Your 23-Month-Old’s Development and Milestones


Your Willful Toddler

Your little one is growing up fast, and if you look at their baby photos, you’ll see just how much they’ve changed. Not only is your 23-month-old starting to look less like the little baby they once were, but they’re also likely getting more independent by the day. This month, you may be facing the challenges of picky eating or the transition to a toddler bed, so read on to learn how to handle these new developments and to discover what may be in store in the coming weeks. Enjoy this last month before your 1-year-old turns 2!

Toddler Development Milestones

Although each toddler develops at their own pace, these are some of the developmental milestones you may see your 23-month-old reach around this time:

  • Taking the stairs. You might notice that your 23-month-old toddler may be able to walk up and down the stairs. To keep your child safe, continue to use baby gates at the top and bottom of the stairs; you may need these until your little one turns 3. It’s a good idea to always supervise your child around the stairs.

  • Developing better hand and finger skills. At this age, your toddler may be able to scribble, turn over containers to pour their contents out, or even build a tower of four blocks or more. These skills will only continue to develop as your child grows!

  • Showing a preference for their left or right hand. It’s possible that your toddler may show a tendency for using their left or right hand. However, many children don’t always display a definite preference until they’re much older, or they may even be ambidextrous. Either way, it’s best not to pressure your little one into using one hand over the other.

  • Saying several words and simple phrases. Your toddler may start to use the correct names for people they know, body parts, and familiar objects, and they might put words together to form simple sentences. If this doesn’t describe your toddler’s speech just yet, be patient and try not to focus on how many words your 23-month-old “should” say. Language development varies a lot from child to child! If your toddler is not talking but seems to understand everything, check in with their healthcare provider.

  • Looking less like a chubby baby. Your 23-month-old's steady growth and physical development is making them look less like a baby and more like a toddler. Your child may be gaining muscle and becoming taller and leaner, and their jawline may be more defined.

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Activities for Supporting Your 23-Month-Old Toddler’s Development

Wondering what 23-month-olds “should” be doing? Lots of things—and interests differ from child to child! You can teach your toddler and support their development in many ways. Here are a few ideas:

  • Organize play dates with slightly older children. Help encourage your toddler’s social development by organizing playdates with children of a similar age or those who are slightly older. Just be prepared to step in if any conflict arises, such as if your toddler tries to hit or push another child or the other child is also physically aggressive. This behavior is normal at this age, so it’s always best to supervise!

  • Teach self-care skills. This is a good age to start teaching your toddler how to brush their own hair and dress themselves. They may be excited to do these tasks all by themselves, but they’ll still need your help at 23 months.

  • Set consistent boundaries. Your 23-month-old is likely to act on impulse, which is why having boundaries and setting limits is important. Clearly explain your expectations and prioritize praising your child's good behavior over punishing aggressive or problematic behavior. Be consistent with enforcing boundaries while keeping realistic expectations. At this age, your little one may not understand or be able to follow complex instructions and hasn’t yet acquired much self-control.

  • Think about potty training. Have you noticed any signs of potty-training readiness? These include things like your 23-month-old showing interest in learning to use the potty, being able to keep their diaper dry for a couple of hours during the day, and saying that they have to go. If you’ve spotted some of these signs, pick up tips on how to potty train and get the supplies you’ll need, like a potty chair.

Mealtimes and Menus for Your 23-Month-Old

Your active toddler needs a variety of healthy foods to keep them going, which can come from about three meals and two snacks per day. Although they may eat more one day and skip a meal or snack on another, offer food from the major food groups (proteins like meat, eggs, soy, and legumes, whole grains, vegetables, fruit, and dairy products like milk and yogurt) to ensure they get all the nutrients their growing body needs.

Handling Picky Eaters

From time to time, you may feel a little stressed out trying to get your little one to eat their greens or try new foods. You might also become frustrated when your toddler stops wanting to eat something they loved just a few days ago.

Here are a few things you can try that may help you and your child get through the picky eating stage:

  • Eat together as a family. Sit down together at the table without distractions like the TV or phones. Give your little one the same foods that everyone else is eating, but try to include a dish you know they like.

