Are your trying to implement a schedule for your child but don’t know where to begin? I am sharing a sample routine for a 3 year old child. This is the exact routine that I used for three of my four children. I hope it helps you see how easy it is to get your child on a routine.
All children (and their parents!) benefit from routines. It is always good to know what to do next. This goes for children too.
Why your child needs a routine
Little children cannot understand time. Although they rarely say it, they feel powerless wondering what is expected of them next. When you are following a routine every day, children learn to understand what they will be doing at that time of the day. It brings harmony to a household and more cooperation.
When my eldest was 2 years old, I had my second child. Life suddenly became so busy. I was always feeding my little baby and running after two kids while handling household meant that I was always too tired. At the end of the day, I always felt like I wasn’t giving my son enough attention. He needed more. I wasn’t a happy mom.
Was it his fault that I had a little baby to look after too? When should I love him? When can I play with him? How do I teach him all the fun things this world had to offer? Should my son be only following me around …. bored?
Related reading: How I got started on Routines and why I recommend them.
Bored kids = Behavior problems
When kids get bored they resort to all their naughtiness. According to kids, negative attention is better than no attention.
The age between 24 months till they reach 5 years old is when the children’s intelligence is highly developing. They want to learn what the world is. How things work, how people talk, what do grown ups do… They are fascinated by everything around them. This is the time when children will resort to back talk, bad behavior and messiness if they don’t get the right attention or structure in their life.
Having routines or a schedule where children are taught how to go about their day in a healthy manner keeps not just boredom away but also helps you teach your child the manners and morals that they need to learn. Routines help you parent better.
I’m sharing below a sample routine that I followed for my children. I hope it benefits you.
Sample Routine for a 3 year old Child
This routine was formed after reading various parenting books, days and weeks of note taking and tweaking the timings till I saw a pattern emerging.
Bedtimes and Naptimes
My children followed the 7am to 7pm routine because this is what worked for me and my family. You can use this same routine and add or minus 30 minutes to make the 8am to 8pm routine or 6.30am to 6pm routine.
Also, please note that this routine is for a child who has given up on the morning nap. Most children under the age of 30 months need two naps. A smaller morning nap between 9.45 and 10.15 am and a longer afternoon nap between 1-3pm. This routine sample below is for those children who have outgrown the morning nap.
What if my child goes to nursery or kindergarten?
Some children may be attending day care or a nursery in the morning. Two of my children attended lower Kindergarten while following this plan. It worked fine for us. I hope it works for you too.
Recommended reading: Sample Routine for School Going Children
The sample routine is available as a printable in my Free Resource Library. You have to subscribe to my Newsletter to get access to it. It is a good idea to print it out and stick it somewhere so you can refer to it everyday. After a few days of using it, your child will automatically follow it as a habit so you will be needing it less.
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Morning Routine for 3 year old
The exact timings are in the printable (which you can download from my Library). The details are given below.
Wakeup and Potty:
Generally, most children wake up early between 6.30 to 7am. Follow the natural rhythm of going to toilet and washing up.
Most children are potty trained by their third birthday. If your child is still in the process, one of the best ways to naturally encourage it is by allowing them to use the potty every morning. Show them how to use the potty. Remove their diaper, throw in the bin, show them how to wash their hands and then sit on the potty.
Related reading: Potty Training in 3 days
Help them choose an underwear to wear under their pajamas after they are done. You can get these ready the night before too.
Breakfast should be served as soon as they get up even before they change their clothes for the day. The reason for this is because usually I find that kids dirty themselves while having breakfast. I encouraged my kids to feed themselves breakfast while my husband and I ate. This helped them learn table manners as well as help me to have my breakfast at the same time.
It is very important that breakfast be no later than 7.30am if lunch is to be at noon. Kids who eat later will not be hungry for lunch at 12.30pm. This will make them delay the afternoon and once that happens, your whole routine will be disturbed for the rest of the day. For this reason, I preferred that my kids (whether they went to school or not) should eat breakfast by 7.30am.
