How to Enrich My 3 Year Old's "Home Time"

Updated on July 31, 2010
P.G. asks from San Antonio, TX
10 answers

Hi Moms - I've been a SAHM/WAHM for the last 3 years. Just this year we started part time daycare, which is going very well. My son is learning a lot and becoming more independent in terms of the things he can do for himself. I feel like I'm at a loss as to how to make his home time less boring, more fun and educational. I don't have a teaching background, he's my first/only child. We only have 1 car right now so I can't travel to mom's groups. It's 85 degrees by 11am, so park/outside time has to happen early or it's just too hot.

I feel like I don't really know how to "play" with him; I don't know a lot of the rhymes, games. I just don't know what to do with myself. Add to that, he JUST started sleeping through the night so I'm super tired. I feel like I could just sit on the couch and veg out watching TV. I try to save the kid movies/tv time to later in the day when it's hot.

I just feel like a crappy mom cause I don't know what to do with him - I wish I could sit in on the daycare stuff all day to see what they do. And I feel like a big chicken, mess wise, cause I haven't tried to do crafts beyond coloring with crayons. Any suggestions?

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answers from San Francisco on

First there are few things to do outside:
Bubbles and Chalk are awesome.
Painting with water on the sidewalk.
Neighborhood treasure hunts--Just grab a sand bucket and go on an early morning walk. He can pick up sticks, small rocks, flowers etc. When you get back you can do rubbings, glue them to paper with glitter, use clear contact paper and stick the items on one side then fold it over to seal it and put it in the window or just display it on a plate. My kids even just love running in the sprinklers.
Have you tried puzzles--5-7 pieces. The wooden ones are nice but I have even seen the cardboard ones at Dollartree and Target for cheap.
I also love board games like Uno Moo, Chutes and Ladders there are some really good ones out there.
You could also introduce him to letters. I started having my kids write around that time.
However, one great resource is his preschool. Look around and see what art projects and activities they do and see if you could replicate them at home. Some are really easy and inexpensive.
Hope this helps!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

does your local public library have a weekend children's storytime? that's a great starting place for ideas, then load up on some books that suit his interests, maybe even some that have the story recorded on audio CDs or cassettes so he can look at the book and hear it being read when you need a moment to yourself. Check your library for kids activity books too, and check online sites like for simple crafts that can be done with things like cardboard tubes from paper towels or toilet paper rolls. Borrow some CDs of children's music from the library and bounce around and do silly dances. Pull out some photo albums and tell him about things that happened when he was younger (I have yet to meet a little kid who *didn't* like to look at pictures of himself/herself) or before he was born. Build a fort out of cardboard boxes or sofa cushions. Play with water toys in the bathtub even if it's not bath time (get some bathtub finger paint if messes scare you)

And, most of all, remind yourself - you care about how you spend time with your son and that makes you a LOVING mom - don't let the nagging thoughts that you're not "measuring up" as a mom weigh you down. As you start trying out different things with your son, you'll grow more confident that you really CAN provide a fun and enriching home environment for your son.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Diego on

Love him. That will be more than enough. Don't be too h*** o* yourself regarding "playing" with him. It is not easy. I am a full time mother to my 2 girls and I have learned to do things with them that I love to do: paint, sculpt, read, dance and chat. If you try to do something that you don't enjoy but feel like your son might, he may miss out of something far more important: being able to share mom's interests and talents. I know how it is being tired, I used to feel like lying down on the ground by my daughter's side because I was so exhausted all the time. And all the while feel terrible about not "entertaining" her. But I realise now as time has gone by that what is most valuable is interacting with her, even when that interaction means that we are both sitting in bed "reading" our own books, side by side.
Love him, kid around with him, chat with him and involve him in the things you do at home. He will flourish. :)

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Harrisburg on

You're right doing outside stuff early, right after breakfast. But you can do a sprinkler or kiddie pool in the afternoon when it's hot. Just bring out a bottle of water and he'll stay cool. When we get too hot sitting out with the kids, we pool out a tinier pool or pan and soak our feet in cold water under the umbrella while the kids are running and cooling off. You can use water balloons and squirt guns too when it's hot out. Kids love water fights on a hot day.

Educationally, you can get some of the Leap Frog DVDs to play while you're doing household chores.

Try Letter Of The Week at through the Brightly Beaming group. They offer FREE lesson plans thoroughly set up to help teach yourself. You can tweak them to be as easy and simple as you'd like. 10-20 minutes a day is all that's needed. I printed off letters for my kids to color and talked about what starts with a Bb, for example. Then we'd hunt the house for Bb items. You can post flashcards up on the wall for the letter you're playing with that week. On the weekends you can do field trips with your letter that week. Aa week can be a visit to an apple orchard. Bb week can be a visit to see boats. Cc and Dd weeks can be a visit to a pet store to see cats and dogs. Be creative! They have a group online through Yahoo for help and suggestions too. If you make it fun they'll love it and won't even realize they're learning.

Have him help you do household chores and sit down and have a bowl of ice cream or Jell-O for a treat afterward.

Get some puzzles, play-dough, coloring books, magnadoodle, preschool workbooks, aquadoodle, a bubble bath on a hot day with fun toys keeps them occupied while you do a quick nearby chore. They can wear their swimsuit!

Popcorn and movie time in the afternoon before dinner is a big hit. I get my kids their sleeping bags and they think they're big shots, lol.

