How to Create a 3-Year-Old Schedule That Works!

Are you tired of the daily chaos that can be living with a 3-year-old? Do you desire to have more peace in your house, by learning how to create a 3-year-old schedule that’s going to work for your family?

 

I can totally relate!

 

One of the best things you can do for your 3-year-old (and yourself) is to create a daily routine that meets the needs of your family. Maybe you are a stay at home mom who needs a flexible daily schedule for your preschooler. Maybe you have a 3-year-old who goes to preschool.

 

You may be a working mom whose 3-year-old goes to daycare and you need a daily routine that’s pretty straight forward.

 

It is possible to create a daily rhythm that meets all of these needs. Let’s take a look at what makes a successful schedule for a 3-year-old.

 

 

 

*This post may contain affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase using this link. I only recommend products I love or would personally use.

 

Toddler Schedule vs. Toddler Routine

It can be so easy to start drowning in the chaos of the toddler years. They become very opinionated and expect you to oblige to their every demand. As moms, we know this doesn’t fly.

 

Naturally, to control the chaos, we try to create a schedule. It might go something like this: 

  • My child will wake up at 7 am. Then we will eat breakfast together at 7:15 am. By 7:45 am we will get dressed together. At 8 am we will have toddler storytime. 

 

Alright, you can see where I’m going with this. That is an unrealistic schedule for most toddlers. There will be days when your 3-year-old wakes up at 6:30 am and is ready to start their day. Other mornings you will have a grumpy 3-year-old wake up at 7:45 am and not want anything to do with food until lunch.

 

As a mom, having flexibility in your daily routine with your 3-year-old will make your days go much more smoothly. Hear me out- I am a type-A personality and I like to have an idea of what our day looks like. BUT, I know much like myself, my kids will wake up every day in a different mood and I need to recognize this. Some days, a schedule just isn’t going to work, whereas a morning “routine” will.

 

A morning routine for a toddler may look something like this:

  • Wake up between 7-7:30 am. Have breakfast with your 3-year-old by 8 am, and maybe even let them help make it. Around 8:30 am, set your toddler up for their independent playtime. Etc.

 

You know your child best, and you know whether a fairly rigid schedule is going to work for your family. For other families with toddlers, a daily routine may be more reasonable.

 

 

 

How to Create a Routine for Your 3-Year-Old

  • Create a Schedule of Meal and Snack Times

Preschoolers like predictability, as it helps them feel more secure because they know what to expect. When you first transition to a schedule for your 3-year-old, begin by simply setting meal times and snack times. One of our biggest struggles has been snacks. My kids would snack all day if I would let them, BUT this creates a huge issue when it comes to mealtime.

  • Designate Age Appropriate Toys and Activities

If you still have baby toys around your house, now may be the time to pack those up, unless your 3-year-old loves to play with them, or they have educational value. Choose toys that will keep your preschooler entertained, as this will help set you up for successful independent playtime. Play to your child’s interests when selecting age-appropriate toys for your 3-year-old.

  • Designate Wake Times, Nap Times, and Bedtimes

Once you’ve got a handle on mealtimes, you will next want to start setting and keeping sleep and wake times. This will consist of having a window for waking up in the morning, having a nap time window, as well as a consistent window of time for your bedtime routine.

  • Designate a Schedule That Accounts for All These Things

At this point, you’ve established the most important parts of a daily routine for a 3-year-old. You’ve now established a routine of meals and sleep, which are the two most important parts of your child’s day. Now comes the fun part of choosing the other activities you’d like to do with your 3-year-old. You can craft, learn, or just spend the time playing together. More on this in a few minutes.

  • Share Time in a Way They Understand

One thing I have learned to do as a parent of a 3-year-old is to share time in a way they can understand. A 3-year-old has no understanding of how long a half hour is. BUT, if I can tell them that we will have lunch in about the same amount of time it takes them to watch a Paw Patrol, they have a better understanding of that because it’s relatable to them.

