keeping 3yo busy during family work

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  • mama_nickles

    So I am trying to do about 75 minutes of family work with my 3 kids (7.5, 5 and 3). We alternate subjects between reading/narrating and interactive and the older 2 are really enjoying it. My 3yo really wants to be with us, but struggles to sit for that long! I do take a movement break halfway through where we do an activity from a jar (hokey pokey today) and I give DD3 a table activity that keeps her occupied for the first half or so, but then she loses steam. I do not think she would enjoy just going off to play by herself, but I am not sure what else to give her to do. I was thinking she might enjoy “subjects” like the big kids where she does “math” one day with a puzzle or pattern blocks, and “reading” another day with magnet letters. Does anyone do anything like this? Obviously she needs to be independent with it since I am doing other stuff. I do have a couple busy bag activities that I want to take a look at. Otherwise, is 75 minutes in one stretch too long and I need to break it up? I just feel like it’s hard to get everyone back to the table if I let them up. Other ideas for “subjects” she could do?


    Some activities mine have enjoyed at that age:

    • blocks
    • little people–we sometimes get them all out and make an entire little people village
    • matchbox cars and road mat ( or you can make a masking tape road around the room)
    • dry erase board and marker (make sure they are sitting at the table with you and not decorating your walls or their faces!)
    • dollar store workbooks–they wanted “real” schoolbooks instead of coloring books, so I picked these up and didn’t mind if they just scribbled in them since they were only $1.  😉
    • games on computer/tablet or videos
    • playdough or rice (if you are an adventurous mom) lol
    • silly putty is slightly less messy!
    • CD to listen/dance to…I usually save this one for when we aren’t doing read alouds
    • I have Preschool Activities in a Bag which has quite a few ideas for 3-5 year olds–or you could search Pinterest for ideas.
    • Stickers
    • snack or sippy cup with water
    • I just picked up a booster seat for DS (13mo) to sit at the table with us.  I plan on using it for quite a few years.  He’ll only sit in it for a short while though.   After that, the others take turns playing with him.  I’d like to give him free reign of the basement, but we just moved and it’s not as baby-proofed as I’d like right now!



    75 minutes would be too long for my kids, especially at that age.  Our family time is about 45 minutes, but my youngest is bigger –  5YO – and loves to sit and learn.


    I searched for something from Tristan on her toddler activity tubs, and found this older post, where near the end she links to her post on her blog on the topic.  Her blog is very helpful, I also liked using Kumon books, like the cutting or cut and paste books.  Also puzzles, lace-a-shape, Doodle Pro.  It may help for you to give snack time while in the high chair too.

    Would you consider having the little one watch any kind of educational show during the last part when she loses steam?  Perhaps the free Spanish Salsa shows streaming free from the Internet with familiar storybook characters:


    or Mister Rogers or Signing Time or an animal nature show?  Or would this only distract the other two?


    Okay…after searching and searching…I have finally found THE post I remembered!  There is a great list for activity tubs by Tristan here:


    My son is 2 & 1/2 so I’m slightly in the same boat as you except I only have 1 other child (7) so I’m not sure if you would even call it family studies yet. I tried the “morning basket” idea of clumping all of those family friendly subjects into one time of the day and it did not work even for my 7 year old. I found that we do best personally alternating reading/listening with handwritten subjects. (Bible, then math, then a few readings clumped together such as poetry, habits & Literature, then copy work, then history then artist study etc. So she is never sitting and listening for a super long stretch.). Anyways, for my 2 yr old, we do Bible during breakfast so his food keeps him busy. Haha. When I read poems, habits & literature both of my kids do a quiet, tactile activity such as coloring, sketching/scribbling, blocks etc. My 7 year old has to do this in order to listen. During other reading times, he may just be playing by himself. (He loves his trains). I rotate toys which also helps. I learned pretty quickly that he is still too young to be trusted with paint or play dough when I’m not looking at him. He ate both.

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