Not too long ago I found myself in desperate need of a schedule for a 3-year-old, but the more I looked for a 3-year-old routine, the more overwhelmed I became.
Fast forward almost two years, two kids at home full-time after a world pandemic, and a whole bunch of trial end error… here is what I believe is a totally doable schedule for a 3-year old.
Here is a realistic daily schedule for a 3-year-old:
- 8:00 a.m.- Wake Up
- 8:15 a.m.- Breakfast
- 8:45 a.m.- Getting Ready For The Day
- 9:00 a.m.- Educational Hour
- 10:00 a.m- Errands/Morning Walk
- 11:00 a.m.- Lunch/TV Time
- 12:00 p.m.- Nap Time
- 1:00 p.m.- Chores
- 2:00 p.m.- Play Together
- 3:00 p.m.- Independent Play
- 4:00 p.m.- Outdoor Fun
- 5:00 p.m.- TV/Electronics
- 6:00 p.m.- Dinner
- 6:30 p.m.- Free Time/Play
- 7:00-7:30 p.m.- Bedtime Routine
- 7:30-8:00 p.m.- Bedtime
- 8:00-10:00 p.m.- Mama’s Free Time!
However, if you want tips and tricks, schedule activity ideas, 3-year-old educational tools and resources, and a 3-year-old printable schedule…. read on.
3-year-old Routines vs 3-year Old schedule
While routines are activities your 3-year-old does on a daily basis as a habit, a schedule is a more structured time map.
Routines tend to be more flexible and laid back in nature, while schedules provide a more solid plan with timeframes.
For the purpose of 3-year-olds, schedules work great. Knowing what to expect on an hour-by-hour basis will help them feel more in control and it will give you a better hold of your day.
With that said, life with a 3-year-old can be far from structured. So, although most days will hopefully go according to schedule, some others will rely on just a good old routine. And that is just fine!
Before we get started in putting together a 3-year old daily schedule, it is important to understand some basic 3-year old characteristics.
Learning about their behavior pattern and cognitive abilities at this age will help us craft a more realistic 3-year-old schedule.
Some classic characteristics of 3-4 year-olds at this stage include (source):
- Language: they say their name, speak 250-500 words, speak in short sentences, and answer simple questions.
- Cognitive: can recognize color and shapes, basic counting, better understanding of time, remembers parts of a story, and can complete age appropriate puzzles.
- Movement: Kicks, runs, throws a ball, climbs, rides a tricycle, and hops or stands in one foot.
With that said, because all children develop, learn, and grow at a different pace, it is important to craft a schedule that meets your child’s specific needs.
Next, is a totally doable and realistic 3-year-old schedule that will make your life a whole life easier. However, this is just an example that you can use as-is, or you can adapt it to your own needs.
Daily 3-Year-Old Schedule
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8:00 a.m.- Wake Up
For the purpose of this 3-year-old schedule, we will begin the day at 8 a.m., however, the start of your day very much depends on your needs.
Personally, 8:00 a.m. was a perfect wake-up time for my 3-year-old. It gave her enough time to rest, while also allowing her to have a relatively early start to her day.
I found that waking her up earlier than 8 a.m. made her cranky, and waking he up later than that pushed her nap too late into the afternoon, which was counterproductive.
8:15 a.m.- Breakfast
Breakfast is next on the schedule. My daughter loves breakfast, so it often went pretty smooth.
Some mornings during breakfast I also allowed her to watch cartoons. That helped keep her entertained while I got a few things ready for the day and grabbed a bite to eat myself.
Some of her breakfast favorites at the time were (and some still are):
- Eggs (boiled or scrambles)
- Toast with raspberry jerry
- Homemade banana muffins
My son has oats allergies so we are an oat-free family, but that is another great breakfast go-too for 3-year-olds. Yogurt is another great breakfast option but she likes her yogurt as a snack instead.
8:45 a.m.- Getting Ready For The Day
Once breakfast is done is time to get ready for the day.
Three-year-olds daily morning tasks include things such as:
- Brushing their teeth
- Washing their face
- Brushing their hair
- Using the potty
- Getting dressed
- Putting on their shoes
- Making their bed
It is important to note that we should allow our three-year-olds to perform most of these tasks unassisted. Obviously, sticking around as they do them is a good idea, but allowing them to lead the way is incredibly beneficial to their development.
9:00 a.m.- Educational Hour
Three-year-olds are constantly learning, and this is the perfect age to introduce educational material that will help them learn.
Some of the activities you can include in this educational hour include:
- Reading time
- Tracing (shapes, animals, their name, etc.)
- Practicing writing their name
- Activity pages
- Educational videos
Although some 3-year-olds work well on their own while doing educational activities, most will require help. So, be aware that during the educational hour you will be somewhat involved.
10:00 a.m.- Errands/Morning Walk
If you are a stay-at-home mom you are likely to run a few errands during the workweek. I know I did.
Whether it is to the grocery store, a retail store, returning an item, post office, a relative’s house, mommy meet-ups, or anything in between—making room for errands in our three-year-old’s routine a few times a week is a clever idea.
Take a look at your current routine and guestimate how many times a week you step out of the house during the weekday. Then, pick the days of the week where you would ideally go get those things done.
If running errands with your three-year-old isn’t something you do often during the weekday, then consider using that time to go for a walk around the neighborhood instead.
I find that 10 a.m. is the perfect time to step outside and get some fresh air. It helps clear our mind and get some exercise in.
As you walk with your three-year-old take the time to:
- Play I-Spy.
- Talk about what you see in you walk.
- Identify birds, butterflies, and other animals.
- Ask them questions about their surrounding.
