find your blue shoes?" He has to go to his room, open the closet door, find the shoes, and bring them back to you. This helps your child learn how to put his ideas into action, which also builds his self-confidence.

Act It Out

Act out stories using movement and dance. Good themes include: animal stories; marching bands and instruments; everyday activities like taking a walk or cleaning house; nature scenes (for example, wind and rain); and fantasy images such as fairies and superheroes. Once the story is finished, select music that fits the theme and have your child create her own dance. Watch to see what parts of the story she remembers and likes best.

Name That Movement

Clap out the rhythm of your child's name as you sing hello to her. Then have her dance as you sing her name, following the flow of the sounds; or stomp her name as you clap out the rhythm.

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