Regardless if you are working at home because of the Coronavirus pandemic or some other reason, you can do it successfully with your kids at home with a little planning and a bunch of patience.
I know many people are finding themselves at home this week trying to social distance to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Allowing people to work from home is one way that many companies are aiding in this effort.
If you have kids at home that have school or daycare cancelled, working at home may sound less than appealing and kinda terrifying. Not to be dramatic, but working with someone tugging on your shirt tail and asking for juice every two seconds for the next 2 weeks can be daunting.
Working from home is something that I have been doing for the last six years with kids (mine are 6 & 2 currently).
Typically they have school or Mother’s Day Out but there are plenty of instances where they have been around during some part of my work day. Heck, I was working this Saturday and they were playing right under my feet.
So over the years, I have developed lots of ways to be mindful and attentive to my children but also to be a stellar employee that goes above and beyond (If I do say so myself HAHA).
Here are my survival tips for working at home with kids.
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Tips For Working At Home With Kids
Working at home for the next few weeks doesn’t have to be stressful. Try these tips for working at home with kids to keep everyone entertained and also get your work done.
Identify Your Work Space
If you don’t typically work from home, you may not have a formal office.
Even if you don’t have an office, I find that having a designated work space will help with your productivity. All you need is a firm chair with a back and a surface for your computer.
This can be as simple as your kitchen table. Sorry no lounging on the couch or in bed with a laptop. I promise you will be more productive sitting in a real chair.
Create A Work At Home Schedule
Keeping a routine will not only help you but also your kids.
Get up at your normal time and follow your normal routine. Take a shower, get dressed, eat breakfast. Drink all the coffee. Whatever you normally do.
Don’t hang out in your PJ’s all day. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
I promise you will get more done if you get dressed and start your morning right. And on this note, I would get the kids dressed too.
Set Rules With Your Children
This will greatly depend on the age of your kids.
However, even my 2 year old understands certain things as it pertains to when Mommy is working.
Let them know that if you are on a phone call, only real emergencies should be interruptions.
If Mommy is working on a project for work, I can’t play with you. I can play that game with you in just a little bit.
Obviously the type of work that you do and the age of kids will play a role in what you do here. But setting expectations up front is key to success even with younger kids. Just be age appropriate.
Explain to them that this is not like a vacation and you still have responsibilities to your employer (in kid terms of course).
Get Up Early
Again, this might depend on what you do for a living. But if you have some flexibility, get up before your kids and knock some tasks out.
Not only will this help you to ensure that you meet your employer’s expectations but it will also give you a bit more flexibility with regards to your child’s needs during the day.
If you are slammed with work and your 4 year old spills a cup of OJ, this can cause stress (because you are not used to having to “Mom” during the hours of 8-5). But if you got up early and have already gotten a good handle on your daily tasks, a small detour will be no big deal.
Make a list of some good busy activities that your kids can do mostly on their own. This is going to be your lifeline.
When the kids are coming into your designated work space for the 700th time, fighting or just “bored” you need a place to direct them.
And look, I am all for kids being bored. I think it helps to learn to use their imagination and be creative. However, when you are working from home you are going to want to have some more structured activities that will keep your kids occupied and give you the time that you need to work.
Here are some things that I like to have in my back pocket ready for kids that need something to do:
*Please note these all depend on your child’s age & ability – this is not suggesting that you should not supervise your young children.
- Printable Worksheets – Color By Numbers, School Worksheets, Even just a new coloring sheet for younger kids. There are tons of free resources on the web and it makes for an easy way to give something new to the kids without having to go our or spend money.
- “Forbidden” Toys – We all have those toys we don’t like to get out. The ones that have 10,000 pieces. Playdough/Slime and other messy play activities. Paint. These are almost 100% sure to occupy the kids if they don’t typically get to play with them.
- Art Projects / Science Projects – Look on Pinterest for ideas that you could help them start and then that they could finish with less hands on time from you. So get them started and then you go back to work.
- Pick A Toy – Sometimes just selecting a toy for them to play with will help them to focus in on a task. Grab a puzzle or some Legos and put them to “work”.
- Sensory Bins – You can throw these together pretty quickly and they usually result in lots of playtime at my house. Try these if you need some ideas: Apple Cinnamon Pie Bin, Cookie Cereal Baking Bin, and Vegetable Sensory Soup.
- New Toy – This might not be possible all the time but desperate times call for desperate measures occasionally. Ordering something on Amazon (I like crafts, legos and other “Busy” toys to keep them occupied) might not be something you can do every day but having something new for mid-week can be a nice way to switch things up a bit.
- Pretend Play – Depending on what you are working on, you might be able to partially play while also working. For example, if you have a “no brainer” task, you might be able to engage your kids while you do it. My kids love to go cook me a meal in their play kitchen. I work and then take two seconds to “eat” their creations. They love it.
This is new for everyone. You and your kids will have to learn to get into the groove of working from home.
Having a little extra patience will help everyone to get through the next few weeks.
Don’t Be Scared of Screen Time
Ok, I know. I’ve read the articles and watched the news segments so let me be clear up front.
I am not saying to let the TV babysit your kids for the next 2-3 weeks while we deal with this quarantine and working at home.
What I am suggesting is that you don’t beat yourself up if you need the TV for 30 minutes while you get through a conference call or analyze a spreadsheet.
There are lots of educational shows and games for computers/iPads that can make good use of that screen time.
Use Scheduled Breaks to Engage With Kids
When you are at the office, you might usually use your lunch break to socialize with co-workers, run errands or even just chill and scroll Facebook. But when you are working from home, you may need to reschedule your normal lunch break activities for before or after work.
I’ve found that making use of my lunch break to engage with my kids when they are home really helps my work day and here is why.
If the kids are wanting your attention early on in the day, you can give them a lunch date to look forward to.
Example: Right now Mom is working but I can play that game with you at lunch. It gives them an expectation of when you will be available just for them.
It is also great because it breaks up the day and gives them something to look forward to.
Having a strong desire to complete your job in the best way possible is great & it is something that I strive for daily.
But when your kids are home, there are going to times that you need to divert from your work to take care of something.
Being flexible and prepared is key to succeeding. As stated earlier, this is why I always get up early. To ensure that I can get all the hours (and more importantly work) that I need to get done completed but still take care of my precious little ones if needed.
I hope these tips for working from home with kids help to get you through your time of working remotely. How are you planning to WAH with kids?