Talking to friends on the phone and reading posts on social media, it’s no secret that many of us are struggling with our new normals during this pandemic. One of the biggest struggles I see is working from home with kids.
I’m a mom of 4 kids (ages 9, 4, 3, and 2), so I can definitely relate to the frustrations of being interrupted all day. I’ve found that the key to having a successful day is routine, setting boundaries, and a little advance planning.
Here’s 6 tips to survive working at home with kids AND I’ve included 12 of my favorite Quiet Time Activities!
6 Tips to Help you Survive Working at Home with Kids
1) Make Goals for Yourself
Try to make a few goals for the morning and stick to them. Just because you are working at home does not mean that you have extra time. You are deceiving yourself if you think that since you are home you can get a few loads of laundry done while you work. Any time you interrupt your workflow, you are losing time.
2) Take an Hour Lunch Break
Take time to be present with your kids. Make a meal with them. Even if it is as simple as sandwiches and chips. Take a few minutes to have fun with them. Play a quick game of UNO or prep an activity for the afternoon.
3) Schedule a Quiet Time
If you have young children, make sure they either have quiet time in their rooms or take a nap. I have my 9 year old read, work on typing, or complete any school work she can do by herself during this time. My 4 and 3 year olds do puzzles or quiet time toys while our 2 year old naps.
4) Have Recess time
If you have a backyard, send them out to play. I often work in our kitchen or on the deck while the kids play in the backyard. I do have to intervene sometimes, but the fresh air is good for them…and me! Be sure you set expectations (ie: no playing in the mud) and boundaries so that they stay where you can see them.
5) Set Screen Time Limits
This is super hard for everyone involved, but I recommend trying to set strict limits on screen time. I don’t know about you but if my kids watch tv in the morning, they get exceedingly grouchy. I try to save screen time for when I really need it. My kids get about an hour and then it’s done. If I’m sick, I might extend it a little, but otherwise, boundaries are good for kids.
6) Set Mealtimes and Stick to them
Kids don’t need access to snacks all day. Their teachers don’t feed them all day and you don’t need to either.
Our family serves food 4 times a day and if my kids push for more, we say no and stick to it. We have breakfast around 7:30/8am. Lunch is around 11-12. We have an afternoon snack around 3:30-4pm. Then supper is served around 6:30-7pm.
I don’t recommend allowing your kids to help themselves. It might seem convenient to let your kids to raid the pantry, but kids need boundaries and guidance about nutrition. My kids would totally eat yogurt and granola bars all day every day if they were in charge.
If this is new for your kids, you can be sure they will push back on the rules to figure out if you really mean what you say. It may take some time, but setting limits really does make life easier in the long run.
What should your kids do while you are working?
My kids always start with “free play” in the morning. I start adding boundaries when needed. I bring out quiet time activities if I have important phone calls to make or something to complete on a deadline.
If the kids are being loud, I declare the room of the house where I am working a “quiet room.” They aren’t allowed to talk in there. If they don’t listen, I send them to their bedrooms or different areas of the house to play.
12 Great Quiet Time Activities While You Are Working at Home with Kids
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1) Duplos (or Legos if they are older)
Duplos (or Legos for kids 6+) are an amazing toy that allows creativity and best of all they keep my children’s attention for a good long span of time. To keep mess to a minimum, pour them onto a giant blanket. When it’s time to clean up, gather the edges of the blanket and pour them back into the storage container. Have the kids gather up any strays. Lego Sets are a big hit with all my kids ages 4-11.
Magformers are another favorite of my kids! They love to stack, build, and create. Magformers are one of those toys that we never seem to have enough of! I love seeing the amazing creations my kids build! Magformers tend to be expensive, but are higher quality than the competition. Any time you see them for about $1 per piece or less, you are getting a great deal!
3) Bear Balance
This bear balance is another toy that my kids play with for long periods of time. If I pair it with a few bowls and mixing spoons, they mix the bears, sort them, and weigh them. I love that it encourages simple math skills and best of all…they stay busy! Check out this other fun option that is similar.
4) Water Doodle Mat
A Water Doodle Mat is a great way to keep kids quiet and entertained! I bring this mat out with a tote of small water wow books and it keeps my 4 kids entertained and happy for a nice long stretch. Not sure which water wow book to get? This Alphabet one is our favorite!
5) Mini Tracks and Cars
My son is obsessed with these little tracks and cars. These Driven Pocket Series Playsets come with roads, signs, and several vehicles. My son loves to build different configurations and ramp his cars off the bridges. They are small, so be aware of the choking hazard for younger children. My kids always build at the kitchen table because a level hard surface is necessary to make the roads fit together.
6) Paint with Water
Paint with Water Books are great for art time without assistance. There are options for older kids like this. To avoid spills, we like to use these non spill paint cups.
7) Look and Find Activities
These Melissa and Doug Seek & Find Sticker pads are perfect for keeping little ones busy. If you prefer a Look & Find Book, Disney makes wonderful ones! A Look & Find Puzzle can also keep little ones busy as well!
8) Board Games
Board Games that children can play by themselves are a great quiet time activity. My children love to play this Disney Princess Enchanted Cupcake Party Game. They don’t always play “by the rulebook” but they always have fun! They also love to play Memory, Raccoon Rumpus Game, and The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel Game. It’s great to have games that they can have fun playing in their own way!
These iPlay, iLearn Magnetic Wooden Dolls are a favorite of my little ones! They enjoy switching the heads, bodies and feet of each of the people and then of course, putting them back together correctly. I try to swap out the magnets on our refrigerator regularly so that the kids have something engaging. Toys always feel new when they don’t have access to them constantly. We also have this Alphabet set, these animal magnets, and some magnetic gears.
10) Activity Books
My little ones under 5 years old love these small Kumon Cutting books. The book pictured is so simple my 3 year old was able to sit down and do each activity all by herself. I don’t recommend giving your child scissors if you won’t be in the same room (always avoid surprise hair cuts)! However, activity books like these are perfect for keeping kids engaged and quiet while you get your work done! Here’s some more options: cutting skills, mazes, and for older kids the paint by sticker are fun!
11) Sensory Bins
I love to create Sensory Bins for my kids when I need them to be quiet for a long time. All you need is a large shallow plastic tote (like you would use for storage under a bed). Pick a theme and fill it with items that are appropriate for that theme. For example, I filled this construction themed sensory bin with dry beans, small rocks, popcicle sticks, and construction trucks.
Find other sensory bin themes and ideas in my Sensory Bin article. If you want to buy a ready made sensory bin check these out! I recommend placing the bin on top of a blanket, so that if (or rather when) they spill beans or rocks, you can easily gather the edges of the blanket and pour them back into the bin.
12) Melissa & Doug Sticker Pads
These Melissa & Doug Sticker Pads are great for keeping kids busy. All of my kids ages 2-9 love these! My son’s favorite is the Make-A-Meal sticker pad, while the girls love the Sweet Treats and Make-a-Face ones.
One last tip: I recommend keeping your quiet time activities out of reach when the kids are done playing. This will keep them feeling “fresh” and “new” which helps keep your kids engaged longer the next time you pull those activities out. I call it the “Christmas Morning” effect.
I hope you’ve found some great quiet time activities and some strategies that will help you survive working at home with kids! It’s not an easy task, but hopefully with some tricks in your back pocket, you will have an smoother work week!
Other Working at Home with Kids Articles You might Enjoy:
How to Reduce Screen Time
Mom Hacks – 9 tips that will change your day
50 Screen Free Activities for Kids
Screen Free Activities for Tweens and Teens