As a mom you know how difficult it can be to keep your young kids busy just to cook a meal or clean up. But as a working mom, it’s a whole different challenge!
You have to figure out how to keep your young kids occupied so they will play independently, so you can get your work done. Of course you probably take advantage of early mornings, nap time, or late evenings when your kids are sleeping but sometimes that isn’t enough time because you have a demanding job or because you have many other tasks that need to be completed throughout the day (ya know being a mother and all!).
I’ve worked at home for several years now, (from when my oldest was born, to now with two young children) so I’ve tried a lot of different ways to keep my kids occupied while I work! I’ve discovered several ways that are most successful in keeping them occupied so I can squeeze in extra work time throughout the day.
Now let’s be clear, I’m not talking about hours of extra time here! I’m sure you know that with young kids, they are not able to play independently for a super long time. Or if you have multiple children you know they probably won’t play nicely for a long time. Someone is bound to have their feelings hurt, or a toy taken from them and then the tantrums ensue.
So these activities are for shorter amounts of time (about 30 minutes) when you have a specific task you need to complete. You should plan ahead so you know exactly what you need to do so you can get the most done in the short amount of time!
Also be sure to set a timer! This can be very helpful for younger kids so that they don’t keep coming up to you asking if you’re done with your work. You let them know once they hear the alarm go off you will be done. Then you have to make sure you wrap up right away so your kids know that when the alarm goes off, mommy is done working. This helps them respect the timer.
Activity 1- Play Dough
I set my kids up at a little table with two cans of play dough (so they each have one) and I give them cookie cutters and other play dough toys. This keeps them busy while I am able to work furiously for 30 minutes! The key is the two cans because then they don’t fight over whose play dough belongs to who, (like they would if it was the same color). If you have younger toddlers or kids who may eat the play dough, then you will want to substitute this with an activity that is more suitable for younger kids.
Activity 2- Basket of Toys/Something Special
So this works if there is a special basket of toys that you only bring out when you work. They need to be toys that your kids really love playing with and make sure you switch them out every so often so they don’t get tired of them. But the key is letting them know once that timer goes off that the toys go away. They might protest (which is a good indication that they like those toys!) but you still need to put them away to keep their interest the next time you need to use them. This post contains affiliate links for your convenience. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.
Along with this, if you have a special art project, sensory activity, or just something that your kids are normally not allowed to play with, it will usually keep them busy when you need them to be. Another example, I have art projects that I usually keep for if my son naps and my daughter doesn’t. Because she is older she can do those art projects independently and I don’t have to worry about my son grabbing stuff off the table or getting upset because he can’t do them too. She also has a VTech watch that has games she can play or exercises she can copy, (running, jumping, dancing) and she only gets to play with this watch when I’m working. Because it is something special she only gets at certain times, she’s more likely to be engaged with it for the time I need her to be.
Activity 3- Cartoon
I’ll admit, sometimes there are those days that I stick my kids in front of Doc McStuffins or Mickey Mouse Clubhouse to get an uninterrupted 25 minutes of work done. I don’t do this often only because it is hard for me to concentrate hearing the hotdog song for the umpteenth time, or time for your checkup, and other parts of the shows. It interrupts my thought process and so this is kind of a last resort for me. But if you work well through noise, this may be a great option to keep your kids occupied!
Also this is another thing that I’ve noticed loses it’s appeal if used too often. Like if I’ve had a rough week and the kids have been watching more TV than normal, they aren’t going to be as engaged if I use it when I’m working. So what I’ve noticed is using TV sparingly works better in keeping them engaged when I need them to be.
Activity 4- Give THEM work
I noticed my oldest started to mimic me when I would sit down to work. She would grab something and say it was her work and she needed to finish her work. She would then sit and work on it until I was done with my tasks and then she would say she was done with her work too! So I started finding things I could use for “her work”. Most often she likes to use crayons, markers, and notebooks. So I set her up at a big table, (so my younger son can’t get to the art supplies) and make a big deal to her brother about how she is going to do her big girl work and she can’t be interrupted. This gets her super pumped and she feels very important! While she is doing her work I let my younger son explore the playroom, (which is sectioned off and supervised).
Activity 5- Free Play
If you are able to work in a ‘yes’ room with your kids that could give you solid time to get your work done. A ‘yes’ room is a safe room that is sectioned off and has toys or stuff your kids are allowed to play with. There shouldn’t be anything that they aren’t allowed to play with in it. The object of this is letting them explore whatever they want with the freedom to decide and not hearing no all the time. Not only does this give them the freedom to use their natural curiosity and imagination, it keeps them busy! I have a playroom in my basement, (which doubles as my office) and it is full of stuff for my kids to play with. Unless there is an incident where someone takes someone else’s toy, there is rarely a time I need to stop my work to referee what they are doing.
Working at home poses a lot of different challenges. Keeping your young kids occupied while you get work done is one of the more difficult challenges! These are 5 of my favorite ways to keep my kids busy while I work at home. You can modify them to suit your specific child’s needs better, (like if they would eat play dough, or they don’t watch TV) but overall these have been very successful in buying me uninterrupted time!
What are some of your favorite activities you use for your kids when you have to work?