WHAT SHOULD 2 to 3 YEAR OLDS BE UP TO?

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It is worthwhile reflecting periodically about where children should be up to compared with developmental milestones. We can check so we know if there are any issues, we should help them with or be concerned about. That is something most of us do as parents from time to time.

In the 2-3 year, we find a few issues come into focus—some more than others. It is a big year for learning new skills and becoming more confident about managing the day. The big issues are speech and language development, rest time bottles, various behaviours and self-help skills like toileting and sitting at the table correctly. We have noticed that many children are behind in these areas these days and need help to catch up. This is a crucial time when families need to assist their children before it is too late, and they struggle to catch up to their peers.

Children of 2-3 should be speaking in short sentences and putting several words together to make clear meaning to anyone they speak to, not just mum or dad who understand their “baby like” babble. If your child is not clearly speaking as much as this, you need to spend time     helping them to catch up. To support speech development, we suggest you read our language article to help you as you support your child.

Another problem area for speech these days is the prevalence of ‘squeeze and suck’ snack foods that are readily available in supermarkets. These keep young children using the sucking reflex far longer than they should and prevent the development of muscles required for clear speech. Credible authorities like Nutrition Australia have concerns about this and have published research and fact sheets on this topic. Sometimes convenience is not worth it if it causes learning and developmental delays.

Bottles at rest time is another issue that becomes topical at the 2–3-year mark. Children beyond the age of 2 should not be needing a bottle at daytime rest. If your child still has one, consider weaning them away from this now. They are well able to manage a cup by this age or should be doing so. Giving them a bottle reduces their ability to speak as the muscles used to suck on a teat are not as helpful for clear speech. Children cannot speak clearly without the right muscles, so rest bottles at 2 are really hampering, not helping your child’s development.

Certainly, children should be well underway with toilet training by around 2 years and just completing that during the 2-3 year. Is your child there yet? If not, it would be wise to get started on that now as they should be, and they cannot go up to the next room unless they are toilet trained and that move is only a few months away. We cannot hold children back and remain compliant with the national regulations, so they must be toilet trained by then. This means that families need to be moving on those issues now and work consistently at home and with our team to support children through this important stage. 

As educators, part of our role is to assist children to practice being kind, careful of other children’s feelings, gentle at play and respectful in how they speak and play in our setting. To achieve this, we rely on parents to also teach children the same values and manners at home.  Most children and families manage this very well and there are few problems. Read our Mealtimes article to see how even normal family routines can teach children how to self-manage their day in many ways.

When parents and our team work together, it minimises the negative impact of these issues and helps children to learn and grow as they should, with confidence and competence. Please read our articles to help get you started on the issues discussed here. Once you have begun, we can support your work to assist all our 2-3 years children to be great achievers ready for the next exciting challenges. If you have any questions, please ask and our team will be happy to assist you. 

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