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Toddler ( 2 - 4 years)

Safety | Potty Training | Promoting Growth and Development | Growth and Development | Physical Development | Cognitive Development | Emotional and Social Development | Language Development | Sensory and Motor Development

As physical growth and development slow during the ages of two to four, motor skills, cognitive development and language take huge strides. In just a few short years, your child will go from crawling and babbling as an infant to running, jumping and excitedly telling stories as a Kindergartener.

During a toddler's physical development, children should see a pediatrician for at least yearly regular checkups and stay up-to-date on any immunizations.

In the years leading up to Kindergarten, it is important to provide a supportive and stimulating environment at home for your child’s continuing development. This can be achieved through ongoing positive parent / child / sibling interactions and the encouragement of healthy habits.


Accidental injuries are the leading cause of death in children ages two to four. Many of these injuries are preventable. As your child grows more mobile, make sure to be aware of and correct any safety issues inside and outside of your home.

Children of this age are prone to injuries from:

  • Falls – Playgrounds, stairs, bikes and windows are just a few fall hazards. Be aware of potentially dangerous situations that could lead to falling and injury.
  • Burns – Hot appliances, foods and liquids are potential dangers for children this age. Keep children away from appliances (irons, heaters, grills) and remember that these often stay hot long after they are turned off. Make sure to keep hot food or drink pushed back from the edge of the table or counter and out of reach of your child.
  • Poisoning – All potential hazards should be in locked cabinets or out of the child’s reach. Keep the poison control phone number 800.222.1222 readily available in your home.
  • Car Safety – Your child should be restrained in appropriate car seat at all times while the car is in motion. Practice awareness and safety when your child is walking or riding a bike near vehicle traffic. Children should not ride or walk in the street. 

Potty Training

Most children are ready to begin toilet training between 22 and 30 months of age.  Remember that with potty training, like with all other development, every child is different. 

Wait to start potty training until your child is ready both physically and emotionally. Starting too early can cause a great amount of frustration for both parents and child. It is important to try to keep the experience a positive one.

Before beginning potty training, your child needs to have control of his or her bladder and bowels. Signs of this control include having a dry diaper after naps and for at least two hours at a time. Your child also should be having bowel movements around the same time each day, not during the night. In order for potty training to be successful, your son or daughter must  be able to use a potty seat or potty chair on his or her own, which includes being able to climb up onto the seat, talk to a parent or caregiver and remove his or her own clothing.

If your child is emotionally ready, he or she should be willing to cooperate and might even talk about being a “big girl” or “big boy.” If your child resists, it’s better to stop for a while and then re-start potty training again at a different time.

Boys and girls are slightly different when it comes to potty training. Boys who start the toilet training process between 22 and 30 months of age tend to be fully trained by 38 months, while girls who start training at the same time are usually fully trained by 36 months, according to a study in the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

However, being fully trained does not mean that your child will not still need help at times  It is common for children to need help wiping after a bowel movement, until age four or five, and to need adult supervision while using public restrooms, until age five or six.

Promoting Growth and Development

During ages two to four, you can promote excellent growth and development through encouraging age appropriate physical activity, helping your toddler create healthy eating habits, creating a safe and engaging environment for him or her to explore, providing interaction with peers, encouraging language development and building self-esteem.

Growth and Development

During the toddler years, your child will continue change dramatically in the following five main areas of development: physical, cognitive, emotional and social, language, and sensory and motor skills.

Every child develops and grows at his or her own pace, but it is important to know when to call your doctor about developmental concerns or delays. Your child’s growth and physical development are an important aspect of overall health and you should never hesitate to reach out to your pediatrician if you have questions or concerns about his or her development.

Every child is different. Always ask your pediatrician if you have questions or concerns.

Physical Development

While children tend to gain about three to five pounds and grow three to five inches between ages one and two, this rapid growth tends to slow down between ages two and five. During this time, your child will develop increasing strength and coordination.   

Cognitive Development

After beginning to recognize familiar people and objects, between the age of one and two, your toddler will be better able to recall recent events. During this age your child will imitate others and will become much more imaginative, especially during play time. From two to five, the ability to think and understand grows greatly as children learn letters, numbers, symbols and colors.

Emotional and Social Development

The competing emotions that develop during this age are often behind the “terrible twos” label. From 12 to 24 months, children continue to develop strong bonds with their loved ones, while at the same time wanting to be more independent. Between ages two and four, your child will likely begin to like to “do it myself” and will want to make more choices on his or her own. 

From age two to five, children learn more about their feelings and begin developing friendships with other children their age. Children begin to understand the difference between right and wrong at this age. They will look to their parents for limits and rules and will also often test these limits.  Often, when children this age do something wrong, they will begin to feel guilty about it.

Language Development

Understanding progresses faster than speech in a toddler’s language development. Between 15 to 18 months, most toddlers know 10 times more words than they can verbally communicate. By the age of two, however, vocabularies can span between 50 and 100 words and children begin using two or more words in combination. By the age of five, children can use thousands of words to communicate and will speak in sentences.

Sensory and Motor Development

Improving motor skills make your child more mobile by age two. The toddler years are a time when your child will likely be in constant motion. Toddlers will quickly master walking and move on to running, jumping and climbing. Around age two, most toddlers will be able to navigate stairs, kick or throw a ball and draw simple lines. During this time, children may still stumble frequently and be accident prone. By age five, better control of fine motor skills allows children to dress and undress themselves (a necessity for toilet training) and write some letters.