Working from home is a dream for many parents.
You don’t need to worry about the hassle and expense of daycare, there’s no stressful commute, and you definitely get to spend more time with your kids.
While it undoubtedly has many perks, that’s not to say it’s always easy. If you have young toddlers at home, juggling work and watching your child can be nothing short of stressful.
It might be difficult at times, but it isn’t impossible to work from home with toddlers. With the right supplies, you can entertain your toddler while working from home so that he stays out of trouble and has fun while you get some work done.
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Tips to Help You Get Started
It can be overwhelming to think that you can actually work from home and parent a toddler at the same time.
I know how difficult it can be. I also know that it’s possible.
As a work-at-home mom for the past ten years, I’ve successfully managed to keep my four children healthy, happy, and alive through their toddler years while running my freelance writing business.
Along the way, I’ve figured out a few tips and tricks to make working from home with a young child a little easier. Here is some advice to help ease the process:
- Don’t feel bad about using screens – It’s wonderful to try and keep your toddler off screens as much as possible, and it’s definitely something I strive to do. However, don’t be afraid to take advantage of the screen if you truly need help. Don’t beat yourself up over this. You’re a busy working parent who’s juggling a lot. While I do try and limit my toddler’s TV time, I know that if I need to put something on to keep him occupied while I work, I will do it.
- Keep these items separate and special – You want your toddler to be excited about the items you’re going to use to occupy her while you work. This means you shouldn’t just stock the playroom with supplies she can play with at any time. Instead, treat your work time like a special occasion, and pull out a “new” activity or two every time you need to entertain her.
- Think of this as an investment – Much in the same way that you purchase supplies for your office or invest in your job training, you may want to spend money on different items to entertain your toddler. Unless you have an overabundance of toys at home already, your child probably won’t be excited and motivated by things you already have. If you’re on a budget, look for cheap or used items at secondhand shops and thrift stores. Many people are willing to sell the toddler toys that they no longer use or need for a fraction of the cost of new items.
How to Entertain Your Toddler While You Work From Home
I’ve acquired these tips through lots of years of experience. I know what it’s like to juggle the demands of a young child when you’ve got a deadline to meet.
As a result, all of these ideas for toddler activities encourage independence in an effort to allow you to get some work done. This means you won’t find any complex activities on this list. If it’s anything that requires intense attention or preparation on the part of mom or dad, it won’t be on the list.
Ideally, you’ll be able to be in the same room (or very close by) and doing your work while your toddler is working on his activity. (These are toddlers we are talking about after all, so some kind of supervision will definitely be necessary!).
These suggestions are all picked because they can be done independently for many toddlers, but use your best judgment. Toddlers are all vastly different when it comes to development and ability, so not all suggestions here will work for some toddlers. Still, there should be at least a few things on this list that help keep your child occupied so that you can get some work one.
Consider one of these top suggestions to entertain your child while you work from home.
If you don’t mind the screens, there are a wealth of things that your child can do while you’re working. Many of them are educational, which is a bonus!
I really don’t like the idea of my toddler on a device for too long of a time, so I save the Kindle for only those times when I need to really focus on my work.
While there are several kid-friendly tablets out there, the Kindle Fire HD 8 Kids Edition wins hands down. This device is best for toddlers, thanks to the following features:
- Colorful, kid-proof case with built-in stand
- 1 year of Free-Time Unlimited, which offers access to over 20,000 apps, games, videos, educational content, and audiobooks that are all kid-friendly.
- 2-year warranty (if it breaks, they’ll replace it for free)
The 1-year included Free-Time Unlimited is a huge bonus when it comes to providing kid-friendly content. You can also filter by age to find more appropriate content for your child.
Create a Dress-Up Box
Most kids love to dress up. Keep a box on hand full of all kinds of costumes, outfits, or old clothes. Dress up encourages imagination and pretend play.
Like many of the other suggestions, this is a great one to pull out only when you need to get work done. This makes it fun and unique for your toddler, and they’ll be more willing to play when you want them to.
