Age Group: 24 – 36 months

You can reach a caring community resource specialist by calling 2-1-1.

Development Information

Every child is unique and develops differently. These are handy guidelines for motor, sensory, language, thinking and social skills that your child is starting to develop. If you are ever concerned, please go your local doctor or health clinic.

By 36 months, your child will typically be able to:
Motor Skills

  • feed himself (with some spilling)
  • open doors
  • hold a glass in one hand
  • hold a crayon well
  • wash and dry hands by himself
  • put on shoes (but not tie laces)
  • dress herself with help
  • use the toilet with some help
  • walk up steps, alternating feet
  • walk in a straight line
  • throw a ball overhead
  • kick a ball forward
  • jump with both feet
  • pedal a tricycle

Sensory and Thinking Skills

  • recognize sounds in the environment
  • able to pay attention for a certain amount of time
  • remember what happened yesterday
  • know what is food and what is not food
  • know some numbers (but not always in the right order)
  • know where things usually belong
  • understand “now,” “soon,” and “later”
  • substitute one object for another in pretend play (as in pretending a block is a “car”)
  • laugh at silly ideas (like “milking” a dog)
  • look through a book alone
  • match an object to a picture of that object
  • match objects that have same function (as in putting a cup and plate together)
  • count 2 to 3 objects
  • avoid some dangers, like a hot stove or a moving car
  • follow simple one-step commands

Language and Social Skills

  • use 3-5 word sentences
  • ask short questions
  • use plurals (“dogs,” “cars,” “hats”)
  • name at least 10 familiar objects
  • repeat simple rhymes
  • name at least one color correctly
  • imitate housework or help with simple tasks
  • ask to use the toilet almost every time
  • talk about feelings and mental states (e.g., remembering)
  • demonstrate some shame when caught in a wrongdoing
  • try to make others laugh
  • play spontaneously with two or three children in a group
  • assign roles in pretend social play (“You be mommy;” “I be daddy”)
  • know her first and last name
  • understand “I,” “you,” “he,” and “she”
  • believe everything centers around him (“if I hide my eyes, no one will see me”)
  • answer whether she is a boy or girl

Free services for developmental questions, concerns, and testing:
Community Coordinated Child Care
5 Odana Court, Madison, WI 53719
(608) 271-9181
You can also look at the Ages & Stages Questionnaire (ASQ), a developmental screener to see how your child compares with other children of the same age.

Children with Disabilities Resources
Dane County Department of Human Services
1202 Northport Drive, Madison WI 53704
(888) 794-5556

Wisconsin Department of Health Services-0-3 Program
1 W Wilson St Madison, WI 53703
(608) 266-1251

Imagine a Child’s Capacity-Birth to Three
2875 Fish Hatchery Rd Unit 1 Madison, WI 53713
(608) 204-6247

Gio’s Garden
2028 Parmenter St Middleton, WI 53562
(608) 833-4467

Waisman Center
1500 Highland Ave Madison, WI 53705
(608) 263-1656

United Cerebral Palsy of Great Dane County-Birth to 3 Connections
2801 Coho Street, Suite 300 Madison WI 53713
(608) 273-4434

Epilepsy Foundation Southern Wisconsin-Infants and Epilepsy
1302 Mendota St Ste 100 Madison, WI 53714
(608) 442-5555

Madison Area Down Syndrome Society
(608) 692-7653

Family Support and Resource Center
101 Nob Hill Rd Ste 201 Madison WI 53713

Health Information

With childhood vaccines, your child is protected from a variety of serious diseases that could drastically harm or kill your child. If you any concerns, please discuss with them with your doctor or at your local health clinic.

  • Annual Influenza dose

If your child has not been vaccinated or has missed one, your local doctor can still make a schedule or go to and make sure your child is properly protected.


Allied Wellness Center
2225 Allied Dr Ste 2 Madison WI 53711
(608) 274-7006

For free childhood immunizations

Public Health Madison and Dane County
2705 East Washington Avenue Second Floor Madison, WI 53704
(608) 266-4821
Public Health Madison and Dane County
2230 South Park Street Madison, WI 53713
(608) 266-4821

BadgerCare Plus Program
Dane County Human Resources
1819 Aberg Ave Madison, WI 53704
(888) 794-5556

To qualify free or low-cost health insurance for your child call 1-877-KIDS-NOW or go to

During this stage, it may be time to transition from a crib to a bed.

  • Make sleeping in a bed sound fun and talk about what bedding/toys/pillows might be going on the bed
  • Keep a consistent bedtime (between 6pm and 8pm).
  • When first in a new bed, explain to your toddler that he or she should stay there until morning. If your child leaves the bed, calmly place him or her back into bed.
  • If your child is not learning that he or she should stay in his or her bed, it might be a good idea to go back to the crib and try the transition again in a month or so.
  • Continue to use bed time routines


  • Children at this age may start to become picky eaters and/or not be interested in finishing food.
  • Provide healthy choices and several options for your toddler.
  • Remember that your toddler will want to eat if he or she is hungry.

Safety Information

If you are worried about the health, safety, and/or welfare of a child, please contact child protective services.

