Schedule and Chores for a 3-Year Old

I suppose all parents experience moments where we wish we’d done things a little differently. Or a lot differently. Or implemented something a little sooner. As with a lot of parenting skills, I’m of the mind that you should start things as soon as possible. For us, this goes for disciplining (we started time outs at 11 months), cleaning up their own toys (as soon as he could physically put something back in a bin), use ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ (we began with sign language before he could speak). I think the sooner these begin then there’s little resistance later, and it all just becomes part of who they are and who you’ve trained them to be.

After all, Proverbs 22:6 says “Train up a child in the way he should go,and when he is old he will not depart from it.”

So true!

Blake operates best with consistency, firm expectations, praise, and structure. I believe all kids operate best this way, actually, but sometimes I forget this myself. Then, when the behaviors, tantrums, and whining, occur I sometimes question why.

If your kid struggles with any kind of transition, stopping one thing to do another, then I highly recommend setting a timer. It has been brilliant for us!

We’ve learned that Blake does best with timed activities, when he knows there’s a clear cut-off and transition. I can’t recall the circumstances in which we first discovered this, but I imagine it had something to do with prying him away from playing to go take a bath.

We set timers for nearly everything these days, and we verbalize to him how much time he has to do any given activity using our Amazon Echo – Black.

Not only does the timer going off signify his time is up with whatever activity he’s doing, but I think it also teaches him good time management skills. He even sets his own timer for things. “Momma, I want to play with my cars for 20 minutes, then take a bath.”  I don’t usually argue with him over it because I like the choice he’s giving himself (sometimes he says 5 minutes), and I know as soon as the timer goes off then he will drop what he’s doing without question.

Our Amazon Alexa isn’t always available when we are on-the-go, so sometimes we use our phone timers if we aren’t at home, which works just as well if needed.

Examples of timer usage in our house:

  • iPad time (limited to 20 minutes)-“You can play with the iPad for 20 minutes, but when the timer goes off we have to stop.”
  • Bath time (not sure about you, but it isn’t always easy getting my kid to willingly just jump into the bath. Timers save the night!)-“When the timer goes off it’s time to get a bath”
  • Learning (letter/number practicing. This is hard to get him to do unless it involves vehicles in some way)-“We are going to work for 5 minutes until the timer goes off, then you can go play.”

Honestly, using a timer has been a lifesaver in so many ways for us.  Even if we forget to turn a timer on and we tell Blake we are going to eat dinner soon, he will set a timer for himself and say, “Okay. Can I play with my cars for 10 minutes until the timer goes off?”

This isn’t to say the timer works one-hundred percent of the time, but I’d say it’s pretty close!

Sometimes he’ll refuse to do something, like come inside if we are outside playing, but as soon as we break out the phone timer and it goes off, then he’s the first one to go back in. It’s really been amazing!

Timers, and beeps work well, and it makes us sound super organized and like we have it all down seamlessly. (Ha!) We kind of just stumbled into using it one day and it worked so well that we’ve kept it up ever since.

But, something that I wish we’d started a heck of a lot sooner with B was a schedule! We kind of operate by the seat of our pants during the day, which isn’t always a bad thing, but I don’t think it’s always the best thing either. Unscheduled days may work great for some parents, and you may be reading this thinking a schedule for a kid who already attends daycare and for parents who work is unnecessary, but I wish we’d started sooner.

Unscheduled days have caused us to be lazy parents at times. Too much iPad. A little too much TV. Not enough planning.

I don’t like the lazy parent it’s made me, and the lack of structure I’ve allowed to enter our daily lives.  It makes me feel a little chaotic, and like I’m running around in circles, especially in the evenings when I get home from work.

I spent some time today creating a schedule for the weekdays after I get home from work, and the weekends.  It’s okay if it isn’t completely followed, but I wanted to have an outline of a clear expectation and activity so I didn’t fill time being a lazy-parent. In retrospect, maybe this schedule is more for me than it is for him. Though, benefiting both.

