Developmental Milestones: 24-36 Months

Toddlers hit developmental milestones at different paces and, once again: IT’S NOT A COMPETITION! (Unless your kid is ahead of the pack). Here’s what to expect from the terrible twos.

Dad teaching toddler to scooter

According to’s Dr Jay Hoecker:

“Two-year-olds undergo major motor, intellectual, social and emotional changes. Their vocabularies are growing, they’re eager to do things on their own, and they’re beginning to discover that they’re expected to follow certain rules.”

So far, so impressive. Except they’re still getting their tiny, oddly-shaped heads around communicating their needs, moving as fluidly as they’d like and learning to control their feelings.

“This can lead to frustration, misbehavior and tantrums,” says the doc. Otherwise known as the terrible twos! Oh, magical day! Anyway, you might want to duck out for milk until next December or so.

In the meantime, here’s an approximate timeline of changes between months 24 and 36.

24-30 months

Jumping on the spot

Coordination continues to develop rapidly at this stage. Congratulations: having learned to jump in place with both feet, your child is a pint-sized prince or princess of the pogo. They’re now able fit right into the crowd at Sex Pistols cover bands, or (more likely) headbutt you right directly the goolies like a tiny rocket – usually when you’re trying to hang out the sheets.

Baby bikie

Junior will discover how to sit on a tricycle, and steer quite well, although they’ll usually still scoot themselves along with their feet on the ground (rather than using the pedals). Valentino Rossi’s MotoGP records are safe – for the moment.



Bub is likely to be able to throw small objects – balls, cheese sticks, hamsters – overhead. Less potentially disastrous will be other wonders of newfound coordination, such as being able to pour liquid from one container to another. Juice, for example, into your beer.

Zippers, buttons and buckles

The fasteners on your child’s clothing are no longer an impediment. Was keeping them dressed tricky before? Bad news: now it’s worse! Welcome to the war on wearing pants.

Toilet training

According to Paediatrician Chris Pearson, chairman of the child development and behaviour group with the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, the ideal age for potty training is between two and 2½ for girls, and between 2½ and three for boys. But you can start much earlier – as many countries that aren’t under the thumb of Big Nappy do. Just don’t push it if your child’s not ready.

Surer grip

Your child was once guaranteed to drop most things, if not bang them repeatedly on the table, hurl them on the floor or repeatedly knock them against their own skull. They’ll now be able to carry breakable objects reliably. Next time you’re at a wealthy friend’s house, test this skill by having your child lug their priciest vase across the kitchen.

Self-defense mode activated

Around this time, your ‘dad reflexes’ can take a slight back seat as your child learns to avoid simple hazards such as stairs or hot stoves. Meaning a pinch less stress for you. Until they start driving and seem to lose this ability.

30-36 months

Cadel the kid

Remember how they used to push themselves along on their pedal bike just using their feet on the ground, Flintstones style? They’re now graduating to pushing on the pedals. Combined with their now-pretty-excellent steering skills, watching them rule the driveway might be the thrill of your year.

“I have the best words”

A new-Presidential phrase that your pint-sized proto politician might actually be able to say by now – their vocabulary has reached around 300 words. They’ll also be able to identify themselves in terms of their name, their gender and their position in the family.

Like a US politician, however, while they’ll sometimes use “I”, they’ll more often refer to themselves by their first name. “Donny did a big poo!” for example. “Yuge! The biggest poo! People are talking about it more and more. And Mexico’s going to pay for it.”

Looks like a toddler, talks like a parrot

Echolalia, in psychiatric terms, is the meaningless repetition of another speaker’s words, and is a symptom of a psychiatric disorder a psychiatric disorder. Fear not, however, if your child is still at it: it’s normal for this sort of speech to persist at this stage, as they may repeat almost anything you or mum says. Try not to swear at other drivers so much.

The pants dance

An important life skill: they can pull down their own strides, and often will, in anticipation of using the toilet. Pulling them back up again? Not so much. Still learning that bit.

Questions. So many questions.

“Why? Why? Where? Why?”

In fairness to them, they’re just trying to make sense of the world around them, but be prepared for head-poundingly difficult questions like “why is blue, blue?”.

(Correct answer: “Because it is”. Incorrect answer: “Go ask your mother”).


If you point out your child in photos, they’ll recognise themselves. They’ll also be able to identify a handful of animals in pictures – and their enjoyment of storytime will also blossom. They’ll know a few nursery rhymes off by heart and will enjoy simple, often-repeated yarns you read in picture books.

Around three

A grand vocabulary

By three years old, your knowledge-sponge will know around 1000 words – a rate of learning that will continue exponentially over the next year (by the age of four, they’ll hit 5000). These will mostly be verbs, although they’re beginning to sprinkle adjectives into their chatter (as an adult, you’ll top out at around 20,000-35,000 words in middle age).

They’ve figured out big versus little

Handy now. Even handier if they ever decide to play football, become a schoolyard brawler, or eat something large enough to get their name on the wall of a pub when they’re 18.

Finally: they’re really, really into learning

“What’s that? What’s that? Why? What? Why? Why? Why? Why? What’s that? What’s that? Why?” Enjoy it. They’ll ignore you completely one day, but for now, in their eyes, you’re a combination of Einstein, Les Murray and Stephen Fry. Soak it up. You’ll never have this much power again.

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