How about a picnic in the livingroom? I bought my kids lunchboxes and I'd pack them up a lunch with a drink and lay out a blanket near the Frenchdoors to look outside while we eat. Or you can do it in front of the TV with a show on.

Age 3 is good for helping in the kitchen to make dinner or make treats like cookies.

Dump a ton of Lego blocks on the livingroom floor and see what kind of castle he can build, or a city.

Print off color pages from his favorite shows from their official web site, or do their computer games there as well.

Buy him a preschool lap computer or computer games for the big computer to play and learn.

Make a tent in his room out of sheets and pretend he's in the jungle.

Google ideas online. There's tons of things out there! Some for him to do alone while you do chores. Some to do together. Plan out your days and make a schedule for the week of things to do. Watch the weather for rain and temps and you can plan indoor and outside activities.

K. B
mom to 5 including triplets
events and chat within 2 hour radius

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

As everyone else said, kids learn through playing. That's also what they love to do and how they love to spend time with mommy. Things like cooking are also a great way to teach and have fun at the same time.

Pretend play is just starting to become big at age 3 - having a play kitchen, making up stories, fake picnics with stuffed animals, etc.

If you want some true learning games, I highly recommend checking out Discovery Toys. Everything they make is fun and educational. My son is also three (May 2007) and ehre are some of his favorites:

MotorWorks (definitely my son's favorite!) - using a battery-powered screwdriver, build and take apart a car, airplane & motorcycle:

Busy Bugs (on sale today only! Regular price is $20; sale prices is $12.50) Teaches pre-math skills (and some fun facts about bugs):

Busy Farm - teaches pre-reading skills

Zingo - fun bingo-style game, kids learn to match pictures and start to become familiar with basic reading words:

It's A Match - fun matching game with puzzles that become increasingly more difficult. Kids love checking their own answers. Great for travel, restaurants, car, airplane, etc (as well as at home):

Playful Patterns - use different shapes to make all kinds of fun pictures and mosaics:

Garden Works - a nice set of small, kid-sized garden tools. Perfect for working outside early in the day before it gets too hot:

ABSeas - fun magnetic fishing game teaching capital and lowercase letter recognition; can also use for basic spelling:

If you have any questions, please send me a message. Check out all of my toys at

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answers from Dover on

Play is how kids this age learn. First and foremost they need to be active so utilize the outdoor time when the weather allows. The following are things that help kids with various motor skills while just playing: playdough, drawing, threading things (like threading cards, pasta on string), and finger painting. Utilizing all sorts of writing and art materials. You can also just look through old magazines for pictures and letters. Use those pictures and letters to help your child make number, colors, alphabet books etc. You can do the same with their own drawings. Read to your child, let him "read" to you or retell the story. Go on-line to learning sites. There are also learning videos...Preschool Prep Company has a seven set series that is great. Another option is to get toys that are educational (Hooked On Phonics makes three learning sticks that my daughter loved!). Also, talk to you son's preschool teacher they often have great ideas.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Read, play with play doh, paint (water colors are not that messy), build with blocks, do puzzles, and read some more! If you want to sing songs with him, but you're not sure where to start, try checking out some children's CDs from the library. We have found some great ones that my kids love, and they sing and dance along. Most of all, have fun and enjoy your time with him!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Tulsa on

My daughter turned 4 this March and I was a SAHM until she started Pre-K, that was my plan from the beginning. I also started working again n May, the beginning of Summer of all times to start a new job! Well what her & I done as far as activities were things like; crafts, kid-friendly cooking, starting a scrap book, reading, the list goes on & on! I wld ask her what foods she liked the best and make a menu for the week from her answers, she loved that!! I bought poster board, glitter glue, markers, etc..I wld let her design the menu, like I said, she loved it! I also took photos from our family photo albums, again letting her choose which photos to use, I let design her own photo album w/pics of our family and now since she's started school, pics of her friends, it turned out to be a rly neat album and very special too bc it was all her artwork! The cooking part was the funnest for us! We'd go buy the items from her menu and prepare our meal together, she rly enjoyed that! It's also educational as well; measuring ingredients, she learned the differences between ounces, liters, gallons, TBS, TSP, it taught her quite a bit! We also discovered "FOAM"!! Those r great!! They hv kits at Wal-Mart for $10, you get quite a bit in those kits too they're great to hv! They come in all sorts of themes; western, flowers, farm, sea life, zoo, cars/trucks, just to name a few! Well I hope my ideas help! Good luck mom!!

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answers from Norfolk on

Play - it's easy. Just don't over think it. When I was a kid, we had a big tin of buttons and beads (all sizes all colors) and pipe cleaners. We would thread the beads and buttons on the pipe cleaners and make all kinds of people and animals. You can do the same thing with different sized pasta (anything with holes in it). Lacing cards are fun, too.
Another way fun thing - a big card board box. Go to an appliance store and see if they have any they are getting rid of. Cut a few windows and a flap for a door and you have an instant fort. You can draw on it (or not - don't give markers to your child if they might continue drawing on real house walls). If it's big enough you can sit inside it and read a story with a flash light and have a picnic lunch in it.

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answers from Austin on

You don't have to "do" anything but your normal everyday life. Kids (that age anyway) learn more from following us around, doing laundry, cleaning the kitchen than in organized activities. Go for a walk. Make a mud puddle in the backyard for him to play in. Give him some chalk. He's fine.

1 mom found this helpful
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