  • Avoid pushing food or meals. If your little one refuses a meal, don’t force it or create a fuss over it. Your toddler knows their body and will eat when they’re hungry. Pressuring them to eat something they don’t want may backfire in the long run by making them dislike that food even more.

  • Don’t bribe your child. It may be tempting to bribe your child with sweets or dessert to get them to eat their greens, but this can lead to more battles at the dining table, as well as setting the stage for unhealthy eating patterns.

  • Keep trying. Your child may refuse to take a bite at first, but don’t give up. It can take a while for them to get accustomed to certain flavors, smells, or textures, so offer a new food several times, taking a break in between tries.

  • Offer variety. As you plan your family’s meals, introduce some new foods or flavors for your children to explore, or even serve a different form of a familiar dish—prepare pasta with a different sauce, for instance. You never know when your child might be willing to try something, and this is a good way to encourage them to broaden their palate.

  • Make dishes fun. Toddlers love trying eye-catching foods, so make the plating fun. For example, create a smiley face using fruits and vegetables. Celery sticks can be the smile, a wedge of apple the nose, a few raisins the eyes, and some short carrot sticks can be the hair. Dips are another good choice, as your toddler will love making a little mess by sticking carrot sticks in a yummy sauce. If your little one is having fun in their high chair, you’ll find they’re more likely to eat the food you serve.

  • Get your little one involved in the cooking. Cooking together with you is exciting for your toddler, especially when they get to add their own creative touches—and they’re more likely to enjoy eating something they’ve helped make. Ask them to help with tasks such as washing fruits and vegetables, picking herbs, measuring ingredients, and stirring and pouring batter, all under your watchful eye.

  • Introduce similar foods. If your little one likes sweet potatoes, why not have them try butternut squash? They may have a favorite ingredient that you can use as a bridge to try something new.

  • Pair familiar and unfamiliar foods. If your toddler loves cheese, grate a little bit on broccoli or cauliflower. Or serve a new vegetable with a dip they love to make things a bit more fun and familiar.

Your 23-Month-Old Toddler’s Sleep Schedule

Your 23-month-old toddler needs approximately 11 to 14 hours of sleep per day. At this age, though, they’ll likely only need one afternoon nap.

If you’re looking for help in adjusting your 23-month-old toddler to a bedtime routine, try the Smart Sleep Coach app by Pampers. Co-created by pediatricians and sleep experts, the app can guide you in sleep training your little one, as well face sleep disturbances including sleep regression.

Transitioning to a Bed

Around this age, you may notice that your little one tries to climb out of their crib, and you might wonder whether you need to move them to a bed. It could still be several months away, but it’s a good idea to think about when you might need to transition to a low toddler bed.

For your little one’s safety, here are a few things to keep in mind around this time:

  • Adjust the crib mattress to the lowest possible setting. If your toddler is trying to climb out of the crib, a lower mattress may keep them in place for a little longer. Check what mattress settings the crib you have offers by reading the manufacturer’s guidelines.

  • Start with the mattress. When you think it’s time to make the transition to a bed (remember, it could still be months away), you might prefer to place a larger mattress on the floor or onto a low bedframe instead of moving your toddler to a normal-height single bed,.

  • Use a side rail on the bed. Once you’ve switched to a bed, you may want to use a siderail to keep your toddler in place at night. Some cribs convert to a toddler bed and give you the option of keeping a side rail in place. See what configurations your crib offers, if any, by checking the instructions.

  • Consider a baby gate. Your little one may want to get out of bed and walk over to your room at night, or wander around the house, so you’d might like to install a baby gate to keep them safe.

A Day in the Life of Your 23-Month-Old Toddler

Now that you have an active toddler running around, here’s a look at what a day in your home might look like:

Your Toddler’s Health and Safety: Common Childhood Symptoms and Illnesses

Despite your best efforts to keep your little one healthy, at some point it’s likely that they’ll come down with a cold, earache, or tummy trouble. Here are some of the most common childhood symptoms and illnesses, along with what you can do to make things easier for your child:

  • Sore throat. This can range from scratchiness to extreme pain and may be accompanied by a fever or swollen glands. A sore throat caused by a virus doesn’t need antibiotics and will go away in about 7 to 10 days. You can help ease the discomfort by giving your child warm liquids to drink. Strep throat, which is caused by bacteria, is rare in toddlers, but if you think your toddler has this, see their healthcare provider, as this requires antibiotics. Symptoms of strep throat include sore throat, fever, headache, stomach pain, nausea, and vomiting.

