Your child at two and a half

two, girl, child, toddler, developmentTwo and a half is a distinctive age for one reason - it can be the age of negativism. While this sounds deeply unattractive, it is usually over by three and arguably it's more unpleasant for your bewildered child than it is for you.


She may have shown signs of resistance and stroppiness before the age of two, but at two and a half, she develops an attitude with a vengeance.

She likes to follow her rituals and do things her way and is furious if you interrupt her. Sometimes she doesn't know what she wants to do but knows it isn't anything you've got on offer, even, incredibly, the park or an ice cream.

It's hard to make her happy, although funnily enough there is a sense of humour lurking - due to emerge closer to three. You can feel that you are in a permanent state of war with your little two and a half year old; while she is trying to decide how to live her life (somewhat prematurely as it turns out) you are trying to fathom out just what on earth her problem is.

The trick is to be completely saintly yourself (or at least learn to pick your fights). Poor love, she doesn't like making herself or you unhappy; she's not really a manipulative, selfish little beast, so set aside enough time for her to try to dress herself, feed herself and bath herself without urging her to get a move on.

  • Bedtime routine

Now is the time for bedtime rituals before bed. She may like to have a teddy in bed, to have her light on or nursery rhyme tape playing.

But this is also the time when she decides she'd rather be downstairs, thank you very much, although when she's down there she'll be sobbing with tiredness and making everyone else unhappy.

  • Imitating you

She will help to clear up and put things away because she's keen to behave like an adult (not realising that adults hate putting things away and would rather pay for someone else to do it).

Cognitive development

  • Fairness

She can understand a bit more about cause and effect, so begins to understand that if she grabs that knife she may cut her fingers off.

She is keen to name things and compare them, being able to say, not always correctly but with a sense of injustice, that Johnny has a bigger biscuit than she does.

  • Time

She can understand simple time concepts, like "we will go the park after we've had lunch" but still make a fuss because she'd prefer it the other way round.

  • Self-awareness

Restlessness at night is common and may be due to her being anxious about saying good night to you and you leaving her. This is partly to do with her growing realisation that she is a separate person, which you can imagine is a pretty heavy concept to get to grips with.


She can complete one of those great wooden puzzles of three or four pieces, and sorts objects by shape and colour.

She can understand the difference between make believe and reality, and will play make believe games with her toys and animals.

Physical development

She can make a tower of eight bricks (although not always under pressure) and when she draws she will now make horizontal and vertical lines. She can jump and hop.

She may ask to go to the toilet and be dry during the day although this is variable.


She can join together bits of sentences, using a subject, verb and object. She will refer to herself as "I" and know her full name, even if you've given her a ludicrous one that other children will laugh at.

A word about our development calendar

Please remember, not all babies and children develop at the same time and in the same way, so our development calendar may not always match your child. Development milestones vary widely. It's not uncommon to have isolated pockets of late development, such as late walkers and talkers, and some babies are slower to develop because they were born prematurely or because they're twins (or triplets). But a minority of babies and children do have delays in development that may need specialist help. If you are at all concerned, go and see your GP. No health professional should ever trivialise a worry you have about your child. If your child has special needs, you can get advice from other parents in our special needs Talk forum. We've also got pages with advice about diagnosis, support and benefits, plus our Special needs webguide.

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Last updated: almost 2 years ago