Having fun and learning: 2 to 3 years

Children at 2–3 years of age learn by watching, by listening and by doing. They learn to talk by copying those around them. This page has ideas for things that you (and your whānau) can do to help your child to learn.

2-3 year old with whanuau
Learning by playing, being active and copying what you do

Your child may enjoy playing with friends and whānau. Playing with their toys and pretending to talk to them is also a fun activity. Dreaming, pretending and talking to themselves are important parts of your child’s play.

Your local library, daycare and kōhanga reo will have more ideas and information about play. The library may also have special reading sessions for children. These are fun for your child – and for you.

Help your child to learn and develop

Being active and moving also helps your child to learn and their body to develop. You can help by giving them some fun and safe activities to do, such as:

  • learning to roll, throw and kick balls
  • moving and dancing to music
  • walking along low walls, with you holding their hands
  • going for walks and stopping to look at or pick up things such as twigs and leaves
  • climbing in safe places.

If you are active your child is more likely to be active. Do activities together – walking the dog, swimming, running and going for family walks.

Learning to talk

By 2 years of age most children can be understood by familiar adults (parents, whānau, caregivers) most of the time. By 3 years of age most children can be understood by unfamiliar adults most of the time.

Give your child simple instructions to follow, such as, ‘Give your cup to dad’ or, ‘Get the spoon and the big cup’. When they talk, your child will be starting to combine words, such as ‘Go car’, ‘Titiro pāpā!’ and ‘What’s daddy doing?’. Your child may know between 50 and several hundred words.

Help your child to learn to talk

To help your child to learn to talk you could:

  • play with them – join in with what they are doing and interested in
  • make sure you are face to face when playing with them – you may need to sit on the floor (this is so you can see what your child is interested in)
  • give them plenty of time to speak. Focus on what they are saying, not how they are saying it
  • share your family stories, songs/waiata and poems.

If you are worried

There is a wide range of what is ‘normal’ for a child’s development. Talk to your nurse or doctor if you are worried about your child.


Related websites

Whakatipu – SKIP
Whakatipu is a kaupapa that encourages strong whānau connections that nurture and develop tamariki. Tikanga and pakiwaitara are interwoven with child development information, ideas and activities for whānau.

Activities for children – Sport New Zealand
The Sport New Zealand website has a set of video clips showing activities for children from birth to 5 years of age.

Learning to talk – Kidshealth
The Kidshealth website has more information about how children learn to talk and what you can do to help.

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