  • Earache. Pain in the ear is common among children and can be caused by things like an ear infection or pressure from a cold. Take your toddler to their healthcare provider to find out the cause and get advice about treatment. If the healthcare provider says it’s OK, you may be able to give your toddler acetaminophen or ibuprofen to help relieve the pain.

  • Common cold. Colds are caused by viruses, and during the first two years of life, most children catch 8 to 10 colds. The common cold is due to a virus and can last for up to 10 days, though some symptoms, such as coughing, may last longer. You can make the symptoms a little easier for your little one by ensuring they’re comfortable and that they get enough rest and drink plenty of liquids. You can also use saline drops or nasal spray to help your child’s stuffy nose.

  • Urinary tract infection. Also known as a UTI, urinary tract infections can lead to discomfort in the abdomen and bladder area and can cause pain or a burning sensation when peeing. Your toddler’s healthcare provider will need to take a urine sample before recommending a course of treatment.

  • Bronchiolitis. A common respiratory infection, bronchiolitis causes the breathing tubes in the lungs to swell, making it hard for children to breathe. It’s often caused by a virus during cold and flu season and can’t be treated with antibiotics. If you notice your little one is showing signs of troubled breathing, call their healthcare provider, who may recommend treatments like saline drops or acetaminophen to help relieve the symptoms until the infection is gone.

  • Bacterial sinusitis. As you may guess from the name, bacterial sinusitis infections come from bacteria trapped in the sinuses. Symptoms can last for more than 10 days and are like those of a cold, with a runny nose and a cough. If bacterial sinusitis is diagnosed, your toddler’s healthcare provider may prescribe antibiotics.

  • Warts. The human papillomavirus (HPV) is the cause of warts in children, which aren’t common in children younger than 2. These harmless growths can appear on hands, feet, or fingers and often clear up without any treatment.

Tummy Troubles and Diarrhea

Besides the common illnesses listed above, tummy aches are a typical complaint of toddlers. An occasional loose stool is not necessarily something to worry about, but if watery stools happen more often than usual it could be that your little one has diarrhea.

The main causes of diarrhea are:

  • Viruses. Diarrhea in toddlers is often caused by viruses, among them rotavirus, which can cause watery diarrhea in babies and toddlers. Your baby will receive a vaccine to protect against severe rotavirus diarrhea.

  • Bacteria. If your child consumes food that’s been contaminated with bacteria, food poisoning is a common result, and diarrhea is a chief symptom of this illness.

  • Food allergies. Diarrhea may be a symptom of a food allergy or lactose intolerance, which you can discuss with your child’s healthcare provider.

  • Infections. Infections outside the digestive tract, like those in the urinary or respiratory tract, or even the inner ear, may be accompanied by diarrhea.

  • Drinking fruit juice. Too much fruit juice can also be a cause of diarrhea.

  • Side effects of oral medication. Taking antibiotics often leads to diarrhea.

The main risk of diarrhea is dehydration, so if your little one gets diarrhea, check in with their healthcare provider, who may recommend an over-the-counter electrolyte solution to help replace the lost fluids.

Development Tips for Your Toddler This Month

The following tips may benefit your 23-month-old toddler’s development:

  • Help improve their hand and finger skills. You can help your 23-month-old get

    better at using their hands and fingers with a few little games like folding colorful paper together, putting blocks into the corresponding holes, stacking blocks, creating shapes with clay, or doing some finger painting.

  • Emulate good behavior. Children watch everyone around them, so try to set a good example and explain concepts like sharing. For example, if you cut an apple and give half to your little one, explain that you are sharing with them and mention how nice it is for people to share. Sharing is a concept that children won’t completely grasp until they’re much older, but encouraging it earlier on will only help!