Most toddlers love puzzles, but in order for these to be a good entertaining option so that you can get work done, you need to evaluate your toddler’s individual skill level.
It’s important to choose those puzzles that your child can do independently, without your assistance.
Melissa and Doug has many toddler-friendly options available. To keep your child interested in puzzles, I’ve found it helps to keep the majority stashed away where little hands can’t find them. I put one or two in the playroom and then rotate them every few weeks to keep them fresh and fun for toddlers.
Painting is very much a your-mileage-may-vary activity.
Some parents don’t mind it at all, while others loathe to hand over the paintbrush. Likewise, some toddlers can handle this activity independently, while others are a little messier.
If you are comfortable with the idea, keep an easel and some washable paints on hand.
To make the activity a little more fun, try dot painting with q-tips or sponge painting in addition to the traditional paintbrush.
Most toddlers love water play. Depending on your level of mess tolerance, this could be something as simple as playing in the sink or a bucket of water with some cups while you work nearby.
If you’re like me and do not have that level of mess tolerance, there are alternatives. This large water doodle mat encourages fun water play and creativity without the mess.
Blocks can be a great way to entertain your toddler while working from home. They check all the boxes – easy enough for your little one to play with on his own, difficult enough to keep him occupied for a long time, and educational.
Opt for traditional Duplo blocks, or go for something a little more fun and intriguing, like these Smarkids Building Blocks.
Audiobooks can be a fantastic resource for keeping kids quiet and occupied for extended periods of time.
I never would have believed this to be true if I hadn’t experienced it for myself. One way to keep toddlers occupied with an audiobook is to put in on while they are doing another sit-down activity, like coloring or blocks.
One of the easiest ways to play audiobooks from home is through an Audible subscription. Audible offers many books for all ages, and they have things broken down by age on their website so it’s easy to search for stories that fall within your toddler’s level.
Coloring may seem like a basic toddler activity, but not when you break out the big guns.
What are the big guns?
Worried that your toddler doesn’t quite understand that coloring only belongs on paper? Save your walls and your sanity with the Crayola Color Wonder line, which utilizes special markers which only work on their corresponding paper.
Take the fun of the sandbox and bring it indoors with kinetic sand.
A cross between playdoh and beach sand, kinetic sand is squishy, moldable, and stretchable. It’s the perfect tactile toy for little fingers. Add measuring cups, a roller, or cookie cutters to make it fun for your toddler.
Busy bins are just what they sound like – bins to keep your toddler occupied and busy while you’re working from home.
Create your own busy bins using items you already have around the house. I like to take clear plastic Tupperware containers and fill them with various sensory and tactile items.
One might include beans, another macaroni noodles, and another buttons (just make sure to consider any choking hazards for your child).
Within these bins, place items that your child can use to scoop, dump, or pour. You can also add things like pipe cleaners or yarn for stringing macaroni.
A tub or two of playdoh and some cookie cutters or playdoh toys can buy you a good chunk of time to get work done.
Some moms like to make their own, but if you’re looking for cheap and easy it really is worth it to buy from the store, as the brand kind comes in bright colors and is soft and easy to work with.
Does your toddler get a little stir crazy sometimes?
While it’s always ideal to get outside and burn some energy, this may not be realistic if you’re trying to get some work done, especially since outside time means constant supervision on your part.
If she needs to let some wiggles out and you need to work, a trampoline like this one can work wonders. She gets an outlet for her energy, and you (hopefully) get a few minutes to take care of work.
Special Versions of Favorite Toys
A lot of what you can get to entertain your toddler will largely depend on what she is interested in.
Each child is different, so this is something only you as a parent can determine!
For example, my current toddler is obsessed with cars and trains. If you give this child something with a set of wheels, he can play for hours. Put a video of trains on in the background and you are golden.
My older daughter had the same kind of love affair with Paw Patrol, so I kept lots of those toys on hand.
Figure out what your toddler likes and then keep a special container with these toys set aside.
