Keeping Your Kids and Baby Busy When You Work From Home
How to Work From Home When You Have Kids or a Baby
- Invest in quality toys
- Give your children responsibilities to fulfill while you work
- Keep snacks within their reach
- Stay off social media while you’re working
- If your kids are still nappers, work during naptimes
- Get your work done as early in the day as possible so you have the rest of the day to focus on your family
As a writer/content creator, I love working from home with my kids. Aside from not having to factor childcare costs into our fragile budget, it allows my kids the morning to sleep in, it gives me a chance to savor a hot cup of coffee without rushing out the door and I never need to call in sick (fun fact: I'm down with a head cold as I type this) since I can work right from my bed.
But working from home with kids isn’t always easy either. In fact, it’s hardly ever easy. For as many pros as there are to working while your kids play in the next room over, there’s just as many cons. For instance, I never feel like I’m giving enough of myself to any one thing and if someone walked in my door right now they would find about 30 Baby Alives scattered across the living room rug and a basketful of crayons spilled out on the kitchen table (this is not an exhaustive list of the messes in my home right now which include Nutella in places it doesn't belong).
Still, for so many reasons, I wouldn’t trade this in for anything. Thus, I’m making working from home work for our family - here’s how:
Keeping Your Kids Busy and Entertained
One of the perks to working from home once your babies aren’t babies anymore is that you don’t have to be right on top of them! Most of the time, when I’m working, my kids are playing.
While I wish I could embrace a minimalist home and lifestyle just for the sheer simplicity, it won’t work for us. My girls are very playful and imaginative and need to have a lot of toys to keep them busy while I work, so the toy-mess is the sacrifice I make to keep my kids happy and entertained while I pull in some income for our family.
Besides letting them loose with their toy boxes, here’s some other strategies that help us stay busy and happy during mom’s workday:
Don't Be Afraid of Screentime
I know, I know, screens are the devil. Unless you’re trying to write 2 articles in one afternoon, then they're your saving grace. Letting your kids have screen time so you can get your work done doesn't mean you have to settle for questionable YouTube videos of other kids opening Hatchimals for an hour straight. Here’s how I utilize screens to keep my daughters busy some days:
I create a learning playlist on YouTube. I’ll ask them what they want to learn about that day and then I go on YouTube, create a playlist that answers their questions and indulges their curiosities (from how crayons are made to why the sky is blue) and play it while I’m getting some work done. They’ve learned so many valuable concepts this way, especially sciency ones.
We use foreign language apps. Our favorite is Gus on The Go but there’s tons that you can set up on a tablet or even your phone that are easy for kids to navigate while they learn the nuances of how to say “thank you” in German or “more candy, please” in Spanish.
I cheat with PBS Kids art games to keep the messes to a minimum. And I’m fine with it. My kids love to dress up Daniel Tiger and paint with Curious George and when they’re done all I have to do to clean up is turn off the screen. No Magic Eraser needed!
Create an Atmosphere that Fosters Creativity and Freeplay
Believe it or not, my kids are only entertained by apps and shows for so long.
The majority of the time that I spend working, they spend playing and since studies continue to reinforce that our children learn through play, I’ve worked hard to create a home that encourages quality play. While my girls spend lots of time playing with their Barbie Dreamhouse, we also have a light table, a lego table and a train table along with a toy kitchen, wooden dollhouse and book baskets placed throughout our home.
Honestly, if you walked into our small home you might mistake it for a daycare with children’s toys in every room but it’s just my attempt to ensure my kids never feel lost in space while I work.
Set Up Activity “Stations”
Another thing I like to do, especially in the cold months when my girls can’t get outside as often, is to set up an activity before I start my work. Some ideas for this are:
Setting out modeling clay or playdough with various plastic (you know, not sharp) cookie cutters to create with.
Crayons and coloring books (so classic).
Construction paper and (safe) scissors with whacky patterns.
Washable watercolors and blank paper.
