Teaching Two-Year Olds: Common Adaptive Skills & What to Expect

By Anne Vize

This practical article shows you the common adaptive skills for 2 year olds, and how they can be applied in a teaching and learning situation. You will also learn about the Bayley Scale of Infant Development and where you can find it to use for your own students.

Early Childhood Development for 2 Year Olds

A typical two-year old is rather a work in progress when it comes to their ability to function safely and competently in their environment. They require constant supervision to ensure their physical safety, as they are at risk from hazards such as slamming doors, cars on roads, ingestion of inappropriate or dangerous items, choking, strangulation and trips and falls. They also require constant input to support their daily functioning in areas such as feeding, dressing, toileting and management of daily routines and social behavior. Here are some general indicators of the adaptive skills for 2 year olds:

Toileting: Some 2 year olds will be dry during the day, although typically many are still wearing night nappies. Independent toileting should only be encouraged in a child when they give indications that they are ready to do so. They may become interested in watching other children go to the toilet, or they may take off their own nappy quickly once it is wet or soiled. Remember that young children will have frequent accidents with toileting, participially when busy and active. A change of clothes is helpful, as is close teacher- parent communication to ensure the process of become toilet trained is positive and enjoyable.

Dressing: Fine motor skills take time to develop and learn, and dressing often involves many fiddly tasks using the hands and fingers. Dressing for a 2 year old can be made easier with elastic waisted pants, a wide necked jumper or top and sleeves that are loose fitting. Some children find this task easier if they lay their clothes out flat on the floor first, or have an adult to help with the difficult parts. Reward and praise for effort are critical, as are attention to fine motor abilities and ability to sequence the task appropriately.

Eating: With limited fine motor skills comes an inability to eat in a refined and co ordinated way. Eating skills at this level are fairly crude, with the whole hand being used frequently and limited tool use (normally a spoon and fork). Some cutting skills may have developed by age 2, but many will prefer finger food as it is easier to manage. Backward shaping can work well with eating skills, as an adult can easily perform the challenging parts of the task and allow the child to complete the task. Like toileting, good communication with the home is vital for developing eating skills. Encourage healthy eating strategies through role modeling and promotional literature, as well as in class cooking and shared eating activities.

Assessing Adaptive Skills for 2 Year Olds

There are many commercially available checklists and assessment tools available for examining adaptive skills for 2 year olds. Take note though that some are designed to be used by therapists rather than teachers, and that some are only relevant for particular socio economic or cultural groups of children.

The Bayley Scale of Infant Development is one example of an assessment tool that is used for evaluating the motor, behavioral and cognitive skills of young children, aged from one month to 42 months. The test was revised in the 1990's, although its data was drawn from US populations which did not include premature babies or children with known disabilities. It is a general screening test. Like all tests of this type, it should be administered and interpreted with care and gives a general indication of adaptive skills for two-year olds, along with other age groups.