A Checklist for a Two-Year-Old's Needs

By Renée Winn
Young child playing with colored pencils
Young child playing with colored pencils

A 2-year-old child has passed such major developmental milestones as the ability to play make-believe, move around on his own power and feed himself. Growth and development have slowed down a bit compared with the first two years, but the 2-year-old still has a lot of growing left to do. Needs a 2-year-old-should have fulfilled every day include nutrition, adequate sleep, playtime and caregiver reinforcement.

Nutrition

Young girl eating an apple
Young girl eating an apple

Your 2-year-old’s stomach is about the size of her fist. When it’s full, she will stop eating. Each day, offer her whole grains, legumes, nuts or seeds, dairy, fresh fruit, greens, other vegetables and protein. Try to avoid foods with little or no nutritional value such as fruit punch, candy, cookies and chips made with a lot of sugar, salt or white flour. Many children become picky eaters at this age. If the only foods kept in the house are healthy choices, she will find something she likes to eat. It's common for 2-year-olds to eat very small amounts and to eat slowly, so mealtime can be challenging. Avoid potentially dangerous foods such as hot dogs, raw carrots, nuts and whole grapes due to choking risks.

Play

Little boy playing a toy piano with microphone
Little boy playing a toy piano with microphone

A 2-year-old needs a lot of free play time each day. Climbing and running help him develop gross motor skills. Drawing and painting prepare him to learn to write. As he plays, he will learn about the world around him and how it works. Simple but essential lessons such as cause and effect, physics, problem-solving and creativity are learned through play. Offer toys that enrich these lessons, such as musical instruments, balls, shape sorters, kitchen sets, paper and crayons.

Sleep

Boy sleeping with a blanket
Boy sleeping with a blanket

Your 2-year-old requires about 13 hours of total sleep each 24-hour period. For most, this will include sleeping through the night and taking an afternoon nap. If your child is not getting close to this amount, add the morning nap back or put her to bed earlier. Every child is unique, and many 2-year-olds will need more and sometimes even less sleep than this guideline. Typically, a child who becomes cranky and resists bedtime is not getting enough sleep. Some 2-year-olds experience night-waking issues for a brief time. If this happens, be loving and firm and insist that your little one go back to sleep until morning.

Reinforcement

Girl and mother washing vegetables in kitchen sink
Girl and mother washing vegetables in kitchen sink

A 2-year-old needs active, consistent reinforcement to give him reassurance and encouragement as he discovers his expanding world. Temper tantrums can be common in 2-year-olds, but consistent discipline and firm limits should gradually teach your little one how to manage her behavior. Eat healthy food with him to set an example and praise good choices. Sit on the floor with him to guide his exploration through play. Stay consistent with bed and nap times to help him learn routines, to set good sleeping habits and to ensure that he gets enough rest each day.

About the Author

Renée Winn has served as a licensed stock broker, securities principal and corporate trainer for a large online brokerage. She is a regular contributor to several business content websites. Winn holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in creative writing from the University of Nebraska at Omaha.