2 1/2 Years

Caring for Your 2½-Year-Old

Communication and Social Development

  • Visit the library, zoos, museums and other places that offer learning activities.
  • Continue to allow limited choices between two good things, such as snacks, toys, clothing and books. Give your child time to answer questions.
  • Play dates or play groups give your child a chance to learn to get along with others. Begin thinking about preschool.

Language Development

  • At this age, your child may begin to string words together into short sentences. Listen to your child carefully and repeat what was said using correct grammar.
  • Books that tell stories about things your child likes and search and find books are becoming more interesting at this age. Your child will like to choose a book to read and frequently will want to read the same book again and again. Point to words as well as pictures and talk about how the pictures relate to the story. Ask your child questions like, “Where is the cat?” or “What is that?” Continue to use books as part of your daily routine.
  • Model clean language, as your child will likely repeat what you say.
  • Limit screen time (TV, tablets, phones) to two hours or less each day. Monitor the programs for content.


  • At this age, skim, 1 percent or 2 percent milk is appropriate for your child. Juice, even 100 percent fruit juice, has too much sugar for your child and should be limited or avoided.
  • Encourage, but never force, your child to eat three meals a day, plus two snacks (usually mid- morning and mid-afternoon). If possible, arrange for family mealtimes.
  • Offer age-appropriate healthy food choices at regular mealtimes. Allow the child to choose what and how much to eat.
  • Do not offer your toddler soda, tea, coffee or flavored drinks.


  • This is often the time for potty training. Readiness signs include keeping the diaper dry for two hours, knowing if the diaper is wet or dry, letting you know a bowel movement is coming, having the motor skills to pull pants down/up and showing an interest in the potty.
  • Reading or singing while your child is on the potty will make training more relaxed.
  • Teach children to wash their hands after using the potty.
  • Use a lot of positive reinforcement, but do not give punishments for failures.

Routines and Discipline

  • At this age, behavior is based on a child’s own needs. Exposure to same-age peers will help your toddler learn to get along with others. Teach your child not to bite, hit or hurt others.
  • Praise your child for good behavior.
  • Set reasonable and consistent limits. When using discipline, the priority should be to teach and protect your child, not to punish.
  • Never slap or hit your child.
  • The length of time a child spends in time-out should be one minute for every year of age (e.g., two minutes for a 2-year-old).
  • If your toddler has a temper tantrum, be sure the area is safe and try not to give the behavior too much attention.
  • Predictable routines help your child feel safe. Establish your toddler’s bedtime around the same time every night, perhaps with a calm bath and a book.

Oral Health

  • To best care for your toddler’s teeth, ensure there is fluoride in the water your baby is drinking.
  • Use a toothbrush with a pea-sized amount of toothpaste to clean your child’s teeth twice a day.
  • Your toddler can visit a dentist as early as 12 months of age.


  • Teach your child to obtain permission before approaching any animals and to be gentle when touching them.
  • Always ensure your toddler is under close supervision, especially around water.
  • Keep your living environment, including the car, smoke- free. Keep small items (choking hazards) and hot liquids (burn risks) away from the toddler. Small toys that belong to older siblings (magnets, Barbie® shoes, Legos®) can pose a choking risk to toddlers.
  • Store medications, cleaning products and other household chemicals in a secure area. For poison emergencies and questions, call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222.
  • Keep matches, cigarettes and lighters out of reach. Prevent access to space heaters, fireplaces and fans.
  • Ensure that your home has working smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Keep guns and ammunition stored in separate, securely locked areas.
  • Ensure that safety guards are installed on windows, especially on the second floor and above. Purchase kits to childproof doors and cupboards.
  • Your child should sit in a forward-facing car seat with a five-point harness in the back seat of the vehicle.

This document contains general parenting information based on American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations and is not meant to replace the expert advice of your pediatrician.