A holiday themed craft.
Dry erase marker tracing books. These are great for learning to write letters and numbers and for older kids you can find math and spelling based books.
Water play. I’ll fill up one of my large cooking pots with some soap and warm water and let the girls take their Barbies to the “pool” while I type away.
More Things I Do to Keep My Kids Busy While I Work
Keep snacks within reach. I’m not one to monitor my kids’ snacking. Keep their favorite snacks and drinks in an easy-to-reach spot so they’re not interrupting you every 4 minutes for goldfish crackers.
Remind my kids that I’m working. If they ask me to help them with something I’ll say yes. If they ask me to help them with something ten times in one hour, I’ll remind them that I’m working and that when I’m done I’ll help them. At first this really miffed them, but they’re cool with it now, especially if I have a visual cue set up for them to see that I'm "at work", like having the door to my workspace cracked open just a hair so I can still hear them.
Give kids responsibilities while you’re working. If your kids are old enough, set out a canister of sanitizing wipes and tell them to clean up the tables. Direct them to brush their teeth and wash their faces or send them on a mission to collect all of the dirty laundry and throw it in the hamper. Giving my kids a chore to execute not only keeps them busy but it also makes them think twice before coming to me because they're bored while I'm working, *evil cackles*.
Working From Home with Kids Poll
What intimidates you most about working from home?
Tips for Caring for a Baby While Working
How to Keep Your Baby Busy While You Work
Keeping babies busy while you're working is less involved but still just as stressful. When my kids were babies, here’s what I did to keep them busy while I worked:
Spread out a blanket nearby with lots of toys to explore. This gave my babies lots to mouth and play with while still staying within my eyesight so I could make sure they were safe.
Put baby in a highchair or playcenter with a tray for snacks. My babies loved to snack, especially when they were teething, so I knew that if I buckled one of them into their highchair or playcenter and spread puffs and cut up fruit on their tray with a sippy of milk, I could get a good 20 minutes to check my emails and respond to readers.
Nurse or feed your baby while you work. I know this is tricky and can be overstimulating, but part of the reason I chose to work from home was so that my babies would be able to be close to me when they needed it, so sometimes (often) that meant working from my bed and letting the girls nurse or take a sippy while they cuddled me and I typed. It’s not ideal but it’s not forever either and I’m really glad my daughters knew they had me close by in their first years.
Is it Hard to Work From Home With Kids?
Yes! But I think that everything has an added level of difficulty once you become a parent - from using the bathroom in peace to making a meal that everyone is excited to eat. So, if you’re a parent you already know that life with kids adds an extra element of trickiness to everything. You’re also trading the difficulties of working outside the home with kids (like getting them to childcare, getting ready for work with kids at your heels and commuting in heavy traffic with crying, hungry babies in the backseat) for the hazards of working from home. It’s all awash in the end and you have to decide what aspects make it worth it to you.
For our family, navigating me working from home with the kids was easier than trying to figure out the logistics of me working outside of our home.
What is It Like to Work From Home With a Baby?
Working from home with a baby presents it’s own unique challenges. On the one hand, if your baby is still a curled up, tiny infant who sleeps half of the day, this gives you a lot of time and space to work. On the other hand, your baby probably kept you up all night and you’re likely half-crazed by the time naptime rolls around. Likewise, once your infant turns toddler, you have a whole new set of obstacles to tackle, like your new crawler getting into everything yet refusing to be confined to a pack n’ play.
The truth is, the older your kids get, the more work you can get done. I can clock quite a few hours most days with my 3 & 4 year olds but a year ago this wasn’t as easy. It’s not impossible at all to work from home with a baby, but you’ll probably have to work in increments (an hour after lunch, a half an hour during naptime…) rather than straight through in the morning or afternoon. With a baby, expect to do less work and be open to a more flexible schedule.
How do you survive working from home with kids and why do you do it in the first place? Let me know in the comments below!
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
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© 2018 Kierstin Gunsberg