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Pre-schooler development at two and a half years old

What you can expect at this age

Your little person is growing each and everyday

What developments to expect from your two-and-a-half-year-old in the coming months...

At a glance

  • Now is the time you might start thinking about potty training
  • Dealing with the terrible two tantrums
  • How to boost their development

I scream, you scream

This is peak tantrum time, as if you needed to be reminded. They’re all different, but plenty of 2 to 3-year-olds have one every day and - perhaps look away now – they can last way past their 3rd birthday, too. The key tips are to distract them when you sense a tantrum coming on (the old trick of pointing out something ‘amazing’ outside gets them every time) and to stay outwardly calm and remove them from the situation while they, and possibly you, calm down. It’s tempting but not a great idea to give in to them just to stop the tantrum – you’ll only set yourself up for more if they think you will change your mind again.

Back to babyhood

It’s very common at this age to want to be independent one minute and revert to being a baby the next, even trying to drink from an old baby bottle. It’s important to remember the world can be a scary place for your little one, especially when they start to learn that life can be unpredictable. Playing at being a baby often helps reveal feelings they can’t yet express in words.

Potty training

Around 2½ is a popular time to begin potty training: they old enough to be up for it and interested in the idea of becoming just like mummy and daddy. When they get nearer three you may get more resistance as they lose whatever curiosity they had and are more used to the idea that nappies are where poo goes. Their interest in the process is key, so if they don’t seem that interested yet, it’s a good time to buy a potty and encourage them to sit on it once a day, and also to talk about what adults do when they go to the loo.


By now your little one may be in the middle of their ‘language explosion’, or perhaps has just been through it. This is when they’re learning new words at a dizzying rate and their vocabulary triples in a few short months. It’s also when they begin to put two words together, (‘Mummy car’) then, by 2 ½ years old, three word combinations appear (‘Mummy drive car’). By now their pronunciation should be quite good, although it may not be spot on until nearer three or a bit later. You can help your little one along with language by being relaxed: give them lots of opportunities to talk but don’t hover expectantly over them as it can pile on the pressure. When you ask them something, wait a good 5-10 seconds to give them space to reply. And if you let them choose the topic of conversation they are more likely to chat.

How you can help

  • Let them help you with shopping, cooking, gardening and household chores. It makes them feel useful and part of the bigger world
  • If you didn’t take them swimming as a baby, now is a great time to try some swimming lessons. They can learn to swim as a deliberate action when they are around three years old
  • Keep an eye on their TV and screen time: the National Literacy Trust recommends half an hour a day maximum for the under twos and an hour maximum for two to five year olds. It can be helpful to have a few ground rules: switch it off when no one’s watching and don’t allow a TV in their bedroom
  • Their pincer grasp is really efficient now and they’ll be drawn to beads and other small toys, but be careful as some kids of this age still like putting toys in their mouths. Toys showing the symbol that it’s not for 0-3 years have been tested so that that every part of the toy is big enough that it won’t fit down a 3-year-old’s throat
  • Many pre-schoolers learn their colours between two and two and a half (though some take longer), so it’s a good time to play with brightly coloured crayons and paints
  • Riding a bike with stabilisers may be a skill too far just yet, but a balance bike (one with no pedals where their feet push the bike along) is great practice for learning balance
  • Jumping over, and through, puddles will seem like the best fun ever right now as they can use their new skill of jumping (probably with feet together for now).

Are they normal?

A small note on developmental milestones: it’s really true – they’re all different and although we can encourage them, they will do things at their own pace and in their own time.

At a glance

  • Now is the time you might start thinking about potty training
  • Dealing with the terrible two tantrums
  • How to boost their development
Let them help you with shopping and household chores. It makes them feel useful and part of the bigger world

Pre-schooler development at two and a half years old