Imitating adults is a blast for the 2-to 3-year-old crowd.

Child Development Characteristics for 2 & 3-Year-Olds

by Karen Hellesvig-Gaskell

If you think you’re home free from the mayhem and tantrums that occur during what’s often referred as the "terrible twos" once your little one turns 3, think again. Two- and 3-year-olds are two peas in a pod in many ways as both are prone to temper tantrums and trying your patience. It’s just that tots at the older end of the spectrum are a step ahead when it comes to developmental skills.

Physical Growth

Most kids gain around 4 pounds and get about 2 1/2 inches taller during the third year of life, reports the KidsHealth website. Your pediatrician will mark your child's height and weight on a growth chart periodically to monitor her physical evolution and catch trends that may need attention. Getting adequate sleep -- 10 to 13 hours is ideal for a 2- to 3-year-old -- plenty of physical activity, and proper nutrition contribute greatly to normal growth.

Motor Skills

Think mobility when it comes to a 2- and 3-year-old. In constant motion, physically active tots and preschoolers could make the most dedicated exerciser at the gym look like a slacker. The typical 2-year-old confidently walks without assistance, is starting to run, and stands on her tiptoes. As she gets closer to age 3, you may spot her jumping off a step, walking up and down stairs, and riding a tricycle, explains the Child Development Institute. A 3-year-old will impress you with her ability to hop and stand on one foot up for up to five seconds!

Fine Motor Abilities

He's got hands and fingers and he knows how to use them! Building a six-block-high tower is no problem for a 2-year-old. A 3-year-old can add at least three more blocks for an even taller tower. Emptying objects from a container is an amusing pastime for a 2-year-old, while a 3-year-old gets a charge out of manipulating small objects. The typical 3-year-old can draw circles and squares, copy a few capital letters, draw a stick person with at least two body parts, and can turn book pages one by one, notes the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

Social and Emotional Development

Two- and 3-year-olds have a wide array of emotions. One minute your little one might seem like "little miss negative," while the next moment she's laughing her heart out after performing a silly trick. Since a child in this age group has little control over her emotions she may resort to hitting, screaming, or crying. During the second year of life, toddlers gradually make the transition from doing their own thing to cooperatively playing with other kids. Preschoolers like to share and take turns -- but keep in mind that they're not always wild about the idea.

Verbal and Intellectual Aptitude

Toddlers and preschoolers will make enormous strides verbally and intellectually as their little worlds continue to expand. You'll find that "why" and "no" are probably tied for the word they use most often. Most 2-year-olds can say 50 words, give or take. If that doesn't impress the daylights out of you, imagine that a 3-year-old is capable of speaking up to 500 words or more. Testing your limits as well as his own are common for a 2-year-old who's generally willing to make a tiny tear in, but definitely not cut, the apron strings! Negotiating solutions to conflicts is a tactic many 3-year-olds can handle, explains the AAP.

About the Author

Karen Hellesvig-Gaskell is a broadcast journalist who began writing professionally in 1980. Her writing focuses on parenting and health, and has appeared in “Spirituality & Health Magazine" and “Essential Wellness.” Hellesvig-Gaskell has worked with autistic children at the Fraser School in Minneapolis and as a child care assistant for toddlers and preschoolers at the International School of Minnesota, Eden Prairie.

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