If walking around the neighborhood isn’t feasible where you live, try going to a nearby park or playground instead.
11:00 a.m.- Lunch/TV Time
Needless to say after being outside, hunger kicks in. This is the perfect time to eat lunch, unwind and set the stage for your 3-year-old’s afternoon nap.
It is totally optional, but you can also allow for some TV time while your child has lunch. Or, you can sit down and have lunch together instead.
12:00 p.m- Nap Time
“According to the National Sleep Foundation, children aged 3-5 need about 11 to 13 hours of sleep every night. In addition, many preschoolers nap during the day, with naps ranging between one and two hours per day.” (Source).
With that in mind and your child’s current sleeping and napping schedule, determine if (and when) your three-year should take a nap during the day.
From personal experience, my kids we much more rested and in a much better mood when they took naps. Both of my kids stopped napping at around 4 years of age.
1:00 p.m- Chores
Chores are a great way to teach our kids about responsibility, discipline, and life skills.
Because most 3-year-olds require supervision while doing their chores, schedule the house chores you need to get done at this time.
If your child is still napping around this time, great! You can get quite a lot of house chores done.
But, if your three-year-old is awake, assign him/her chores related to what you are trying to get accomplished.
Great chores for 3-year-olds include:
- Fold the laundry.
- Clean up their toys.
- Dry non-glass kitchenware.
- Wipe their play areas with a wet rag.
- Making their bed.
2:00 p.m- Play Together
Spending intentional time with our three-year-olds should be an important part of our daily schedule.
It is easy to get caught up in the daily chores, errands, and other tasks. For that reason, it is important to make room in our schedule to spend intentional time with our little ones.
As you play together, use that time to:
- Talk to your child and allow them to talk to you.
- Engage in story telling.
- Teach them how things work.
- Listen attentively to what they are saying and show them that you are interested in learning more.
- Dance, sing, and role play.
3:00 p.m- Independent Play
Now that you have spent some time together, it is time to introduce independent play.
Independent play has many great benefits for children including:
- Creative and imaginary play.
- Promotes problem solving.
- Teaches and promotes patience.
If you work from home this is a great time to get as much as you can done.
Independent play can be a bit tricky with 3-year-olds, but being consistent can definitely help set expectations.
4:00 p.m- Outdoor Fun
Nothing will help spend a three-year-old’s everlasting energy like outdoor play. Between 4-5 p.m when the afternoon sun is less harsh, is a great time to take the fun outside.
Fun outdoor activities to include in your 3-year-old’s schedule include:
- Ride a tricycle.
- Go for a walk.
- Color with chalk.
- Blow bubbles.
- Play with a ball.
- Pick flowers.
- Plant seed.
- Play with outdoor toys
5:00 p.m- TV/Electronics
Once outdoor play is over winning down is probably a good idea. A good way to do that is to turn on cartoons, allow them to play educational games on their tablets, or watch some educational videos.
TV time was a lifesaver when it came to making dinner, as most of the time my husband wasn’t home from work at this time.
6:00 p.m- Dinner
In our home, the ideal dinner time is 6 p.m, but feel free to modify this schedule to meet your family’s needs.
6:30 p.m- Free Time
After dinner, we usually take a few minutes to relax and spend some family time together. This block of time in your 3-year-old’s schedule can be modified to meet your family’s needs.
7:00-7:30 p.m- Bedtime Routine
Around 7 p.m. is time to start our bedtime routine.
In addition to bathing and brushing their teeth, a 3-year-old bedtime routine can also include:
- Reading a bedtime story.
- Have a cuddle.
- Tell a story.
- Creating a calm and soothing enviroment (cuddle buddy, night light, white noise, etc.).
Having a good bedtime routine should make the bedtime process easier.
7:30-8:00 p.m- Bedtime
Bedtime can vary from family to family, but personally, I’ve found that this is a perfect time to put my three-year-old to bed.
8:00-10:00 p.m- Mama’s Free Time!
At last, you can take a breather! Although fun, life with a 3-year-old can also be very exhausting. So before you head to bed, take some much-deserved time for yourself!
3-Year-Old Daily Schedule (Printable Download)
Here are 2 printable versions of the daily 3-year-old schedule we just went over. Feel free to print the full schedule, or print the blank chart so that you can create your own.
Simply right-click on the image, save it to your computer, and print.
Considerations When Creating a Three-Year-Old Schedule
It is also important to keep a few things in mind when putting together a daily schedule for a 3-year-old. As some of the following factors may impact your schedule’s time blocks, activities, and daily flow.
Consider the following things as you sit down to craft your 3-year-old schedule:
- What will be your “wake-up” time?
- Will you be working from home?
- Do you need time in day to do specific tasks?
- Do you have additional help at some point during the day (e.g. when your husband comes home from work, a relative, a sitter, etc.)?
- What tasks must you get done during the week (e.g. chores)?
- What errands do you usually run every week outside of the home that need to be included in your 3-year old schedule?
Once you have answered these questions and using the sample schedule we just went over as reference, crafting a schedule for your three-year-old should feel less daunting.
Additional Tips for Creating a 3-Year-Old Schedule
- Create an activity bin/storage unit where they can pick games out of during their independent play (puzzles, flash cards, toys, playdough, Legos, and so on.). Here are sime great options…
- Consider purchasing items that will keep them entertained for a few minutes at a time (chalk board, marker boards, easels, drawing kits, kids tablet with educational games, etc.). Her e are some great tools…
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No doubt that creating a daily schedule for 3-year-olds can feel overwhelming. But having a realistic schedule set in place can make all the difference.
Using this 3-year-old schedule as a guideline, feel free to make changes to meet your family’s needs.
Good luck mama!