Working from home is often considered a dream job, especially when you have kids. I started working from home when my daughter was just 6 months old and it was the easiest thing ever. It was like getting paid to sit at home with my daughter and it was a dream come true.
I thought I had it made. Working during the day was simple. My daughter woke up at 8 A.M. and by then I had already worked for about an hour. I would get her ready for the day and give her breakfast and a bottle. She would play quietly between bottles and meals. This worked wonderfully, but she was also immobile. Boy did things change, and fast!
I had to learn quickly how to entertain a mobile baby and eventually a toddler. I am not going to lie, it hasn’t always been easy, but we have managed. So, if you are considering working from home with a baby or toddler, these tips may make it just a little easier for you.
Establish a routine. Older babies and toddlers learn routines fast. My daughter, who is now 19 months old, knows that she plays and we change her diaper twice before lunch. After the second diaper change she knows to go to the kitchen to eat. She also knows that after she eats she plays for a while then takes a nap and after her nap is when mommy plays with her. This helps some in the morning because she knows that mommy is on the computer. She still may come up and bother me a little, but she doesn’t beg me to come play with her.
Work in the same room they are in. I have a laptop and I work in the living room where my daughter is playing. If you can do this, it will help a lot. This is good for many reasons. First off, you know what your child is doing. They won’t get into things they shouldn’t as much and if they do, you can stop them. Also, because they can see you, they won’t have to continually come find you if they need or want something. Lastly, you can still give them some attention while you are working. Children are always looking to adults to see their reactions. I can easily see when my daughter is looking to me and I can then give her the feedback she is looking for.
The earlier you start the better. If you plan to work from home, I suggest you start as early as possible. If you wait until your baby is a year old and they have had your undivided attention for the past year, they will not understand the change and it will take them a while to adjust. You don’t have to work from home, but if you plan to in the future, spend some time on the computer or just not playing with your child so she can get used to the arrangement.
It can be good to let your kids play by themselves. You don’t have to have perfectly structured playtime every second of the day. They will learn if you give them appropriate toys to play with. Infact, letting your kids play on their own is great to help them develop independence. This can help you when you are trying to work from home because your child will be used to playing on her own anyway.
Let your kids imitate you. My daughter loves to imitate and kids learn best through imitation. Why do you think we get our kids baby dolls and kitchen sets? If you work on the phone, you can give your little one an old phone to play with. If you work on the computer and you have an old keyboard laying around, give them that to play with. You will be amazed at how they will sit next to you and pretend.
Take advantage of nap time. Actually, take advantage of anytime your little one is sleeping. Wake up earlier so you can work some before they wake up. Work during nap time, which is when I get the most work done. You can also work after bedtime, this is another time I get the most work done. (This is usually my time to work on my blog!)
Have alternatives for kids that don’t nap or sleep well. You can make a quiet box to help entertain them and keep them quiet. A quiet box is usually filled with things that your little one can do on their own quietly, such as coloring books and crayons or puzzles. This would be something more for an older toddler, but can easily get you some quiet time when they have stopped napping (around 3 years old).
It’s O.K. to take a break. You may find there are times when your little one just won’t leave you alone. Instead of getting frustrated and upset, take a break and give your child the attention she is craving. You will find that after some time playing she will be happy and ready to play on her own again. You may also find that you are more focused and more productive.
Recruit family. If you are really behind on work you can always ask for help. Have a grandma or aunt come over and play with your little one to keep them occupied. You can even have dad take over for some time. If there is something dad likes to do, have them share that with the little one. If your spouse likes to fish, have him take the kids fishing (who cares if they are quiet, it’s the memories that matter). Make sure you keep these activities for just dad and the kids so they don’t come to you to take them.
If you are desperate, send your toddler to daycare or toddler swap. I struggle with this one personally because the whole idea of me working from home is so that I can stay at home and we don’t have to send my daughter to daycare. However, there may come a time where you just don’t have a choice, so don’t feel bad about it if you have to. Another alternative is to find another work at home mom and share caregiving with her. One day you take your kids and hers, and the next day she takes them all. This may make you have to adjust your work schedule though.
Entertaining a toddler while working from home can be a challenge, but you can do it with practice and persistence.
How do you entertain your toddler while working from home? Do you plan to use any of these tips?