It’s highly unlikely that we will spend our entire weekends at home enough to actually follow this hour by hour, but what the weekend schedule allows me is to find the hour closest to when we are home, and continue it. I already feel like I can breathe a little easier because now I have a “plan”.


I also created a chore choiceboard. He enjoys helping do things around the house, so I thought it’d be a good way to reward him for his work. I’ve gone back and forth about this because I think we over-reward in our society, especially for things that should be considered expectations, and what’s hugely lacking among kids (and some adults!) is the ability to be intrinsically motivated, without an external reward . Instead, so many wait to be given something after an accomplishment. I don’t want my kid to expect a reward for everything he does. However, I also want him to learn that hard work pays off, and you get places in life, and you earn things by working for them.

(And then there’s that booming momma voice in my head that says, remember, he’s only THREE! Yeah, sometimes my strong opinions impede my momminess)

For his chore choice board, he has an option to do any of the 3 chores listed.


Each time he completes one chore, he gets a sticker. Three stickers earn him something from the “reward” box. I’m sure I’ll add more to the reward box later, but this was a good place to start with things he loves!


I explained to him how it worked and he was eager to get started. He said he wanted to work toward a Hot Wheels car. I wasn’t sure about putting something on there that I actually had to pay for, but they’re only 99cents and he absolutely LOVES them.  He also loves lollipops, and the iPad. We limit his time to 20 minutes, so I thought the 30 would be a nice treat.

I did some Pinteresting and Googling to find chores that were age appropriate. These are not meant to be chores that are ACTUALLY going to help me clean. This is meant to get him involved in the process, understand the value of work, help with skills, and teach responsibility. It’s never too early to start! I’d rather it begin young, than have to argue with a 10 year old who is first starting out doing chores. 😉

Laundry-this may mean sorting laundry colors into piles, help with “folding” (mommy may have to redo it later, but that’s okay!), placing washed laundry into the dryer, or putting his clothes away.

Dust-Using the duster to clean off furniture. This is good for motor skills

Dishes-Placing non-dangerous dishes into their proper reachable places, or loading into the dishwasher (i.e. plasticware, pots & pans). Collecting dishes around the house and placing them in the sink.

Clean floors-using a broom or Swiffer Sweeper or Mop. Vacuuming.

Wipe cabinets-wiping cabinetry off with a wipe, or damp cloth. Great for hand-eye coordination, especially if there’s spots, and motor skills.

Clean backyard-cleaning while getting some fresh air! Sweeping the back porch, picking up sticks, pulling weeds, gathering debris or toys, raking.

Clean room & toys-very self explanatory, but this could also mean sorting toys into bins, or even cleaning out old toys to create space!

Brush dogs-this could mean not only brushing their fur, but also their teeth. Or if your dogs need it, helping with a bath!I’m hoping the use of the schedule really works as well as I’m hoping it will!

The choice board already seems to be a hit with him, and I’m excited to reward him for his responsibilities and hard work!

The nice thing about this is that there’s no time frame it has to be completed. He can complete it all in one day, or over several days. I built chore-time into the weekend schedule, but we’ll see how it goes!

He completed two chores tonight and earned two stickers! He said he wants to work toward a new Hot Wheels car!

Here’s how I displayed everything, right above his activity table.

He first chose to clean his room. His room is rarely messy so there wasn’t too much to clean up, except a few cars, laundry on the floor, books, and a cup. Still, he did a great job all by himself!


He then said he wanted to brush the dogs. He loves his doggies, especially Elway (the one on the left).

He wanted to stop at two. We then went outside to play for a while, but I was proud of him for completing his first two! He chose two Star Wars stickers for his chart. Fitting. (RIP Carrie Fisher)

I’m super excited about his chore chart and schedule! Am I crazy?

I’m hoping it all goes as well as it’s playing out in my head and that my update at a later date can prove that!

As far as the timer goes, have we created a bad habit? Will I find that 10 years down the rode we’ve damaged our child when he gets into the real world? Will he be able to function without being so regimented? It seems like a great idea now, and he truly thrives on it but, is it really for the best?

Oh, the questions we parents question!

To be continued…


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