Your child is now 2, and has become even more assertive. But his defiance really results from the tug-of-war between his desire for independence and his continuing need for help. What he's doing — again and again — is testing his limits.
Along with independence come expanded language skills. He can now speak in short sentences and has become more purposeful, telling you what he needs or wants. He is also beginning to understand abstract concepts. He can ask for more milk, and inquire about whether he can go to bed later. But he still doesn't understand what next month or next year means.
He can form images in his mind, and may be able to organize his toys by size, or color, or shape. His memory is improving and he may be able to tell you at the end of the day what he had for lunch. A minority of 2-year-olds also know some colors and letters, and can count to 10 or even higher.
Toddlers are spirited folk, so look for toys and activities that give yours a way to channel his energy. Also look for toys that challenge his developing mind.
Ride-on toys: Your child will still love wheeled toys he can push himself along on such as tricycles and wagons — pedaling is probably more than he can handle. Look for ride-on toys that are well balanced. Cargo holds that allow your child to pack and unpack for his trips are a nice feature.
Balls: Balls continue to be a favorite, but even more so now that your toddler can target his throws. A few kids this age even make the occasional catch. Set up a couple of wastebaskets as "hoops" and the two of you can have a rousing game of basketball. Or establish two goal lines and introduce your child to a drastically simplified version of soccer.
Art supplies: Invite your child to be creative. Set up an area in your home where it's okay for him to be messy. You can prompt his artistry by asking your toddler to draw certain things: The sky, or grass, or even what the sound of rain looks like. When you're feeling brave — or maybe the word is energetic — bring out tempera paints and some broad brushes and watch how these additions charge up the creative process.
Percussive instruments: This is the age when music inspires dancing, clapping, spinning, hopping, even shouting — so why not add to the cacophony by handing over a tambourine, or drum, or rhythm sticks? Experiment with different genres of music and invite your child to conduct or beat out an accompaniment.
Dress-up clothes: Pretend play starts to take off about now. Designate a drawer or a box for dress-up clothes and stuff it with an assortment of shirts, skirts, hats, high-heel shoes, whatever might inspire some imaginative romps. If nothing else, it's a great excuse to put stuff on and take it off — an exercise 2-year-olds seem to love.
Child-size household equipment: Toys for dramatic play need to be realistic. So buy a set of toy dishes, pots and pans, and plastic food. Set up a small table and chairs where your child can host tea and dinner parties. Acquire a small broom, or even a little vacuum cleaner, to make cleanup fun.
Construction toys: Your child may become interested in new construction possibilities. Consider giant building blocks or play sets with pieces that can be linked or snapped together. Your child can create buses, trains, or entire farms, complete with furnished houses.
Puzzles and manipulatives: Your child's new dexterity has opened up many new play possibilities. He can more easily organize cups so that one nestles inside another, assemble four- or five-piece puzzles, use a set of plastic keys to open doors in a plastic house, and dress and undress a doll outfitted with laces, snaps, and buckles.