Here’s a scenario: it’s fifteen minutes to ten o’clock in the morning. You have a huge presentation coming up, but no worries–you’re ready. As you’re going through your notes one last time, you hear a small crash in the room next to you. Followed by crying. Followed by running. Your kids have gotten into something. You don’t have time for this.
Working from home can be challenging–working from home with children can be a nightmare. But it doesn’t have to be. This article will help you navigate some of the difficulties of working from home with kids.
Each of the activities below can be done as a solo activity (for parents of only-children or parents with independent children) or as a group. They’re also designed to stimulate your child’s imagination and curiosity.
But before you begin–here’s a tip: plan the day’s activities in advance.
If you’ve ever been around anyone in the military, you might have heard them mutter something along the lines of “proper planning prevents poor performance.” It’s as true in your work-from-home life as it is in the military–to minimize the distractions your kids can bring during the day, you need to plan a structure for them to follow in advance. You’ll have to tailor this tip to meet the needs of your particular children. For example, very energetic and highly active kids do not always stick to a schedule. One key component to this is making the children feel like they are also a part of your schedule–that their activities are intertwined with yours and not something “different.”
With that in mind, here are five activities that will keep your kids busy when you’re working from home:
1. Create an activity station and give them a “project”
Section off a special spot in your home to serve as an activity station and stock it full of materials for arts and crafts–things like colored paper, markers, safe scissors, and glue. Anything your child could use to make art or build something is fine. Consider saving old paper towel and toilet roll centers in addition to cardboard boxes that can be used to create an assortment of different things. Ask your children to use their imaginations to create something and give them a deadline to do it in (none of this two minutes and it’s finished business–make sure they know that’s not acceptable). Task them to do all that they can in the allotted time and then you’ll check in on them and have them present the final product.
2. Scavenger Hunts (Inside or Out)
Scavenger hunts are a great way to keep your children engaged and active–and they’re easy to create. All you need to do is create a list of things your children need to find. The items can be specific (i.e. collect a penny, a nickel and a dime) or abstract (i.e. find something green and shiny). The best scavenger hunts contain a mix of both. You can also limit the scope of the hunt to specific areas of your house or you can open it up to include inside and outside targets. If you’re having trouble coming up with a list of items, a few quick searches on the internet will help as well.
3. Toy Theater
Simply asking your children to play with their toys will get old pretty quickly when you’re stationed at home. Incentivize their playtime by asking them to put on a small play or show for you using their toys. Just like the art projects, give them a specific amount of time to think about and create the toy theater. For older children, you can even ask them to create specific kinds of plays, like dramas or comedies. If your kids really take to this activity, they can carry it over into multiple days, creating entire series out of their stories–and giving you hours of potential to get your work done.
4. Cooking or Baking (Depending on Age and Skill)
This activity does require a little advanced preparation on your part. To start, you’ll need to determine your child’s aptitude toward cooking or baking. Young children may only be ready for easy things like celery and peanut butter (ants on a log) or toast and jam, while older children may be just fine baking up a batch of cookies. Depending on the complexity of the recipe, this may only keep them occupied for a few minutes at a time–enough to check an email or respond to a company message. The other key component here is teaching them good habits of cleaning up after themselves–this list is all about trying to save you time, not to create more work for yourself.
5. Educational Screen Time
Think about what your kids are interested in and find a documentary or an educational series on that topic. If your kids are into sports, they might like a documentary about kids playing golf or soccer. Nature lovers might enjoy learning about insects or birds. Documentaries about space are always captivating to young minds. A good tip is to watch the documentary beforehand to make sure it is appropriate for your children, although you can often look up the title of the documentary and read some parent reviews if you don’t have the time. Tell your children that they need to watch the entire documentary and that you’ll be asking them questions about it afterwards. You can then plan your day by considering how long the documentary runs for.
One last thing–be flexible.
You know your kids better than anyone else and you know what they’ll like and won’t like. It’s okay (and beneficial) to have them try new things, but not every activity or task is going to be a hit. As you think about the different ways to keep your kids busy while you work, keep some “backup” activities in your mind–even if that backup activity means letting your child veg out playing video games for a while.
There’s no wrong way to do this, and kids will feed off your energy. If you try to keep the schedule and activities light and fun, chances are pretty good that you’ll find some time to actually get some work done.