Working from home is great in theory, but for parents, it can be incredibly difficult to get work done if you also have small children at home. Things get even harder if you don’t have a spouse or babysitter to watch the kids at least some of the time. To help you out, we’ve rounded up 10 things young kids can do to keep themselves entertained while you work — from sorting toddler boy pants to playing with pets.
If your kids are old enough to follow a story, then they may enjoy listening to podcasts or audiobooks for kids. This usually works better for slightly older kids who have the patience and attention span to sit and listen to an entire story. Some kids also enjoy reading quietly to themselves, but the audiobooks are a nice option for children who prefer to be read to or who don’t have the vocabulary yet to read an entire book by themselves.
Arts and crafts projects
Arts and crafts projects are a favorite option for keeping kids entertained whether you’re working or not. Try to choose low mess options that require minimal supervision — so no scissors, paint, etc. You’ll still need to check in with them occasionally, so this is a good activity to do when you’re working on a laptop, not when you’re in a meeting that you need to devote 100 percent of your attention to.
Sorting tasks help kids build pattern recognition skills and turn a chore into a fun game. Have your kids sort their toys, toddler girl shoes and more items into groups categorized by color or type. If they are tall enough to put items away in storage bins, you can incorporate that into the game so that their room gets cleaned in the process. At the end of the game, go over the piles with them to talk about why some objects are similar to each other and why others are different.
Imaginative play — whether it’s playing pretend, having a dress up session or playing with dolls — is a great way to stimulate creative thinking and keep your kids occupied while you work. Encourage them to make up different storylines for their characters or dolls and to act out different scenarios. Because imaginative play is mostly self-guided, this is a great option if you want to keep your kids entertained with minimal input from you.
One specific type of imaginative play, pretending to work, is likely going to appeal to a child a lot. Young kids love to mimic mom and dad, even if it’s work, chores or another scenario that we generally consider undesirable. They may want to type on a pretend laptop, take a fake phone call, dress up in “fancy” work clothes or otherwise mimic your work-at-home day. They will also likely have questions about your work and what you do all day, so be prepared to answer them.
Educational games and apps
Some parents are completely against any screen time whatsoever, but there are actually many educational games and apps that can be downloaded onto a child-friendly tablet. If you are okay with your child having at least some screen time, these apps can be a great way to keep them entertained and teach them something while you work. You probably don’t want your child to sit in front of them all day, but it can be a great solution if you need to take an important call without interruption.
Building a fort or obstacle course
Building a fort is a time-honored tradition and a great way to spend a hot or rainy day inside. If your kids are tired of making forts, you can have them make an obstacle course either indoors or outdoors, whichever agrees more with the weather. Building the fort or obstacle course will take time, and then they can spend hours playing in it, making this an easy way out to keep your kids occupied during a day (or week) of working from home.
Playing with pets
If you have pets, especially a dog, having your kids play with them is a great way to burn off some of their energy. Make sure that your kids know the ground rules for playing with your pets (i.e., no pulling on their tails or ears, no biting them, etc.). If all goes well, your pets and kids will tire each other out while you have a productive work day!
If the weather is nice enough, playing outside is the perfect activity for your kids to do while you work from home. Many of the activities on this list, including playing dress up or running around with pets, can be done outside. As an added bonus, it gets your kids out of the house, so if you need some peace and quiet to get work done, this is an excellent option to suggest.
If your kids love science, then encourage them to emulate the scientists they love and create an invention of their own using supplies on hand. You can also recreate other scientific scenarios, such as burying dinosaur “bones” and other objects in a sandbox and having your kids “excavate” them. This is the perfect way to combine education with play and encourage your kids’ interest in the sciences from a young age.
Working at home while your young kids are also there is tough but not impossible. Try one (or more) of these activities to keep them occupied while you get work done at home.