Children, Youth & Families Services Intake
2322 S Park Street Madison, WI 53713
Office Hours: (608) 261-KIDS (5437)
After Hours: (608) 255-6067

General Safety

  • Choose toys that do not have small parts.
  • Although your child has probably mastered the stairs and corners, you should still block staircases, latch cabinets, toilets and drawers, secure large objects and furniture with “L” brackets, and install window guards to prevent your child from falling out.

In the Car
Two-year-olds still must ride in the backseat of a car in a car seat with a harness
In Wisconsin, a child that has reached four years of age and 40 pounds can be ready to switch to a booster.

If your child has eaten or drunk something poisonous (or possibly poisonous), contact Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222.

Child Care

Child care tips for parents*

  • Get a list of child care providers in your area that are regulated
  • Contact these providers and let them know what your child care needs are (the hours you need, the age(s) of your child(ren), etc.)
  • Visit 2 or 3 programs to observe and ask questions. Look for how the provider interacts with the children, the type of discipline used, the schedule (naps, snacks), safety issues, the child to provider ratio (how many children is each provider watching?), cleanliness, and the types of toys and activities available.
  • Bring your child(ren) for a second visit to see how he/she/they react to the provider and the environment.
  • Ask the provider for references of other parents/caregivers. Contact these references and ask questions.
  • Listen to your instincts. You know your child(ren) better than anyone.
  • Choose a provider and continue to stay in contact. Ask questions, visit, and talk about any concerns.

Try or to find babysitters, nannies, pet sitters, and other help.

Community Coordinated Child Care, Inc.
5 Odana Court, Madison, WI 53719
(608) 271-9181

The Rainbow Project-Early Childhood CORE Program
831 East Washington Avenue Madison, WI 53703
(608) 255-7356

Dane County Parent Council
2096 Red Arrow TR Madison, WI 53711
(608) 270-3438

Center for Families-Home Visiting Program
2120 Fordem Ave Madison WI 53704
(608) 729-1162

Reading Tips*

Toddlers at this age like books that:

  • are board books AND paper books
  • are funny books
  • have rhymes, rhythms, and repeating text
  • talk about making friends
  • are about animals, trucks, and food

What parents can do:

  • use books in routines, especially at bedtime
  • be okay with reading the same book(s) over and over again
  • ask your child “what’s that?” and give them time to answer
  • relate the story to the child’s own life
  • show the child the cover page and explain what the story might be about
  • ask questions about the story
  • run your fingers along the words as you read them
  • help the child turn the pages

Dane County Library Services
(608) 266-6388

Playing Information

Caregivers with children 18 months – 3 years old can:

  • play follow the leader, tag, catch, and guessing games
  • reverse caregiver-child role
  • tell and act out stories
  • take field trips outside
  • use pretend play


Children’s Services Society-Mobile Play and Learn
(608) 628-9512

Madison Metropolitan School District-Play and Learn
545 Dayton St. Madison, Wisconsin 53703
(608) 204-6683

Center for Families
2120 Fordem Ave Madison, WI 53704
(608) 241-5150

Journey Mental Health Center
625 West Washington, Av, Madison, WI 53703
(608) 280-2720

Parenting Tips

  • Temper tantrums are normal for this age. However, toddlers need to be taught that tantrums are not acceptable.
  • Stay calm when your child is having a tantrum. Go into a different room if you can or focus on a different activity (read a magazine, write a note).
  • Having a tantrum is not as much fun when no one is paying attention to you! Ignore, ignore, ignore!
  • Do not give in to your child’s demands while they are having a tantrum. If you do, they will learn that tantrums can get them what they want if they do it for long enough.
  • Let your child know that you will talk with them when they are calm, then stick to your word.
  • After a tantrum, let your child know that you understand that they were upset but that it is not ok to behave that way.
  • Model good behavior when you are upset. Don’t throw tantrums or yell when something doesn’t go your way.
  • PRAISE good behavior. Pay extra attention to children when they are behaving the way you would like them to.
  • If in public, move away from other people/distractions until your child calms down (don’t give in to their request). If the tantrum doesn’t stop after a few minutes, go home. Show that there is a consequence to tantrums.
  • If your child needs to do something, don’t ask them if they want to do it. Tell them. For example don’t say “Are you ready to go to bed?” or “Do you want to go to bed?” The answer will be no. Instead say, “It is time to go to bed now” or “Go get ready for bed now please.”
  • Don’t give too many directions at once. Be clear and specific with what is expected.
  • Use reminders to help your child remember certain behaviors. (i.e. “Don’t forget to wash your hand before lunch”)

Parent Groups:
Center for Families
2120 Fordem Avenue Madison, WI
(608) 241-5150

Orion Family Services
6333 Odana Rd Suite 20 Madison, WI 53719
(608) 270-2511

Canopy Center
1457 E Washington Avenue Ste 102 Madison, WI 53703
(608) 729-1125

Project Rainbow-Grandparents & Other Relatives as Parents
831 E Washington Ave Madison, WI 53703
(608) 255-7356

Wisconsin Fathers for Children and Families
1-608-255-3237 (ALL-DADS)

Madison Area Mothers of Multiples
311 Friedel Drive Marshall, WI 53559

For more information, please dial 2-1-1.