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Stages of Play: Two and Three Year Olds

Child on tricycle


Want to know what to expect from your growing toddler? These guides share general timelines for developmental milestones and what to expect for stages of play.

2 Year Olds – What to expect at this stage

Your active toddler is getting busier and busier. They’re also getting more vocal about their growing independence. While this is often a challenge for parents—it’s a challenge for your toddler, too—everything is new.

  • Your toddler is becoming more proficient on the playground jungle gym at this age, climbing up and down the ladders, going down a small slide (and likely trying to climb up it as well).
  • They’ll find tremendous joy in jumping (especially in puddles) off small steps or balancing along sidewalks like a balance beam.
  • Will enjoy throwing and kicking a ball and may try to do this while running.
  • This is the perfect age to try a tricycle or balance bike – be sure to pick a toddler bike helmet!

How to incorporate play at 2 Years Old

  • Many toddlers love to build at this age. Whether it’s train tracks, towers, or Duplo—building and taking things apart will keep your toddler’s interest.
  • They will enjoy placing rings onto a toy and be able to do them in order of size or even colour.
  • Their curiosity for books and stories will grow, especially books that have tactile components or flaps.
  • Pretend play will still be a significant component of play, and they will still love helping around the house.
  • Scribbles are starting to look more like lines and shapes, and your toddler may be able to copy a vertical or horizontal line or a circle.
  • This is also the age when they start to show interest in zipping zippers and buttoning/unbuttoning (just make sure buttons are on the larger size as their little hands are still learning to work intricately).

3 Year Olds – What to expect at this stage

Just like the first year of your baby’s life, the toddler years come with a lot of growth and learning (both for you and your kiddo). While you’re nearing the end of the toddler years, there is so much fun ahead and much to look forward to.

A good way to start this section on development is by asking one simple question: Why? At three years old, your child’s brain works hard to connect the dots in their new and fascinating world. They’re curious and seeking to understand the big world around them. This comes with many questions, the big one being “why.” This is a good thing.

Brain development is rapid at this age, and asking “why” questions can help increase security and confidence.

Speaking of confidence, your child will be testing the limits of their body and its movements.

  • Skills such as throwing, catching, kicking, running, jumping, and even galloping or skipping will become more coordinated.
  • They’ll reach new heights at the playground—climbing everything within reach: ladders, stairs, and even slides.
  • Swinging high in the sky will thrill them, as will playing in the sandbox with their peers.
  • You may even notice a new (and sometimes fierce) determination for independence.
  • Three-year-olds require less hands-on support, so feel free to let them explore.

How to incorporate play at 3 Years Old

  • Tricycles, balance bikes, and other ride-on/in toys are great fun and a wonderful way to incorporate activity into their day. Children often enjoy pushing/pulling wagons, carts, or strollers.
  • Another thing you may notice is that their fine motor skills are becoming more refined and precise.
  • Craft time will also hit a new level. Depending on their opportunities for practice, your child may be able to open and close scissors and start to cut simple straight lines across the paper.
  • Your kiddo will likely be ready to interlock larger puzzles (six to 12 pieces is a good number to aim for).
  • Stringing beads and lacing shapes are another great way to practice those fine motor skills and keep your child busy.
  • You may also notice more creativity while playing with modelling clay or Play-Doh.

Do keep in mind that these are general guidelines, not hard and fast rules, and that each child develops at their own pace. 


Source: Today’s Parent | 2 Year Olds | 3 Year Olds


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