Your not-so-little baby’s second birthday is right around the corner! When they were a baby, you probably didn’t think of your days as “quiet” and “restful,” but now you really know how loud and busy they can be! That may leave you feeling like the activities director on a cruise ship—constantly planning things to do, overseeing your child’s playtime, and trying to keep them happy.

As noble as that is, there is also a good reason to give yourself a break: Children benefit cognitively from unstructured play! According to the American Psychological Association, the opportunity to engage in child-led, open-ended play “is a fundamental necessity for children to thrive physically, emotionally, mentally, and socially.”

With a 23-month-old, the challenge may be giving them the space for unstructured play—while also making sure they are safe. You can do that by letting them take the lead, encouraging pretend play, and allowing them to explore outside while you keep a watchful eye. As a nice bonus: Kids who have the chance to burn off more energy—both creative and physical!—should sleep more soundly during naps and overnight. (Psst! Check out these toddler playroom ideas!) 

Your 23-Month-Old’s Development Milestones

Starting a few months ago, your toddler’s vocabulary probably seemed to “explode” with new words added on a daily basis—and now more complex words are in the mix, too. It can seem like a snowball effect: The more words they learn, the more they want to learn. Still, there is a large spectrum to the average number of words that toddlers can verbalize. You can help prompt your child’s speech by reading, saying nursery rhymes, and talking with them—even if the conversations are still largely one-sided. (More on language development!) 

At 23 months, toddlers’ receptive language skills are also improving. They should be able to follow common two-step directions, such as “please find your shoes and bring them to me.” Check out some new books from the library that introduce new words and then point out the image in the pictures while you are reading. 

You can also use your toddler’s impressive receptive language skills to comfort them. It’s common for 23-month-olds to experience separation anxiety, especially when they are expected to do something “solo” for the first time—like participating in a gym class where you stay on the sidelines rather than go along with them. Use specific words to explain where you’ll be and when you’ll be reunited. A little pep talk can go a long way! 

23-Month-Old Child Motor Skills

Your child may technically still be a toddler, but they are doing much less toddling these days. With better coordination and agility, they should seem less “clumsy” than a few months ago. Still, you should encourage them to hold your hand while going down the stairs and make it clear they always need to hold your hand while in a parking lot or crossing a road. Their fine-motor skills have also improved, which should open the doors to new activities like coloring, building towers with blocks, and stringing beads.  

Around this time, some children may start to resist their nap. About 20% of 2-year-olds stop napping entirely—yikes! This may be a case of them not knowing what’s in their best interest, but you can help by having a long, calm runway leading up to naptime and remaining consistent with their routine. If they are still determined to stay awake, make the old naptime the new down time by having them play independently quietly. Although it may take a lot of back-and-forth for a while, your child should catch onto the new expectations within a few weeks. 

How to Prepare a 23-Month-Old for a New Sibling

If you plan to expand your family—or already have a new addition on the way—wondering how to prepare your older child may weigh heavily on your heart and mind. Yes, you’ll have the benefit of experience when you welcome a new baby. Only, now you’ll be navigating life with multiple kids. Help ease the transition for your older child with these tips…

  • For young toddlers, save the big talk about the new baby until closer to the due date. Read books about becoming a big brother or sister and explain that new babies aren’t quite ready for playtime right away—but that will happen!
  • If you have to make any adjustments to your older child’s living space, like moving rooms or changing beds, do that well in advance of the new baby’s arrival to give your older child the time to adjust. 
  • Carve out some special bonding time to spend with your older child after the new baby arrives, whether that’s one-on-one storytime in the evening, a standing lunch date, or an afternoon walk. 


< 22-Month Milestones | 24-Month-Milestones >




  • The Happiest Toddler on the Block, Dr. Harvey Karp, MD
  • The Happiest Baby Guide to Great Sleep, Dr. Harvey Karp, MD
  • “The Serious Business of Play,” The American Psychological Association, May 2020

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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.