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 daily 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 3-year-olds, schedules work great. Knowing what to expect on an hour-by-hour basis will help them feel more in control and 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, others will rely on just a good old routine. And that is just fine!
Before we start 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 colors and shapes, basic counting, a 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 on one foot.
With that said, because all children develop, learn, and grow at a different paces, 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 whole life easier. However, this is just an example that you can use as-is or adapt to your own needs.
Daily 3-Year-Old Schedule
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8:00 a.m.- Wake Up
For this 3-year-old schedule, we will begin the day at 8 a.m. However, the start of your day depends very much 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 her up later 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 goes 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 scrambled)
- 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; this is the perfect age to introduce educational material to 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 independently while doing educational activities, most will require help. So, be aware that you will be somewhat involved during the educational hour.
10:00 a.m.- Errands/Morning Walk
If you are a stay-at-home mom, you will likely run a few errands during the workweek. I know I did.
Whether it is to the grocery store, a retail store, returning an item, the 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 when 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, consider using that time to 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 minds 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 your 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 optional, but you can also allow 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 responsibility, discipline, and life skills.
Because most 3-year-olds require supervision while doing their chores, schedule the house chores you need to do now.
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 accomplish.
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.
Getting caught up in the daily chores, errands, and other tasks is easy. Therefore, making room in our schedule to spend intentional time with our little ones is important.
As you play together, use that time to:
- Talk to your child and allow them to talk to you.
- Engage in storytelling.
- Teach them how things work.
- Listen attentively to what they say and show them 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 done as much as possible.
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 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 the following:
- Reading a bedtime story.
- Have a cuddle.
- Tell a story.
- Creating a calm and soothing environment (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 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 reviewed. Feel free to print the full schedule or print the blank chart to 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 remember a few things when putting together a daily schedule for a 3-year-old. 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 the 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 complete during the week (e.g., chores)?
- What errands do you usually run every week outside of the home that needs to be included in your 3-year-old schedule?
Once you have answered these questions and used the sample schedule we reviewed as a 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, flashcards, toys, playdough, Legos, and so on.). Here are some great options…
- Consider purchasing items that will keep them entertained for a few minutes (chalkboards, marker boards, easels, drawing kits, kids’ tablets with educational games, etc.). Here 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!