When it comes to independence, your 2-year old is capable of more than you might think! With a little guidance and a lot of opportunities to practice, they can learn to manage buttons, understand basic safety rules, help in the kitchen, and more. These milestones aren’t just exciting to witness, they also fuel toddlers’ motivation, help satisfy their desire to feel in control, and build a sense of confidence.
Once your toddler reaches age 2, they may have already hit these self-care milestones for infants and 1-year olds, like feeding themselves and taking their shoes off. Now they’re ready for these milestones (remember that these are based on averages; some children master these skills earlier or later):
This stage is all about bumping up the complexity of tasks your toddler already knows how to do. For example, they may be ready to build on dressing skills, adding more complicated tasks like finding the armholes in a shirt to put it on correctly. Sometime during months 28 to 30, they can try putting on a button-down shirt (although you’ll still need to help with the buttons) and pulling pants on by themselves. They can also wash and dry their hands without help.
Something that takes more shape at this age is safety. Toddlers begin to understand more about common dangers and how to stay safe from them, like not touching a hot stove or climbing on objects from which they can fall. Between months 28 and 30, they’ll also comply with safety warnings, like “Get away from the street!”
Your toddler’s household chores can get a little more complicated now, too. New 2-year olds can participate in chores like cleaning up toys and feeding their pets. By 28 months, you might be able to add in light cleaning tasks, like wiping a table, or working on a garden with you.
You’ll notice that dressing tasks get much easier for your toddler during this stage, as they gain the confidence to put on and take off their clothes. At the beginning of these months, your toddler may learn to put on and take off socks, although they’ll likely still need some help turning the sock the right way before putting it on. They can also put on shoes without help (sometimes on the wrong feet!). Toward the end of this stage, most toddlers can pull down their pants without help, button large buttons, and put on a shirt or sweater without much help – if any at all.
Maturity kicks in with some self-care tasks, too. Around month 31, your toddler can understand the difference between urine and bowel movements and should be able to name them correctly when they talk about them. They’ll also recognize that they may need a caregiver’s help when they feel like they’re in danger, like near a dog or a stranger. Between months 34 and 36, nose-wiping, brushing teeth, brushing hair, and eating with utensils become more independent tasks.
Several chores are perfect for older 2-year olds: Loading or unloading the dishwasher with non-sharp/non-breakable items, lining up books on a bookshelf, making a bed, and prepping food (washing vegetables or stirring batter, for example).
Self-care tasks in toddlerhood lead to independence and an overall feeling of confidence. Keep encouraging your little one to rely on themselves for age-appropriate tasks, even if it takes a lot of practice (and patience from you!).