  • Support your little one’s personality. Every child is unique, so whether you have a naturally shy child or a very outgoing one, do your best to support them appropriately. If you see that your little one takes time to warm up to new people, don’t push them. Conversely, if they’re outgoing, you may want to give them frequent opportunities to socialize with other children. If you’re concerned about your 23-month-old or if they’re exhibiting behavior problems, reach out to your toddler’s healthcare provider for advice.

  • Let them lead when you read. Your toddler has a mind of their own, so take advantage of this independent spirit when you read together. Let them pick the book they want from a selection of three or four that you put together and compliment them on making a good choice. As you start reading together, let them be the page-turner. Ask them questions about what’s coming next in the story or ask for their help in finding something on a page. If the book contains a rhyme or a phrase that’s repeated, stop when you get to it and give them the opportunity to chime in, expressing your pride and delight when they do.

Items You Will Need This Month

You may like to purchase the following baby gear this month:

  • Jogging stroller or child trailer. Heading outside for a jog or a bike ride? Take your toddler with you on a run with a jogging stroller, which can go over bumpy, uneven terrain easily. Or take your child for a ride in a bicycle-towed child trailer.

  • Car seat. Check whether your child is getting closer to the top height or weight limit for their rear-facing car seat as you may need to purchase a new seat. If the seat is a convertible model, and the upper limit for height or weight has been reached for the rear-facing position, you can reconfigure the seat to be forward facing. Make sure you check the manufacturer’s guidelines when you’re setting it up.

  • Toddler bed and bed rail. As mentioned above, a toddler bed may be the next big purchase on your list unless you have a crib that could be converted to a bed. A toddler bed rail will also be useful during this transition to prevent your little one from falling out of their new bed.

  • Potty chair. Potty training is nearer than you might think! Take the opportunity now to buy a potty chair for your 23-month-old to get them used to the idea of starting potty training soon.

Your Life as a Parent: Introducing a New Baby

If you’re pregnant, you’re bound to be wondering how your 23-month-old will handle the arrival of your newborn baby.

It’s natural for your little one to feel a little jealous—not out of anger toward the new baby, but because they may feel they won’t get as much attention.

As a result of feeling a little left out, your 23-month-old may misbehave or throw tantrums to get a reaction from you. Even negative attention is a win in their eyes; they may prefer you being angry at them rather than the feeling of being ignored while you focus more on preparing for your newborn.

Help make things easier for your little one with these ideas:

  •  Don’t hide anything. Your toddler will be curious, so tell him a new baby is coming.

  • Don’t emphasize that your little one is getting a little brother or sister. When you use these words, your toddler may assume he’s getting a new playmate his age rather than a baby.

  • Be matter of fact about the new baby's arrival. Your little one is likely to be concerned with the events that happen in the immediate future. It’s OK to tell him there is another baby coming, but try not to make a big deal about it or let it be the focus of daily life.

  • Move your little one into his own room or prepare the room for two. If you’re planning separate rooms for your newborn and your toddler, it’s a good idea to have your toddler’s room ready before your due date. This way your older child can transition to their own room before the baby’s arrival, which reduces the amount of change and upheaval happening all at once. If you don’t have a separate room, move things around to make space for the new crib and make the rest of the room comfortable for your toddler.

  • Include your toddler in activities as much as possible. Once your new arrival is here, have your toddler get involved with your newborn as much as possible, so they feel included, like getting them to “help” out with dressing the new arrival, or with feeding or bathing. However, do not leave your toddler alone with the infant.

  • Schedule quality time with your toddler. Try to spend quality one-on-one time with your little one. This will help them feel less like all the attention is on the new baby. You can even try to spend time with them when your newborn is napping.

Checklist for This Month

  • Schedule your toddler’s 2-year checkup. Call the healthcare provider’s office or go online to make an appointment.

  • Organize a second birthday party. Your little one is about to turn 2 so now is the time to start planning a little party if you haven’t yet. Your 23-month-old will probably do best with a smaller, simple gathering rather than a big party. You might prefer to invite only your close family and celebrate with a cake.

  • Think about preschool options. It may be a few months to a year down the road, but you may want to start looking at what preschools are available to you and which one may be the best fit for your little one. Consider asking other parents for recommendations. You can also start to prepare your toddler for preschool by reading stories, sorting objects and shapes, or playing with blocks together.

How We Wrote This Article The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.