I also found that whenever kids woke late and had breakfast late, they would be so cranky all day. My youngest (now almost 5 years old) still feels confused and anxious when she gets up late in the morning. They can’t tell time but they can sense that something is miss. They may be hungrier from the night before and therefore more unlikely to cooperate so better wake them to eat if they are over sleeping.
Dressing up and getting ready:
After breakfast, remind them to use the potty again so that they can empty their bowels. Generally children who have a good breakfast with fiber and fruits, feel the urge to go naturally. This is a good way actually because when your child starts school, you may not really know when they will be going. If they are ashamed to go in school or even at home if your child isn’t going regularly, it could signal constipation and other problems. Once a habit forms, your child will automatically go.
The last important part of your morning activity is to get dressed. 3 year olds love to dress up and try different combinations of clothes. I love this age when they are exercising their right to choice. Let them dress themselves. Remember it is a learning age. Help them sort through to choose their clothes. Show them how to mix and match. Use this as an important teaching opportunity to show them how to dress. Also, remember to remind them that we generally only change our clothes in the morning, when we are going out or at night before bed.
Activities to do through the morning
One of the most common dilemmas mothers have is that when they wake their children up so early, how are they to entertain them all day.
Please remember that your child is your family. You don’t have to entertain them. Look at it as having little helpers in your home. Your job as a mother is not babysit your child.
Let me repeat that again:
Your job as a mother is not to babysit your child
You are his/her mother. God chose you to parent them. As a parent it is our responsibility to prepare our children for the life they are to live. Help your child learn about the world and how to live in it.
A 3 year old is not a baby. They are toddlers who are fast going to become preschoolers. They are capable of becoming independent and doing quite a few things by themselves. Involve your child in your day to day life. Let them see you work. Show them how to do things. Let them help you. Give them little responsibilities that they can do by themselves too. A three year old can do many things by themselves. For them, everything is a game. There is novelty and learning in all things around him.
When you do the laundry, help them sort the clothes according to colors or size with you.
‘Mommy’s clothes, daddy’s pants, my sock!’
‘Red t-shirt, blue pajamas, grey skirt with pink flower prints.’ Say it for them. Help them see the fun in sorting.
When you clear the breakfast table, help them carry the cereal box or a glass for you. Show them how to use the spray bottle to wipe the table. Ask them to push the chairs.
In the morning children are full of energy and fresh. Sometimes they will get up filled with ideas of their own. Let them play by themselves while you clear the table or wash the morning dishes.
Half way through the morning, around 9/9.30am, children need a glass of water and a little something to nibble on. They are not hungry but more so just needing a snack. Half a glass of milk/juice/water and some light snacks like a muffin or some crackers or fruit is enough to renew them.
If they are attending nursery, you may need to pack a good lunch for them because more activity may be involved. Also remember that since, they are eating a good lunch at school, they will need a lighter lunch when they come home.
I prefer to add some protein to their school lunches if they are at nursery because they will need the energy to get home. If they are at home, I will hold the protein part for lunch time.
Late morning activities
Late morning is the best time for learning to read and write. All three of my kids on this routine, enjoyed the morning homeschooling time. My youngest was exclusively homeschooled while she was this age. This was the time we did the most activities.
Since their energy is really high at this time, it is a good idea to have them in front of you. Even while I made lunch, I made sure they were somewhere I could see them. If I could leave the lunch to cook by itself, I preferred that. When I had to be cooking actively, I made sure to walk in and out on them not leaving them unattended for long.
Around 11.30am, their energy will slowly start to dip. It is a good idea to let them do some coloring while watching some screen time learning like poems or phonics on TV.
12.30pm to 1pm depending on when you had your breakfast, is when to have lunch. It is a good idea to introduce good table manners at this time. Help them set the table with you and then use forks, spoon, knife. Show them how to wash their hands properly before and after eating. Remind them to say their prayers before and after eating. It is just little tiny things but teaching them now, they will remember for life.
If you have little babies, you may be feeding them too. All my children are very close in age so I always had a baby and a toddler with me. At lunch time, I would feed the baby and the toddler together. Baby in high chair (if she was eating solids) and toddler in a booster chair to eat by him/herself. The older child loved to help themselves. I sat next to the baby with toddler in front across me. This was always easier as I just had to get up from my seat to reach for the older child.