 

 

Common Daily Routine of a Stay-at-Home Mom of a 3-Year-Old

7-7:30 AM: wake up and watch a kid’s show

8 AM: breakfast, put dishes at the sink

8:30 AM: get dressed and brush your teeth, put laundry in the hamper

9 AM: free play (can be with you, siblings, or independently)

10 AM: learning time (preschool or a structured activity)

11 AM: free play/craft time

12 PM: lunchtime, put dishes at the sink

12:30 PM: outside play (or inside free time if it’s cold outside)

2:30 PM: quiet time

3:30 PM: playtime

5 PM: dinner time, help set the table, get condiments out of the refrigerator

6 PM: put dishes at the sink, help clean up from dinner

6:30 PM: family time

8 PM: bath and pajamas

8:30 PM: snack, brush teeth, read a Bible story

9 PM: bedtime

 

My daily routine for my 3-year-old likely isn’t going to look exactly like your daily routine for your 3-year-old. That’s totally normal, I wouldn’t expect it to. But, you get the idea of how to create a daily routine that will work for you.

 

 

Common Daily Routine of a 3-Year-Old Who Goes to Preschool

If your 3-year-old goes to preschool out of the house, your daily rhythm may look something like this:

 

7-7:30 AM: wake up and watch a kid’s show

8 AM: breakfast, put dishes at the sink

8:30 AM: get dressed and brush your teeth, put laundry in the hamper

9 AM: free play (can be with you, siblings, or independently)

10 AM: learning time (preschool or a structured activity)

11 AM: free play/craft time

12 PM: lunchtime, put dishes at the sink

12:30 PM: outside play (or inside free time if it’s cold outside)

2:30 PM: quiet time

3:30 PM: playtime

5 PM: dinner time, help set the table, get condiments out of the refrigerator

6 PM: put dishes at the sink, help clean up from dinner

6:30 PM: family time

7:15 PM: bath and pajamas

7:45 PM: snack, brush teeth, read a Bible story

8 PM: bedtime

 

 

Common Daily Routine for 3-Year-Old Who Goes to Daycare

Or, if your child goes to daycare, your daily routine for your 3-year-old may look something like this:

 

6-6:30 AM: wake up, eat breakfast, put dishes at the sink

7 AM: get dressed, brush your teeth, put laundry in the hamper, leave for daycare

8 AM: Daycare Activities

12 PM: lunchtime @ daycare

12:30 PM: outside play (or inside free time if it’s cold outside)

2:30 PM: quiet time

3:30 PM: playtime

5:30 PM: Pick child up from daycare

6 PM: dinner time, help set the table, get condiments out of the refrigerator

6:45 PM: put dishes at the sink, help clean up from dinner

7 PM: family time

7:30 PM: bath and pajamas, snack, brush teeth, read a Bible story

8 PM: bedtime

 

3 year old learning activity

 

 

What are the benefits of a daily routine for a 3-year-old?

  • Sleep Schedule

One of the most important things you can do for your 3-year-old is developing a sleep routine. Without a doubt, there is a big difference in how your day will go if you have a rested 3-year-old, versus a 3-year-old who constantly has varied bedtimes. Try to keep your bedtime routine within a one hour window. Life happens, but keeping the same daily sleep routine for your 3-year-old will make everyone happier.

  • Predictability

Preschoolers need predictability. They feel secure when they have an idea of what is coming next. Have you ever noticed that your 3-year-old likes to watch the same show over and over, or they like to hear the same song on replay? This is because they can start to predict what’s going to happen next. They like this! Routines are great for kids because they allow them to practice predictability.

  • Emotional Security

Similar to predictability, having a daily routine for your 3-year-old will help foster emotional security. As your preschooler starts their day, they know they’ll wake up, have breakfast, and then start their daily routine. This is healthy as opposed to waking up at random times, deciding how they want to start their day, eventually having breakfast, etc. Oftentimes, this kind of routine will end up in tears because 3-year-olds aren’t designed to create routines. BUT- they can follow them!

 

 

How to help your 3-year-old with a daily routine?

  • Ready to Rise Clock

Some people swear by these Ready to Rise Clocks. Personally, I’ve never used them because my kids all wake up within the same half-hour window every day. Ready to Rise Clocks change colors so that your kids will know that it is an appropriate time to begin their day. So when they wake up in the morning, if the clock is red, they have to wait until it’s green to come out of their room.

 

  • Daily Routine Chart or Daily Routine Cards

This is one of the best tools for creating a daily routine for a 3-year-old. If you can create a chart of their morning routine, the visual cues are enough to help your preschooler work through their morning independently. If your morning starts with breakfast, and then they move on to getting dressed, they’ll follow the visual cues on their routine chart and move along the chart through the morning. You can also do the same thing with daily routine cards.

