Your Two Year Old - What You Need To Know

Ages and Stages

Toddler eating breakfast with his hands, smiling
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Toddler Nutrition

You can can now transition your toddler from whole cow's milk to 2%, low fat, or skim milk now that your child is 2 years old.

Your child's diet should now resemble that of the rest of the families, with 3 meals and 2 snacks each day. You should limit milk and dairy products to about 16 to 24oz each day, and juice to 4 to 6oz each day, and offer a variety of foods to encourage good eating habits later.

To prevent feeding problems, teach your child to feed himself as early as possible, provide him with healthy choices and allow experimentation. Mealtimes should be enjoyable and pleasant and not a source of struggle. Common mistakes are allowing your child to drink too much milk or juice so that he isn't hungry for solids, forcing your child to eat when he isn't hungry, or forcing him to eat foods that he doesn't want.

Your child may now start to refuse to eat some foods, become a very picky eater or even go on binges where he will only want to eat a certain food. An important way that children learn to be independent is through establishing independence about feeding. Even though your child may not be eating as well rounded a diet as you would like, as long as your child is growing normally and has a normal energy level, there is probably little to worry about. Remember that this is a period in his development where he is not growing very fast and doesn't need a lot of calories.

Also, most children do not eat a balanced diet each and every day, but over the course of a week or so, their diet will usually be well balanced. You can consider giving your child a daily vitamin if you think he is not eating well, although most children don't need them.

While you should provide three well-balanced meals each day, it is important to keep in mind that most children will only eat one or two full meals each day.

If you child has had a good breakfast and lunch, then it is okay that he doesn't want to eat much at dinner.

Other ways to prevent feeding problems are to not use food as a bribe or reward for desired behaviors, avoid punishing your child for not eating well, limit mealtime conversation to positive and pleasant topics, avoid discussing or commenting on your child's poor eating habits while at the table, limit eating and drinking to the table or high chair, and limit snacks to two nutritious snacks each day.

To avoid having to supplement with fluoride, use fluoridated tap water. If you are using bottled or filtered water only, then your child may need fluoride supplements (check with the manufacturer for your water's fluoride levels).

Feeding practices to avoid are continuing to use a bottle, giving large amounts of sweet deserts, soft drinks, fruit-flavored drinks, sugarcoated cereals, chips or candy, as they have little nutritional value. Also avoid giving foods that your child can choke on, such as raw carrots, peanuts, whole grapes, tough meats, popcorn, chewing gum or hard candy.

For more information on your toddler's nutrition:

Toddler Growth and Development

At this age you can expect him to put on clothing, brush his teeth with help, stack 4-6 blocks, combine words, know over 50 words, use pronouns (I, me, you, mine), follow two step commands, know his body parts, walk up steps, kick a ball, jump up, throw a ball overhead, and his speech should be half understandable.

Over the next year his speech will become more understandable, and he will be able to name pictures and colors.

He may begin to play with other children, but it will be 'parallel play.' Children at this age are very self-centered and may play alongside each other, but it will be some time before they actually start playing together. Your child will probably not want to share his things and he may be very possessive. It is important to closely supervise children that are playing together at this age and reassure them that the other child will not keep his toys. Keep a few of his favorite items separate and not available for sharing so that he feels he has some control over things.

This is also a time that your child will begin to explore and try and figure out how things work and will enjoy playtime. It is important to give lots of praise and many opportunities for exploration.

Most toddlers take at least one naps (length of naps are usually very variable between different children, but naps are usually 1-1 1/2 hours long) during the day at this age and are able to sleep all night (for 11-12 hours).

If not, check to make sure that your toddler has a good bedtime routine and has developed the proper sleep associations.

Once your child is able to climb out of his crib (and you have already lowered the mattress and removed the bumper pads), it is time to move him into a toddler bed. If your child is three feet tall, you may want to move him to a toddler bed even if he isn't climbing out of his crib yet.

The usual age for moving out of a crib is about eighteen months to two years.

For more information on your toddler's growth and development:


Accidents are the leading cause of death for children. Most of these deaths could easily be prevented and it is therefore very important to keep your child's safety in mind at all times. Here are some tips to keep your toddler safe:

