Friday, September 5, 2008

LITTLE STEPS {with Three Year Olds}

I received an excellent question from Kristen that really deserves it's own post:

“ What do you do with your three year old for school purposes? My son is turning three soon (and I have a 7 mo old) and when he gets even a whiff of "formal education" he completely shuts off. He has no interest in ABC's, counting etc.. We do lots of puzzles, and we have started chores, but I feel a lack of routine and consistency in our days. Any help or direction would be appreciated... Thank you, Kristen”

Hi Kristen!

If I am hearing you correctly, you just hit on two things that were a challenge to me specifically when I was in the same season of life.


#1 Do you feel like you are having a difficult time managing your days? Personally, I remember feeling a little like I was being batted back and forth each day without a strong sense of direction when my oldest was three. I wonder if you are trying to express a similar feeling.

#2 Do you feel unsure about what I should do with your little one? I remember wondering how to use up the day's time. If your (almost) three year old isn't enjoying educational activities that only adds to the confusion!


Beginning with point #1
, I would like to encourage you that it sounds like you are really on the right track- adding chores and playing puzzles. But, personally, I thrive on a schedule. I am wondering if that might be a blessing for you as well.

Could you talk to your husband and create a list of things you would like to accomplish? Maybe something simple like dividing a piece of paper in thirds and labeling each section as such:

Daily goals
- Things like Bible, laundry, meal prep. and exercise.

Educational goals
- Things you want your three year old to learn: Bible verses, Bible songs, Colors, Shapes and so on.

Character goals- Things you want to see developed in your three year old such as cheerful first time obedience, the value of hard work and the like.

In other words, I would encourage you to see yourself as a Project Manager. You will schedule your time and resources to accomplish the goals of management. When I think in these terms it moves me in the direction of managing these areas rather than having the day just happen to me.

Once you know what your goals are, you can begin to jot down how you will accomplish each of those goals. And don't feel like all of these goals need to be met in isolation. If you want to read your Bible and your three year old is with you, you could hand him his picture Bible and you can "read" on the couch at the same time. If you need to fold the laundry, he would be the perfect helper to fold washcloths and sort out the socks.

I hope to post more on schedules in the coming week, but this brainstorming session is always key for me in creating any working schedule.

Moving on to point #2, I would like to encourage you with the following idea. While not all three year olds are interested in formal education, I would suspect all three year olds are very interested in play. Could you make play educational, and make your education play?

The Lord tells us that “A merry heart does good, like medicine, But a broken spirit dries the bones. Proverbs 17:22.”

Since our goal is to develop a love for learning, as well as a relationship in which our children desire to please us, consider creative ways to go about sharing the information you want him to grasp. To follow are just a few ideas. I am sure they will spark your creativity and you'll think of even better ones!



To learn shapes:
Make cut out cookies together with shape cutters;
Show him a rectangle (the refrigerator is a rectangle) is and ask him if he can find any other rectangles in the room;
Make large shapes out of construction paper and put them on the floor. Tell him what each shape is as you put it down, the ask him if he can find the circle, the square and so on. He could even hop on them!

To learn colors:
Build with colored blocks (we love the Duplo size!) and name the colors as you stack them;
Name the colors of his clothes as you get him dressed;
Ask him to help you sort the laundry and sort it into colored piles (and of course, brag to daddy all about your little helper when he comes home).

Plan for each activity with your little one to last about 15 minutes. For some more ideas for this age, you might want to read the post "What Can I Do?"

Remember, he's young. Make your main goal to develop cheerful, first time obedience and you will truly have an excellent educational foundation.

Blessings to you as you lead those little hearts home!



1st Photo: Lydia doing “school” today using an Evan-Moor Pre-K activity.

2nd Photo: Sarah (my third three year old), Faith and Michaela making alphabet cookies!


  1. Thank you so much for giving me a solid starting place. I really appreciate your suggestions. I will keep you posted on how our "school" unfolds.

  2. You are so welcome! Yes, please keep me posted!