 

  • Expectations and Consequences

I think the biggest factor in the success of your daily routine for your 3-year-old is consistent expectations and consequences. If you set an expectation that by the end of the week your child will do the first two parts of their daily routine independently, then make sure there is a consequence presented, both positive and negative. An example of this would be something like, “You need to finish your breakfast then take your dishes to the sink. Afterwards, you need to go to your room and get dressed. If you can do this by yourself by the end of the week, you can have XX reward. If you aren’t following instructions, you’ll have XX consequence.” Obviously, you may need to adjust this to fit your child, but you get the idea. Have expectations and have consequences.

  • Be Consistent

Mixed in with expectations and consequences is consistency. You can’t enforce the new routine one day and then back down for a day. This isn’t going to work. If you aren’t committed to creating a daily routine with your 3-year-old, they aren’t going to be committed to it either. This is a total loss for both parties. Make the decision to start a daily routine, and make sure you have everyone on board. If you need help with consistency, here are some tips on how to give effective instructions to kids.

  • Don’t Change the Routine on Weekends

This has always been the hardest part for me personally. With the pandemic, our lives have shifted as we’re now home more. But before this, we enjoyed spending weekends out and about, as well as hanging out with our friends. Those two things will likely send your daily routine out the window in some way. You can still do these things, but you need to keep your 3-year-olds routine in mind. Throwing their routine off by even an hour can throw off the entire next day, leaving you there to deal with a grumpy child. Try your best to keep the daily routine on the weekends.

 

 

 

What do you do with a 3-year-old all day?

When I was writing this post, I realized as I was typing out this list, that I could create the world MARBLE from the first letters of each word. Use MARBLE to help you remember all the different types of activities you can do with your 3-year-old.

 

  • Make Something

Regardless of whether you have a boy or girl, 3-year-olds like to create things. They enjoy doing crafts. Find activities that involve gluing things together, putting something on a string, or making something for someone they care about. All of these hands-on activities are great for a 3-year-old’s development.

 

  • Act Something Out

I am terrible at this, but preschoolers LOVE to play pretend. A box suddenly becomes a car, pillows become stepping stones in a lake, and an empty mixing bowl becomes a fabulous birthday cake. Three-year-olds have the most incredible imaginations. Write down some fun things on paper, or buy this set of ON STAGE cards to help your kids have a fun time acting out different things.

 

  • Read Something

I have shared so many times about the importance of early literacy. Without a doubt, it is one of the best activities for 3-year-olds, and kids in general. You can use interactive children’s books to pique their attention as you dive into the world of make-believe. Interactive children’s books oftentimes pull your child into the book, asking them to do something to interact with the book. Such a fun time for both you and your preschooler! I have even compiled a list of the best interactive books for kids!

 

  • Build Something

One of my kids’ favorite things to play is Picasso Tiles. They’re out almost every single day. They build castles, mazes, cars, and so much more. We started with a simple starter pack, and because they love them so much, we’ve added more to their collection. You can also just give them some random supplies and ask them to build something. Building activities for 3-year-olds are awesome STEM activities that allow them to use their creative side.

 

  • Learn Something

Although a lot of people enroll their 3-year-old in preschool, we homeschool. And, neither of these options may be right for you and that’s OK. But, I would encourage you to find some kind of formal sit-down activity that is educational for your child. This may be a puzzle that matches the lowercase and uppercase letters. Maybe it’s an activity of a deck of cards and you have your child put all the cards in piles that look alike. Don’t feel like you have to overcomplicate this!

 

  • Expect Nothing- Free Play

Free play is a great thing to put into your daily routine for your 3-year-old. Kids need to practice autonomy and have some choice and control of their day. Don’t feel like you need to have every single moment of the day planned. You won’t like it, and neither will your child.

 

 3 year old eating lunch

 

 

Popular Questions About Creating a Daily Toddler Routine!

 

How can you create an independent playtime in your toddler’s daily schedule?

  • Safety

Make sure the place you plan to allow them to play independently is safe. This often means any toys with small pieces that your child may choke on. It also means scanning the room for anything that has button batteries, as they can be deadly if swallowed. 

