Your friend’s three year old learns the alphabet, practices yoga, and counts to twenty in his preschool class.
She beams as she talks about how preschools prepares her child for school.
You wonder if days spent zooming up and down your street on the tricycle, sitting in the grocery cart sucking a lollipop, and splashing in bubble baths are enough for your child.
You’re not ready to send your three year old child to preschool.
Plus, your friend’s child is neuro typical unlike your child who may have a developmental delay, hyperactivity or mobility challenges, or struggles more with behavior.
You doubt a typical private preschool can meet your child’s special needs, and you aren’t sure an early intervention public preschool program would be the right fit either.
You feel lots of time to play is the right choice for your three year old child even a child with special needs.
I felt exactly the same way when my children were three. Three out of my four children stayed home all day with me at three years old. I didn’t have the choice for my other child who was adopted by us at four years old.
You want to provide more structure and introduce some academic concepts by homeschooling your three year old child.
You wonder how to get started with homeschooling your child with special needs.
You can homeschool your child with special needs. Public preschools are not the only option to help your child develop.
Of course, thoroughly explore the options of early intervention preschools and homeschool. If you decide there are more benefits to homeschooling your three year old child, be confident with your choice. You can provide your child an enriching learning environment that is developmentally appropriate to their particular needs.
The best thing to do is to create a schedule to your day. Most children benefit from a predictable routine, especially children with special needs.
Our schedule followed a pattern rather than relied strictly on time and followed the needs of the children and family.
Here is the schedule that worked for my three year old twins.
They have special needs that include developmental delays due to a chromosomal abnormality and ADHD. By far, ADHD is their most challenging special need as they fall on the severe end of the spectrum for both extreme hyperactivity and attention issues. They have been diagnosed with it since two years old, and it wasn’t a premature diagnosis in their case. They were not medicated at three years old for the symptoms of ADHD.
Daily Homeschool Schedule for a Three Year Old
- Wake up
- Get dressed and brush teeth
- Eat breakfast
- Take siblings to school
- Indoor free play
- Hands on playful learning activity
- During free play, our in home occupational, speech, and physical therapists were scheduled.
- Fine motor and/or Art Activity
- Lunch with a read aloud book
- Nap/Quiet Time
- Pick up siblings from school
- Snack with read aloud
- Play in backyard with siblings
- TV time during dinner prep
- Bath/Wash Up Time and Quiet Bedroom Play
As you can see we had a rhythm of physical activities and sedentary activity. Three year olds need lots of active play time, especially ones with hyperactivity challenges, in order to focus on seated activities. Those seated activities should be less time than your active play time.
Indoor and Outdoor Free Play
Free play is the most important activity you can provide for your three year old.
You don’t need to spend all your time playing with your three year old. During indoor free play time, my three year olds mostly played with each other in the living room while I sat on the couch drinking my coffee. Yup, that’s right, I sat on my tush while they played, and they were just fine.
Unless your child is more introverted or has social anxiety, they will enjoy playing with other children and/or their siblings. Playing with peers helps children build social skills.
I definitely played some with my three year olds as it helps build a connection with them, but most of the time they played on their own. My oldest child did not have siblings to play with, so she needed more Mommy playtime than my twins.
Hands On Playful Learning
These are simple activities using mostly the materials you have in your home. Some ideas I created on my own and others I found reading my favorite blogs. Or you pick a skill you want your child to learn and search for activities on Pinterest using their key word search.
Chances are if your child has special needs, they function below or even above the typical age. It might be helpful to look at the younger age range if your child has lagging skills to help plan your learning activities.
At three years old, my children did not use worksheets or learned using a screen. These were all activities that kept them playing and moving.
Sometimes, they spent less than five minutes with an activity and other days it could be close to an hour, admittedly the latter was rare.
Favorite Blogs for Hands On Learning for Three Year Olds
- Hands on As We Grow
- Inspiration Laboratories
- The Educators Spin on It
- Teach Preschool
- No Time for Flashcards
Fine Motor Activities
My twins measured two years behind age level at three years old for fine motor development. They received occupational therapy for about 1 1/2 years. In addition, I provided them with daily activities that built their fine motor skills. By 7 years old, they measured at age level to above age level for fine motor and visual processing skills.
The Ultimate Sensory Guide to Writing provides tons of awesome fine motor resources to build your child’s handwriting skills in an age appropriate way.
Arts and crafts were a favorite activity during this time of day. A lot of children benefit from process art, but my twins needed more structure and direction to their art projects. It was directed process art because there wasn’t usually an expected final product, but I limited the amount of art supplies accessible. Their older sister benefited from an art station where she had more freedom to choose how to create art. An open access art station was not something my twins could handle.
More Art Ideas for Three Year Olds
These activities get you out of the house. This helps keep you sane and aids your children’s social skill development.
When my oldest was three years old, she attended a weekly play group. I organized this group with about 5 other families, and we took turns hosting. Each mom brought a playful themed learning activity for the children. In addition, we met another day during the week for outdoor adventures.
Don’t despair if you don’t have a play group for your child.
Structured playdates didn’t work well for my twins at three years old because of their hyperactivity and attention challenges. We were fortunate that the same children played at our neighborhood park, so they gained social skills by playing at the park with their neighborhood friends. Unstructured outdoor play worked much better than indoor playdates for my dynamo twins.
Simple Ideas for Outings with Three Year Olds
- Library Story Times
- Easy Hikes
- Walk, Bike or Scooter Around the Neighborhood
- Children’s Museum
- Soft Indoor Play Ground
- Trampoline or Bounce Indoor Park
- Grocery Shopping
- Restaurant with Playground
- Zoo or Local Farm
All this information may seem overwhelming to you and leave you wondering, “Do I have what it takes to homeschool my special needs three year old?”
If you have been staying home with your child with special needs up until now, and your child continues to grow and develop at their own pace, you have the right stuff to provide an enriching environment for your child.
You know your child best.
You research all the options for your child’s needs.
You are willing to learn and grow to provide for your child.
Homeschooling a three year old is ordinary life except they are learning their numbers, the alphabet, and painting peppered in between scooter rides, grocery trips, and bath time.
You’ve got this.
More Thoughts on Education for Children with Special Needs
Special Education vs Mainstream by My Home Truths
How to Prepare Your Autistic Toddler for Preschool by Kori at Home