Whether you’re slamming your head on your desk with summer break, a stay-at-home mom with littles also home with you, or a homeschooling mom… no doubt about it… working from home with your kids around can be a challenge.
Don’t get me wrong… I LOVE being a work-from-home mom, and I love having my kids with me, but sometimes the overwhelm seeps in with loud noises, chaos, and still needing to tend to my business.
We talk a lot in several mom groups about how women manage to work from home while their kids are home with them without totally losing their sanity, and thought you’d love to get in on their secrets too!
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Quick Tip Prior to Entertaining your kids before working at home…
The number one tip provided was that we need to pay attention to our kids and make sure their needs are met for a bit. This may also include physically running them. Get their bodies moving. The more energy pent up inside, the more difficult it is for them to focus. Take them running, or for a bike ride. Something to get that extra energy flowing out through moving their bodies.
Then clearly explain to them that you’re working, and provide them with something to occupy their minds. Tell them what time you’re working until, or set a timer if they can’t tell time, and them keep your word. Stop working at that time.
Keep Kids Busy
1. Busy Box
For the younger kids, create your own Busy Box filled with play dough, crayons, stickers, felt, and paper. There are also a few options for Busy Boxes that are pre-made for you too.
2. KiwiCo Crates
My family LOVES KiwiCo and the crates they provide for kids, so to see several moms we polled mention them too make us smile. They have options for all ages. Sensory items for the littles under 2, and STEM crafts of different skill levels based on age all the way through high school. My kids absolutely love these (and all subscription boxes). Seeing these boxes come in the mail is a major excitement in our house.
3. Water Beads
Sensory play is excellent for kids, especially young children. We even have little tools for our littles to use, which has been fantastic at helping them through some serious sensory play that usually keeps them quiet and calm. Just a spoonful of the tiny water beads in with a bowl of water, watch them grow and laugh watching their delight with the water beads slipping and sliding all over the place.
There are even water bead sets that have tools in them to help younger kids with developing fine motor skills.
4. Kinetic Sand
Nothing is really as useful for younger kids as sensory play. There are all sorts of colors and themes that are great for busy minds.
This is easily my sons’ favorite sensory activity. They often spend hours hanging out making this with them.
If you pick up some Kinetic sand, I highly recommend the Mad Mattr brand. For some reason, all the other brands end up scattered throughout our house (and have stained carpet), but the Mad Mattr kinetic sand building sets tend to stay on my kids’ crafting table much more, and don’t fall apart to scatter around the house when they carry around their creations.
Our kindergartener and our high school-aged nephew both could lose themselves for hours with a little imagination and a box of Legos. It is so much fun to watch them think and create. I remember as a kid I could easily spend all day playing with Legos too.
6. Magnetic Tiles
This works as a great alternative to Legos. Magnetic Tiles allow them to build more complex items than most Legos allow for. Anything from ferris wheels to cars to balls to rocket ships… really unlimited ideas with those. We started using them when my oldest son turned 3. Our favorite magnetic tiles are the GeoSmart GeoMagnetic Tiles. They’re a little more expensive but are significantly more durable.
7. Get them involved
Any little thing you can do to have them join you in working is super helpful. My 4-year-old has been helping me decorate handmade, handwritten cards for my clients since he was 2. Now both my sons help with it. They color while I get other things done… and sometimes color while I’m writing on the cards… in the same place… it’s fun, and our clients love it (mostly moms).
We’ve also had my older son involved in making clay jewelry or will set him up with play dough to mimic things I’m doing.
8. Build a Fort
For some reason, blanket forts become this amazing time-suck for them. Set one up, and they’re entertained for a few hours. We use these fort kits that can accommodate various shapes. Our boys aren’t always the quietest with them but definitely entertained. Sometimes it helps to set up a baby monitor and go to a different room to do my calls so I can keep an eye on them while they play.
This works well if your child is at the age where s/he is able to read. It doesn’t work for us yet because we are still in that phase of learning to read with our older boy (4yrs), and nowhere near ready to learn with your youngest (20 months). But for kids in 1st grade or higher, reading is an excellent way to create some quiet time.
If your kids are a little young for reading, pick up some Where’s Waldo books or Highlights Magazines. Those are often pre-reader friendly.
If your kids are old enough to read, I highly recommend taking notes from Caleb Maddix. His father gave him an allowance for each personal development book he read since 7 years old, instead of paying for chores. Lessons from that family may help motivate your child to read more too.
Check out his program at www.apex4kids.com
10. Turn on educational movies.
I’m not a huge fan of screen time, so we don’t do video games. But, I have no shame in turning on a movie or tv series that teaches something. We use a lot of the LeapFrog videos, Octonauts, some National Geographic movies… really anything with an age-appropriate academic lesson
Take advantage of when they sleep
11. Work during naps
Sometimes nap time doesn’t work out. My oldest boy refused naps after he turned 18 months. Instead of naps, we focused on having quiet time where he could play with blocks, flip through his baby books, or play with something quiet. Our youngest boy loves his naps, so we choose to do quiet time when he falls asleep, which allows me to catch up on emails, writing, social media, or coaching calls.
