Work-at-home parents sometimes have the best of both worlds. They can contribute to the family income while still being home with their kids and saving on childcare costs. However, it can also be a big challenge. When you’re on the phone with a client and your kids start fighting, it can be tough to explain or maintain a professional conversation.
Television is a great distractor but most parents don’t want their children staring at a screen all day. Here’s a list of ways to keep your kids engaged and entertained (without a TV) while you get some work done.
1. Set Up Play Stations
No not the Playstation but play stations like teachers use at school. In one area of your home set out the construction toys like Legos or TinkerToys. To help contain construction sets with lots of small pieces, set out a cookie sheet and let your kids know the toys have to stay on the sheet. In another area set up a coloring station. In another, a puzzle station. A few other station ideas include reading, cars, dolls, or trains.
2. Take it Outside
If your work (and the weather) allow, take everyone outside. Noise seems to float away in the outdoors rather than echoing through your ears like it does in the house. In the spring and summer, water toys may be the perfect way to keep your kids happy and entertained. In the fall and winter, you might have to be a little more creative. Covered play areas are rare in most areas but many parks have covered picnic areas. Take bubble wands, jump ropes, sidewalk chalk and let your kids entertain themselves for an hour while you work.
3. Pre-Plan Snacks and Meals
It can feel like kids needs snacks every ten minutes and sometimes they do! A little pre-snack and meal planning can help cut down on the number of interruptions and still keep your kids energized. After breakfast or on your morning break, set out a morning snack that your kids eat and clean up themselves. Even young kids can munch on crackers without you there. If you pack lunch at breakfast time, everyone can enjoy a sack lunch together, but you don’t have to take time to make it in the middle of your workday. Instead, you can sit down and enjoy eating with your kids. After lunch, you guessed it, set out an afternoon snack that the kids can eat on their own.
4. Crafts—Kits and Homemade
Kids love crafts. Crafts kits are readily available in many stores and online. If you don’t want to spend the extra cash on a kit, homemade crafts are easy to. Set out bowls of Cheerios or Fruit Loops and string to make cereal necklaces. You can do the same with different kinds of pasta. Paper and a few origami books from the library can entertain older kids for hours.
5. Swap Kids
Use your network of friends to set up a regular playdate for your kids. One day of the week, you watch the kids while your friend works and switch the next time. You’ll both get the time you need to work and your kids will love playing with friends.
Working parents whether they are at home or in an office have a tough balance to maintain. With a plan in place, you can take on the challenge. You’ll find you still get your work accomplished and your kids are happy too.