 

  • Be Aware of Your Child’s Age

There is no specific age that is best for starting independent playtime.  If you started independent playtime with your child when they were younger, you’ll have a more successful time now. If you don’t already have age-appropriate toys for your 3-year-old, you could consider some of these indoor activities for kids. There are some your child can play independently, but some will need your assistance and should be used to playtime with you.

 

  • Set a Time Limit

When you’re a busy mom, you have a lot you’d love to get done while your 3-year-old plays independently. It’s easy to get caught up in something without even realizing it, which is why it’s important to set a timer. Start out with something like 15 minutes at most. As the weeks progress, you can start to let your preschooler’s independent playtime grow as you see fit.

 

  • Know How Much Time is Too Much

You can’t expect your toddler to play independently for hours on end. That’s completely unrealistic. What is realistic is knowing that it isn’t going to just happen- it takes work and patience. Independent play is a developmental milestone for toddlers. Just like anything else, it takes time. Set realistic weekly goals for your toddler’s independent playtime.

 

 

How do you start to teach a toddler routine?

As I shared above, you want to slowly introduce an age-appropriate daily routine for your 3-year-old. Nothing will shock their system more than all of a sudden having a rigid daily schedule. They will resist! Start out slow and manage your expectations.

 

 

 

How much sleep do toddlers really need?

Great question, and something most first-time parents wonder. As your child gets older, the amount of sleep they require is, unfortunately, going to start decreasing. 12-14 hours of sleep per day is appropriate for most toddlers. To check out the recommendations for sleep by age, here is a simple guide to child sleep!

 

 

 

When is the ideal nap time for a toddler?

About 1-2 hours after lunch, but waking up at least 3-4 hours before bedtime. For most kids, this means lunch around 12 pm, and then going down for a nap between 1 pm and 2 pm.

 

 

 

What time should a toddler wake up and go to bed?

Most toddlers wake up between 6-8 am. Most toddlers go to bed between 7-9 pm. A lot of this depends on the routine that works for your family. I have a friend who was a stay at home mom, and her husband worked late hours. There were days when her husband wouldn’t get home until 9:30 pm. The kids would stay up to see him when he got home and then sleep in a little later the next morning. Every family’s routine is going to differ a bit based upon your family circumstances.

 

 

 

Is it OK to include screen time in my 3-year-olds daily routine?

Honestly, this is a personal question. For me, I don’t allow much time on the tablet/iPad. We do allow some TV time during the day. When I do allow my kids to have time on the iPads, they will play on ABC Mouse or one of these other educational apps for preschoolers.

 

Do 3-year-olds need naps?

Honestly, no. I wish I could say yes, but my kids’ all gave up naps early, unfortunately. With that said, I know people who have 3-year-olds who take daily naps and their day would be a mess if they didn’t nap. Do what works best for your child.

 

Drop the nap and transition your 3-year-old to quiet time.

When I realized that naptime and bedtime were both turning into a fight that was leading to incredible frustration on my behalf, I knew something had to change. I could no longer spend an hour trying to get my 3-year-old to take a nap, only to spend another hour at night trying to get them to go to sleep. It wasn’t working.

 

Instead, I had to give up my personal quiet time during their naptime and drop the nap for my 3-year-old. Trust me, it was far more painful for me than it was for them.

 

When I was younger, my mom would have the younger kids sleep and the older kids had quiet time. It was the only TV time we got during the day. 

 

So, I started to implement quiet time for my 3-year-old, by allowing them to choose a show that interested them. At times this has been something on Hulu, Disney+, PBS App, Rightnowmedia, Netflix, or something on cable. I guide them to age-appropriate shows and then let them choose. 

 

Although I don’t have the time completely by myself, I am still able to get some work done around the house or work on my blog.

 

 

The Right Daily 3-Year-Old Routine That Works For Your Family!

There is no right or wrong routine for your 3-year-old. Your family dynamics are different than every other family. I hope this guide to create a daily routine for a 3-year-old has helped you to think about the different factors that make up a daily routine.

If you have questions, please ask! I love to hear from my readers!

 

 

More AWESOME Posts About Toddlers & Preschoolers

Helpful Books for Parenting Toddlers

How to be a Better Mom to Your Toddler

Cheap Summer Activities for Kids

Cheap Indoor Activities for Kids

Fun Fall Activities for Kids

How to Get Preschoolers to Help Clean

Age-Appropriate Chores for Preschoolers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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