12. Get up a few hours before they do.
Many moms talked about waking up at 4:30 am to handle their work. I personally don’t because my oldest seems to know when I’m up and comes out to join me… and him waking up before 6:30 usually isn’t a pretty sight.
13. Stay up late.
The late-night hustle is very much a real thing for most of the moms who responded to our poll.
Pro Tip: If you wear out your kids prior to quiet time, it is much easier for them to focus on what they’re doing.
Seriously. We, as humans, we’re never ever designed to do anything alone. And attempting to do so will put you on the fast track to burnout. We move every few years, so I totally get the feeling that you need to be a solo warrior… but be sure to create the balance you need.
14. Hire a sitter or nanny
Often quality sitters or nannies are difficult to find. I’ve found there are a lot of responsible teens in our local homeschool groups that make wonderful “mother’s helpers” to play with my kids while I get some things done.
Reach out to your homeschool community and see if any high schoolers are available to entertain your kids while you hide in your office to get some things done. Most homeschool kids are very mature and reliable, available during the day, and won’t break the bank.
15. Hire a local college student to help during the day
Just like homeschooled teens, college kids are often looking for work at random hours during the day. That might just sync up with your schedule beautifully, and also provides an energetic, fun person to play with your kids while you manage taking care of work needs.
16. Find a local co-working establishment that offers childcare
We had one near us when we lived in the northern Austin, Texas area called Grow At Poppy which offers some wonderful amenities. Our kids LOVE playing there too, which makes getting some work done extremely easy. Definitely look around your local community to see if there is such a place (or consider setting one up if there isn’t).
17. Daycare, Schools
This isn’t something I personally use, but there is no denying it is super useful!
We personally love the Acton Academy. They offer decently affordable private schools all over the world, often with flexible attendance options for K-12 ages… it is an excellent alternative to daycares, nannies, babysitters, and public schools.
18. Have your spouse or family member help
Some of the best help can come from family.
While this seems to be a no-brainer, we fully feel for families who don’t have this available. I personally do not have any family nearby that is able to help. There are, thankfully, other alternatives.
19. Rely on local mom groups
Never underestimate the benefits behind mom groups, co-ops, or clubs. We definitely aren’t meant to parent alone, especially when working from home with the kids around. Sometimes you just need another mom to help you out. Setting up a great relationship with other families where you can take turns watching each other’s kids, or getting everyone together to tag-team kids and business together… it helps.
If you’re in Austin, Tx, check out the BOMBS (Business Owning Moms Brigade), which is the only kid-friendly business moms group in the area. We love networking with them, and bring our kids too. If your area doesn’t have something similar, consider starting it… its definitely a much-needed and enjoyable group to be a part of.
We’ve also been known to network with other homeschool families to set up times when we can watch each other’s kids, or co-work together while the kids play. This is especially useful during the early elementary years.
21. Homeschool Co-Ops
While this isn’t for everyone because less than 10% of the population homeschools, many offer the ability to drop off your kids for a few hours for learning with peers.
Go Do Something…
22. Activities outside the home
One of my favorite places to get work done was at Little Gym while watching my boys play and explore gymnastics and beginning sports. They offer free WiFi, so I was able to get in a few calls, check messages, plot social media posts, and even tackle some writing. Gymboree has some fun options too.
If your kids are old enough to read, heading out to the library is a great way too, especially if you have quiet work to do as well. For us, with our kids being so young, we still use the library. Many libraries have storytime for kids, and ours even has a playroom inside the kid area. So sometimes we just need to get out of the house and let them play somewhere where I can still get a few things done. Our library doesn’t have WiFi, but my phone does, so we often use that… or just write drafts using my phone or computer.
23. Park Time
Do you have a fenced-in park nearby? GO!!! I conduct most of my coaching calls from the park. Gets them out and running, and allows me the ability to think and talk mostly uninterrupted.
I know… that totally doesn’t look like it should belong here… but it is effective. Getting out in nature while you make your calls is a great way to help set them up for success, and also gives you the benefits of being in nature too. Allowing them to walk around with you and spend some time in nature. Just make sure you’re not spending the whole time on the phone… family time is important too.
25. Sprinklers or Water Tables
Never underestimate the power of water. Just having the sprinkler on in the backyard or having our boys playing with their water table is enough to afford me the sanity needed to accomplish some work.
What do you think???
Have you tried any of these tips? Which ones are your favorite?
Do you have any special tips or tricks not mentioned?
We would love to hear about what is working for your family, or what you’re struggling with. Comment below!
A Note From Nicole
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Nicole is a military-trained research analyst, homeschooling mom, healthy lifestyle coach, flexible business consultant, and writer for MotherhoodTruth.com and GracefullyAbundant.com. After living through and overcoming a season of homelessness and chronic health, Nicole developed a passion for helping others develop healthier habits using functional nutrition, herbalism, and renewing faith.