Another thing to remember is that children who are not having their main protein meal at lunch need a good dinner. If you find that your child doesn’t eat well at their lunch then make sure that the dinner is heavier. It is very important for children to get the right amount of proteins. Lack of proteins in children will make them cranky, less likely to sleep well and wanting more milk. They will get tired easily too.
The afternoon nap whether a baby or a toddler is the longest. Both my children (baby and toddler) would sleep from 1pm to 3pm. When the toddlers were in nursery, they got home by 12/ 12.30pm so I’d feed them lunch and get them into bed right away.
I find the afternoon naptime to be the best time of the day for myself. I am a very hands on parent who likes to spend as much time as I can for my child. So naptimes was when I would lay down with my kids. The baby snuggly tucked with her blanket and the toddler by my side on my bed. I wouldn’t sleep but I’d make sure to keep my phone away. Usually, the afternoon naptime was when I would write my blogposts or crochet my projects. The kids grew up understanding that when mom picked up her notebook or needles, it was time to sleep.
They don’t take more than 15- 20 minutes even on a bad day. Just make sure to not have much eye contact during naptimes or too much talking. I would only reply in one or two words and say ‘hmm… after we get up, we can talk.‘
If this is your first time implementing a routine, I’d like to advice that you don’t need to lose heart if things don’t work. Just give it time and be consistent.
After they get up from the nap around 3pm, offer some light snack and water. Crackers, biscuits and fruit is a good idea. I don’t want them too full for dinner 3 hours later but I also don’t want them hungry. A light salad either vegetable or fruit with milkshake works well without filling them up too much.
Afternoons are the times when we have our crafty sessions. I find that kids cooperate more easily in the afternoon compared to mornings. They also have more imagination and creativity. Playdough, stickers, paper crafts, sensory play – this is the time to do it.
It is also a good idea to introduce some faith studies like memorizing the scriptures at this hour. We always learn the Quran at 4pm after Asr.
Related reading: Sample Summer Time Schedule for Kids
Bath time routine:
I prefer bath time after creative hour. The reason being, they are more cooperative, less fussy and it is still day light. Also, we do a lot of sensory activities in my home. I prefer to wash off all signs of messy play before dinner.
Tea / Dinner:
Dinner, right after a bath time is very relaxing for my children. They eat calmly and relaxed.
After dinner, I want them to digest their food, so I ask them to help with age appropriate chores like I mention in this post. They have to help me clean their room and pick their toys and clothes if any. They can put the shoes on the rack or collect water bottles or glasses from around the house.
Our bedtime routine is to change into their pajamas, go to potty, brush their teeth, read a book, get in bed with a lovey and say their prayers.
My elder two slept in their own beds from birth but the younger two shared our bed. I would lay with them till they slept and then move out to do my work till my bedtime.
I always prefer to lay with my kids till they are almost asleep because it is just so much gentler. I don’t like the Cry-it-out method or leaving them to stare in the dark. My eldest is now 11 years old. In all these years, raising four children, one thing that I have learnt is that they will not want you laying next to them till they sleep. There will come a time when they will say, ‘that is enough mom, I can sleep on my own now.‘ At that time, it will feel very awkward and a little hurt to your mommy heart.
When my son said it, around when he was 7 or 8 years of age, my husband was a little taken aback. I had two little babies then so I would attend to the girls while he helped our son. The two boys enjoyed their bedtime routine. Hubby loved hearing son’s stories and musings but then after sometime, he would say, ‘Okay that’s enough. Good night. I need some space on my bed please.‘ It was hilarious but suddenly so sad to hear that!
So, all you mommas who feel that your children are not leaving you alone at bedtime, enjoy it while it lasts. You will get your bed back one day. 🙂
SAMPLE ROUTINE FOR THREE-FOUR YEAR OLD – PDF PRINTABLE
Would you like this routine in a printable format?
I hope this Sample routine for 3 year old child helps you. Do you have any questions about how to implement this routine? Feel free to ask me in the comments.