  • According to the latest car seat guidelines, once they are two years old (or, regardless of age, have outgrown their rear-facing car seat) children should sit in a forward-facing car seat with harness straps as long as possible and until they reach the weight and height limits of their car seat before moving to a booster seat. Keep in mind that many convertible car seats and combination car seats have forward-facing weight limits of 65 to 80 pounds when used with harness straps.
  • Make sure his crib is safe: have no more than 2 3/8 inches between the bars; the mattress should be firm and fit snuggly within the crib; place it away from windows and drafts; avoid placing fluffy blankets, stuffed animals, or pillows in the crib as they can cause smothering.
  • Make sure that used or hand-me-down equipment, such as car seats, strollers and cribs, etc, haven't been recalled for safety reasons. Call the manufacturer or the Consumer Product Safety Commission for an up to date list of recalled products.
  • To prevent choking, never leave small objects or plastic bags in your child's reach.
  • Correctly use a harness when he is seated in a high chair.
  • Avoid exposing your child to too much sun (use sunscreen).
  • Prevent falls by not leaving your baby alone on a bed or changing table.
  • Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and use flame retardant sleepware.
  • Practice food safety: wash fruits and vegetables, do not eat undercooked meats or poultry or drink unpasteurized milk or juices.
  • If you must have a gun in the house keep it and the bullets in a separate locked place.
  • Practice water safety: teach your child to swim, do not let your child play around any water (lake, pool, ocean, etc.) without adult supervision (even if he is a good swimmer), always wear a life preserver or safety vest when on a boat, and childproof the pool by enclosing it in a fence with a self-closing, self-latching door.
  • Be cautious of certain dog breeds (Rottweilers, pit bulls, German Shepards) that account for over fifty percent of fatal dog bites and closely supervise children when in the presence of animals.
  • Clean his teeth with a pea-sized amount of a fluoride toothpaste (to prevent fluorosis) until he learns to spit out the toothpaste.
  • Limit television and encourage reading and storytelling.
  • Child Proof the House (Set the temperature of your hot water heater to 120 degrees F, use gates on stairs, covers on electrical outlets and latches on cabinets, keep household cleaners, chemicals and medicines completely out of reach and always store them in their original container and know the Poison Control Center number (1-800-222-1222), do not carry hot liquids or food near your child and do not allow your child near stoves, heaters or other hot appliances (especially curling irons), and when cooking, use the back burners and turn pot handles inward, to prevent drowning, empty all water from bathtubs and pails, keep the door to the bathroom closed and never leave your child alone near any container of water, keep a list of emergency numbers near the phone, and lock rooms that are not child proof).

    For more information on your infant's safety:

    Common Toddler Problems

    • Constipation: a very common and frustrating problem in children. It is usually defined as the passage of hard and painful stools or going four or more days without a bowel movement. Constiption is most commonly caused by a diet that is low in fiber, but can also be caused by drinking too much milk (more than 16 to 24oz/d), not drinking enough water or waiting too long to go to the bathroom. Initial treatment is increasing the amount of fluids he drinks and increasing the amount of fiber and bran in his diet. It is usually also helpful to decrease the amount of constipating foods in his diet, including cow's milk, yogurt, cheese, cooked carrots, and bananas. Stool softeners may be necessary if these steps don't work.
    • Stuffy Nose/Sneezing: very common and usually caused by irritation from dry air, smoke, or dust. Try to eliminate common irritants. You can try using a humidifier or salt water nose drops.
    • Diaper Rashes: very common and usually clear up in 3-4 days with a diaper rash cream. If it is not clearing up or is bright red and surrounded by red dots, your baby may have a yeast infection and will need an antifungal cream to help clear it up. Diaper rashes can be prevented by frequent diaper changes, increasing air exposure by keeping the diaper off as much as possible, and using a mild soap only after bowel movements (rinse with just warm water at other times).
    • Upper Respiratory Infections: these are very common and include symptoms of a clear or green runny nose and cough and are usually caused by cold viruses. The best treatment is to use salt water nasal drops and a bulb suctioner to keep their nose clear. Call your Pediatrician if your child has high fever, difficulty breathing or is not improving in 7-10 days
    • Vomiting: usually accompanies diarrhea as part of a viral infection. If your child starts vomiting, it is best to give them a break from eating and drinking for an hour or so and then start to give small amounts of Pedialyte (1 teaspoon) every five or ten minutes. Once your child is able to tolerate drinking these small amounts you can increase the Pedialyte to about a tablespoon every five or ten minutes and then larger amounts as tolerated and then change back to his regular formula. Avoid giving just Pedialyte for more than 12 hours. Call your Pediatrician if the vomit has blood in it, if it is dark green, or if your child is showing signs of dehydration (which includes not urinating in 6-8 hours, having a dry mouth and weight loss).
    • Diarrhea: a common problem and is often caused by a viral infection. Call your Pediatrician if the diarrhea has blood or pus in it, if it is not getting better in 1-2 weeks or if you see signs of dehydration (which includes not urinating in 6-8 hours, having a dry mouth and weight loss). You should continue with their regular diet, but may give 1-2 ounces of Pedialyte each time that he has large diarrhea stool to prevent dehydration.
    For more information:

    Taking Your Child to your Pediatrician

    You will be making frequent visits to your Pediatrician during the first year of your child's life, so that his growth and development can be closely monitored. Remember to write down any questions you may have for your doctor before the visit so that you don't forget them.

    At the two year checkup, you can expect:

    • An examination of your toddler's growth and development.
    • A review of feeding and sleep schedules.
    • Measurement of his height, weight and head circumference.
    • Counseling for injury prevention, dental health, and a proper diet.
    • A discussion of toilet training readiness.
    • Immunizations: a review of your child's immunizations to make sure they are up to date. If they are, the next immunizations will be his four year boosters. At two years, your child may need his Hepatitis A booster shot if he hasn't gotten it already.
    • Screening test: blood level to check for anemia, screening questionnaire for lead poisoning risk.
    The next check up with your pediatrician will be when your child is three years old.

    For more information:

    More Topics for Your Two Year Old:

    Ages and Stages Index

    The Your Child At... articles are adapted from the Your Child newsletter and series of articles from and are used with the permission of Keep Kids Healthy, LLC.

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