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Early Learning Tools/Resources:  For Families, Caregivers and Early Learning Educators

Many parents and caregivers, as well as teachers and early learning providers, are eager for information and resources on how to connect with babies and toddlers, manage young children's behavior, and help children develop relationships, regulate their behavior and emotions, and talk about their feelings. When the adults in children's lives have appropriate expectations of children's development at different ages, they have greater success—and much less frustration—with young children.  Click on the arrow button above to learn more.

Developmental Achievements

Skills such as taking turns, playing make believe, and kicking a ball, are called developmental milestones. Developmental milestones are things most children can do by a certain age. Children reach milestones in how they play, learn, speak, behave, and move (like jumping, running, or balancing).

Because of children’s growing desire to be independent, this stage is often called the “terrible twos.” However, this can be an exciting time for parents and toddlers. Toddlers will experience huge thinking, learning, social, and emotional changes that will help them to explore their new world, and make sense of it. During this stage, toddlers should be able to follow two- or three-step directions, sort objects by shape and color, imitate the actions of adults and playmates, and express a wide range of emotions.

What most children do by age 3 :


Social and Emotional

  •  Copies adults and friends 

  •  Shows affection for friends without prompting 

  •  Takes turns in games 

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  •  Shows concern for crying friend 

  •  Understands the idea of “mine” and “his” or “hers” 

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  •  Shows a wide range of emotions 

  •  Separates easily from mom and dad 

  •  May get upset with major changes in routine 

  •  Dresses and undresses self 

  •  Follows instructions with 2 or 3 steps 

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  •  Can name most familiar things 

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  •  Understands words like “in,” “on,” and “under” 

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  •  Says first name, age, and sex 

  •  Names a friend 

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  •  Says words like “I,” “me,” “we,” and “you” and some plurals (cars, dogs, cats) 

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  •  Talks well enough for strangers to understand most of the time 

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  •  Carries on a conversation using 2 to 3 sentences 

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Cognitive (learning, thinking, problem-solving)
  •  Can work toys with buttons, levers, and moving parts 

  •  Plays make-believe with dolls, animals, and people 

  •  Does puzzles with 3 or 4 pieces 

  •  Understands what “two” means 

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  •  Copies a circle with pencil or crayon 

  •  Turns book pages one at a time 

  •  Builds towers of more than 6 blocks 

  •  Screws and unscrews jar lids or turns door handle 

Movement/Physical Development
  •  Climbs well 

  •  Runs easily 

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  •  Pedals a tricycle (3-wheel bike) 

  •  Walks up and down stairs, one foot on each step

Interactive Positive Parenting

Following are some of the things you, as a parent, can do to help your toddler during this time:
  • Set up a special time to read books with your toddler.

  • Encourage your child to take part in pretend play.

  • Play parade or follow the leader with your toddler.

  • Help your child to explore things around her by taking her on a walk or wagon ride.

  • Encourage your child to tell you his name and age.

  • Teach your child simple songs like Itsy Bitsy Spider, or other cultural childhood rhymes.

  • Give your child attention and praise when she follows instructions and shows positive behavior and limit attention for defiant behavior like tantrums. Teach your child acceptable ways to show that she’s upset.

Child Safety First

Because your child is moving around more, he will come across more dangers as well. Dangerous situations can happen quickly, so keep a close eye on your child. Here are a few tips to help keep your growing toddler safe:

  • Do NOT leave your toddler near or around water (for example, bathtubs, pools, ponds, lakes, whirlpools, or the ocean) without someone watching her. Fence off backyard pools. Drowning is the leading cause of injury and death among this age group.

  • Encourage your toddler to sit when eating and to chew his food thoroughly to prevent choking.

  • Check toys often for loose or broken parts.

  • Encourage your toddler not to put pencils or crayons in her mouth when coloring or drawing.

  • Do NOT hold hot drinks while your child is sitting on your lap. Sudden movements can cause a spill and might result in your child’s being burned.

  • Make sure that your child sits in the back seat and is buckled up properly in a car seat with a harness.

Healthy Bodies

  • Talk with staff at your child care provider to see if they serve healthier foods and drinks, and if they limit television and other screen time.

  • Your toddler might change what food she likes from day to day. It’s normal behavior, and it’s best not to make an issue of it. Encourage her to try new foods by offering her small bites to taste.

  • Keep television sets out of your child’s bedroom. Limit screen time, including video and electronic games, to no more than 1 to 2 hours per day.

  • Encourage free play as much as possible. It helps your toddler stay active and strong and helps him develop motor skills.

  • Make sure your child gets the recommended amount of sleep each night: For toddlers 1-2 years, 11–14 hours per 24 hours (including naps) Newborn babies will sleep about 16 hours a day at first although each baby requires a different amount of sleep. Parents/caregivers will soon learn what is “normal” for a particular child. Babies don’t know the difference between night and day and will sometimes get them mixed up, sleeping more during the day and less at night. Babies in the first year still sleep a lot. They need at least two naps a day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, each lasting from one to three hours. 

       Toddlers between ages two and three may sleep 9 to 13 hours a day. Many toddlers will take one long nap                     around lunchtime. Or, they may take two shorter naps.

Take your completed Child Development Tracker form, created by age, with you and talk with your child’s doctor at every well-child visit about the milestones your child has reached. 

Content Source: 

The CDC are partners that support children & family wellness. Their researchers, scientists, doctors, nurses, economists, communicators, educators, technologists, epidemiologists and many other professionals all contribute their expertise to improving public health and is a major component of the Department of Health and Human Services and is recognized as the nation’s premiere health promotion, prevention, and preparedness agency.

The National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD) strives to advance the health and well-being of our nation’s population, including our most vulnerable populations. National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities,Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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