Take them out only when it’s time for you to work. Every once in a while, throw something new into the mix to keep it interesting and fun.
When they have toys or activities that really hold their interest, toddlers are far more likely to entertain themselves so that you have a chance to get some work done.
Have Ball-Pit Fun
This option won’t work for those who are short on space, but if you have room to spare, toddlers love ball pits like this.
The last time my two-year-old was around one at a friend’s house, he played the entire time. (His version of fun involved throwing all the balls across the room and then repeating the process in the other direction but hey, it kept him occupied!).
This is ideal if you have a roomy basement or large playroom area.
Other Tips for Working From Home with a Toddler
Having enough activities on hand isn’t the only way to ensure work at home success when you’re with a toddler. Here are some other recommendations to make the most of your day.
Have a schedule
Toddlers thrive off having a schedule. This doesn’t have to be a strict minute-by-minute breakdown of the day, but instead, it’s a helpful allotment of time to make sure you fit everything in.
If you don’t have a schedule, it’s very easy for the day to go by without feeling like you accomplish much of anything, especially when you have kids.
Keep a routine
Like the schedule, the routine is crucial in helping your toddler get through the day. Things like waking up and then getting dressed right away, or knowing that a nap or quiet time comes right after lunch.
If you do generally the same things every day, you eliminate a lot of the fighting and pushback that can occur when the toddler doesn’t know what to expect.
Naptime is crucial
When you need to get work done, naptime is a must.
If your toddler doesn’t take naps, institute a quiet hour (or two) rule after lunch. This is the time to insist that your toddler rest or play quietly in her room. Some parents have good luck playing soft music or an audiobook for those kiddos who resist sleep.
If you’ve been out of this habit, it may take a little while to get it going, but it is well worth it in the long run. Both your sanity and your productivity will thank you.
Make sure to fill up that love bucket
If you want your toddler to give you the time and space to get some work done, you need to make sure that you give him your undivided attention during the time that you aren’t working.
This means sitting down for some one-on-one time. Play with your child, read him a story, or just enjoy some snuggles together.
Whatever you do, make sure you put the phone down and walk away from the computer during this period of time. You don’t want anything distracting you from your toddler.
The more you’re able to fill up your toddler’s love bucket during this time, the less likely she’ll be to act out or try to vie for your attention when you’re trying to work.
Know when to stop
If you or your toddler is having a bad day and it seems like things just aren’t working, take a break if you can. Try to reconnect and take a breather by playing outside or going for a walk.
Usually, forcing something that doesn’t seem to be working (like working from home with your toddler in the room) only makes things worse.
If there’s one thing that’s true about parenting, it’s that flexibility is key. If things don’t go according to plan, don’t stress. Life with a toddler is always unpredictable. Just know that you’re doing your best, and can pick up fresh tomorrow if things seem to be spiraling out of control.
The Top Item for Moms Who Want to Work From Home
I’ve got a bonus tip for you.
Since we’re dealing with toddlers here, you need to be close by in order to keep an eye on your little one, even while you’re working.
However, just because you’re stuck in the same room doesn’t mean YOU need to listen to the audiobook or the Daniel Tiger episode.
My secret weapon for working from home with toddlers is a pair of noise-canceling headphones.
Stick those puppies on and you’ll be able to work in blissful peace and quiet, even if your toddler is making noise right next to you.
Not only do the headphones do the trick in helping you focus on your work, but they also serve as a visible sign to your toddler that you’re hard at work.
Teach her that when mommy is wearing the headphones, that means you’ll be busy with work. She can only interrupt you during that time if it’s an emergency (some training as to what constitutes emergency will likely be necessary here).
For many kids, it can help to set a timer that they can see. When the timer goes off, that means you’ll take your headphones off and will give them your full attention for a designated period of time.
Setting a routine and some boundaries in this way is really helpful in establishing a productive work time for yourself.
More Work at Home Tips for Moms With Young Kids
Working from home when you have a toddler is never easy. Find more work at home tips for managing both your business and your home here: