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An Optimal 3 Year Old Schedule for Your Growing Toddler

Does your 3-year-old still nap? Whether or not they do, let me help you set a 3-year-old schedule that works best for both of you!

Mom and three year old during scheduled play

The toddler stage is rewarding and challenging in its own unique ways!

Gone are the days of night feedings, diaper changes, and guessing what your baby is thinking about it.

Instead, your three-year-old is busy and verbal! It’s exciting and exhausting for the both of you.

Your daily schedule has probably gone through many changes over the past three years. And around your toddler’s third birthday, it’s likely to change again.

When your daily routine starts to change during the toddler phase, it can be hard to figure out how to fit it all in.

If you’re wondering how to create the optimal three-year-old schedule and ensure that your child is still getting the rest they need, I’m here to help!

Three year old brushing teeth during morning routine

Tips for Keeping a Consistent 3-Year-Old Routine

As your toddler develops and grows, your schedule will adapt to include things that your toddler is learning to do.

You might be adding more activities throughout the day, or even enrolling them in a preschool or daycare for the first time!

As your 3-year-old’s schedule changes, they might have more input or curiosity about the order of things and why things happen when they do.

Here are some tips to keep your 3-year-old’s schedule consistent:

Make a Visual Schedule

Uncertainty is hard for toddlers, especially when they feel they have so little control over their day. Posting a visual schedule with pictures somewhere in the house will help them know what to expect next, and makes transitions easier!

You can get different visual schedules on Etsy. This one is editable and so cute!

3 year old ready for bed

Give your Three-Year-Old Some Control

It’s not uncommon to experience a sleep regression at 3 years old. This is usually more about behavior and boundaries then it is about sleep.

Giving your toddler some control may help.

While nap time and bedtime may not be up for discussion, you could let your toddler decide things like whether they want to use the potty or brush their teeth first. Or let them choose if they’ll wear the red or blue pajamas.

They can also help make and color the visual schedule!

Keep the Night Time, Nap Time, and Morning Routines Consistent

Toddlers rely so much on familiar cues to help them transition between activities and to sleep, so keep your routines consistent.

Many parents focus a lot on bedtime routine, but morning routines for your 3-year-old also play an extra important role in setting the tone for the day.

Use an Okay to Wake Clock

Three year old’s have very little concept of time. If they wake up in the middle of nap time or the night, they have no idea that it’s way too early to be awake.

Use an okay to wake clock such as The Hatch Rest or Little Hippo Mella to give your child a visual of when it’s time to stay in bed and when it’s time to rise.

Three year old napping during their daily schedule

How Many Naps Should a 3-Year-Old Take?

Wondering when kids stop napping altogether?

Three-year-olds are capable of staying awake for six or more hours at a time. Some can even make it a full 12 hours between when they wake up in the morning and when they go to bed at night.

However, if you notice that your toddler is consistently melting down in the evening hours before bedtime, that’s your sign that they’re not ready to forego a nap altogether.

Many three-year-olds can still benefit from one daily nap for a midday recharge or reset.

Pay close attention to how your toddler is acting before bedtime. Are they fussy, loopy, or having trouble controlling their bodies and emotions? If so, they’re probably overtired from a day that feels too long for them.

An overtired toddler is a struggle to get down for bed! Taming your toddler’s bedtime tantrums is tricky, but it can be done.

If your three-year-old is fighting the only nap in their schedule, make sure you’re not trying to put them down for their nap too early. Try not to start nap time until it’s been at least six hours since your toddler woke up for the day.

two toddler girls playing together

How to Handle Your 3-Year-Old’s Preschool Daily Schedule

Many three-year-old’s schedules include preschool or childcare of some kind. If your little one is enrolled in a program, you’re probably wondering how to handle their routine based on whether it’s a school day or not.

I recommend you do your best to mirror a similar schedule at home as they have at school.

If you know that your three-year-old’s schedule at preschool includes nap time, try to stick with that same nap time at home. It will be easier to keep a routine on non-school days if nap time is still around the same time each day.

Toddlers thrive on consistency, and their bodies naturally adapt to the daily rhythm if it’s consistent across most days.

Three year olds napping during their preschool schedule

Some preschools require lengthy naps, which can be challenging if your child starts to get too much sleep.

If that’s the case, you may have to push bedtime later. There’s only so many hours a 3-year old can sleep in a 24-hour period!

When Should a 3-Year-Old Go to Bed?

I recommend that you put your toddler down to sleep about 11 to 12 hours after they’ve woken up for the day.

If your 3-year-old’s schedule still involves a midday nap, they will be ready to fall asleep about 5-6 hours after they’ve woken up from their nap.

Keep in mind that your 3-year-old should be getting between 10-12 hours of sleep at night, depending on how much day sleep they still get.

Mom and three year old create a good routine

What is a Good Routine for a 3-Year-Old?

My Toddler Sleep Training Guide is a great resource to help you develop the optimal routine for your 3-year-old. Along with sample schedules, this guide includes tips for sleep training and tips for tackling your toddler’s sleep!

Here’s an example of a 3-year-old sleep schedule with an afternoon nap included:

7:00 am – Wake Up

7:15 am – Breakfast

9:30 am – Snack

12:30 pm – Lunch

1:00-2:00/2:30 pm – Nap

2:30/3:00 pm – Snack

5:30 pm – Dinner

7:30/8:00 pm – Bedtime

There are bound to be days when your 3-year-old simply refuses to fall asleep during nap time. Or maybe you have to skip nap time due to an important appointment. Don’t fret!

On the off days when your three-year-old’s schedule doesn’t include a nap, you can move their bed time up 30-60 minutes. That way, you can ensure that they are still getting all the hours of sleep they need for the day to wake up well-rested and ready to go again in the morning!

Three year old reading during quiet time schedule

How to Create a 3-Year-Old Schedule with No Nap

Although some kids keep napping until they’re about four years old, others will drop their nap earlier. If the nap starts to interfere with bedtime, middle of the night wake ups, or even early morning wake ups, it may be time to condense it or cut it altogether.

Watch for a consistent pattern or struggle over the course of several days before you make a big change.

If your 3-year-old has kicked naps to the curb for good, it may be time to consider introducing quiet time.

While it’s never too late to introduce quiet time, it’s better if you can introduce it right as your little one is dropping their nap. That way, space is still held in the day for a midday reset, whether it’s a nap or quiet time.

If your toddler drops their nap and that time gets filled by an activity (like dance class or playdates), it will probably be harder to introduce a quiet time routine. But don’t worry, it’s still possible!

little boy playing quietly during a no nap schedule

Example 3-year-old Schedule with Quiet Time Instead of Nap:

7:00 am – Wake Up

7:15 am – Breakfast

9:30 am – Snack

12:30 pm – Lunch

1:00-2:00 pm – Quiet Time

2:30/3:00 pm – Snack

5:30 pm – Dinner

7:00 pm – Bedtime

Three years old can be a challenging phase (Hello threenager!), but optimizing your little one’s sleep and daily schedule can really help you create structured routines that allow your three year old to thrive!

Amy Motroni
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