The following is a real question that someone asked in a Facebook group recently: “I need advice. What should a two year old know? My two year old recognizes nearly all the letters of the alphabet and numbers 1-15. She knows all her colors, animals, and shapes. She’s great at sitting and listening to stories. What else does she need to know that I can be working on with her?”
At first, I thought it was a joke. Does anyone think their two year old NEEDS to know all of that? Then I began reading the comments to see if anyone agreed with my sentiment. I was rather taken aback when the comments read something like: How about her last name and address? You could do flashcards with her. You could teach her how to spell her name.
News flash! Your two-year-old doesn’t need to know any of that. It’s okay if your children don’t learn their letters and numbers or their last name and address at the age of two. It’s also okay if they do.
What a Two Year Old Doesn’t Need to Know
Modeling that learning is fun and helping children explore their natural curiosities about their world is awesome at this age. We should be looking for teachable moments in every day. But if you’re grilling them on flashcards to help them get a head start or to show others how much they know, please stop. It’s just not that important.
The reality is, being ahead academically doesn’t make a big difference for a child in the long run. Eventually the playing field is leveled, and kids will land where they were meant to be on the academic spectrum.
I’ve experienced this as a long-time piano teacher. Those who start piano around the third or fourth grade will catch up to those who began as preschoolers within about two years. Why? Because they are ready academically, and they learn at a much quicker rate than the preschoolers.
I’m not knocking early learning such as piano for preschoolers. I’m teaching my two preschool daughters right now! There are many benefits to learning music. We do it because they love doing “music class” with mom, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be more advanced because they started early.
I’ve had both early learners and late bloomers. One of my boys read Charlotte’s Web to himself at the age of four. Another didn’t read fluently until the third grade. And guess what? They both graduated from high school on time.
I had a foster son who knew only one letter the first day of kindergarten. He was reading at a second grade level when he entered my home the last day of that school year. I’m guessing he even surpassed some of his peers who knew their alphabet at age two.
In my experience, those who do best in life are not those who are far ahead of their peers academically. They are those who have strong self-discipline, who interact positively with the world around them, and who have a positive sense of self.
So what should a two year old know?
Here are Ten Things Every Two Year Old Should Know:
- They are loved.
- You are in control of your emotions, even when they are not (especially when they are not).
- They are safe.
- Life is hard and sometimes overwhelming, but you are there to help them through it.
- Everyone makes mistakes, and that’s okay.
- Even grown ups mess up sometimes, but they apologize and admit when they’re wrong.
- Their feelings matter, and you strive to understand them.
- They have an important place in their family.
- Boundaries and limits are set for their safety.
- It’s okay if they’re not ready to use the potty yet. (I had to throw that in there! Want to hear more about my experience potty training six kids? Check it out here.)
There are absolutely developmental milestones that a two year old should reach. Areas such as language development, social awareness, and motor skills are discussed at every well child check. If you have concerns in such areas, please see this interview with a Pediatric Developmental Therapist. She explains where to get help if you have a concern and what the evaluation process and treatment plan might look like. She also provides plenty of resources for you to check out for more info.
There will be plenty of time for little ones to learn to their letters, numbers, shapes and colors. Most of these things will happen naturally as you guide them through their world. Two year olds struggle with emotions, how they fit into the world, and being understood. Most of your efforts should go towards helping them learn to navigate these areas.
No doubt, your toddler should be learning. Actually, they can’t help but learn something every day. They are so new to the world that everything they do is a learning experience. You can set up your toddler for success by providing plenty of learning activities throughout their day. But if you’re asking the question, what should a two year old know, just realize that it has nothing to do with academics.
Ten Simple Ways to Get Your Toddler to Listen–FREE Guide! Sign up here for this free guide, with ten quick and easy ideas you can use any time you need help getting your toddler’s cooperation. Because we all need help now and then, right?
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