Working from home with the kids is always a challenge. But the current pandemic has boosted the difficulty level. Now the kids are around all the time. If you think it’s stressful for you, it’s stressful for the kiddos, too. This goes double for the younger ones who don’t understand why they can’t go places and do things. So, if you’re looking for some quick diversions for kids when you’re working remotely, read on.
Create “Special Toy Bins”
Cindy Hemming, mom of two, elementary school teacher, and owner/parenting blogger at Living for the Sunshine has a great tip for using novelty as a way to capture her kiddos attention.
“My tip is to create ‘special bins’ for times when you really need your child to stay occupied. A special bin is a bin of small and inexpensive toys that is tucked away, and the child can only play with them when the parent is busy. The contents of the bin are not so important; it’s the novelty that will keep your child busy. Rotate through the bins as needed, aiming for one or two a day. These are a lifesaver for important meetings or tight deadlines.”
A similar suggestion is offered by Olga Zakharchuk, mom and Founder/CEO of Baby Schooling. As opposed to novelty, her toy bins create interesting sensory experiences.
“Sensory bins are incredibly easy to throw together, which is helpful for busy parents who are working from home. All you need is a large storage container or a cardboard box for your child’s sensory bin, and you can throw in a number of different items like sand, rocks, sticks, toys, and more. You can also simply fill the bin with water, bring it outside, and throw in some toys and cups. Your child is bound to have fun pouring the water out and onto themselves. Playing with sensory bins is excellent for your child’s development, but it also keeps them busy and entertained.”
Make It a Competition
Some quick diversions for kids when you’re working remotely involve the development of creative challenges. This is what works for Allyns Melendez, mother of three and COO at Quinn PR:
“I create a ‘challenge’ when I need them to be distracted while I get on a call or video. For example: I’ll take out the Legos and their bucket of dinosaurs and animal toys and say, ‘you have a total of 30 minutes to build me a Lego city with farms and homes for 10 animals.’ I try to be as specific as possible so there are no questions. When it’s done, I walk over and ask them both to describe their city and award prizes—usually fruit!”
Hassan Alnassir, a work-from-home (WFH) dad and owner of the Premium Joy toy company, combines a challenge with a very quiet toy to keep his child occupied.
“I encourage him to play with foam building blocks. To make the play with the blocks more interesting, I challenge my child to construct the highest tower possible and to see how tall he can go. Unlike other types of blocks, those made from foam don’t cause injury or make noise which is especially useful when you need a quiet space for work.”
If your kids are motivated by competition, you may want to follow the advice of Elizabeth Forry, Educational and Parenting Writer & Curriculum Designer at Master of Mixed Maternal Arts.
“A great tip I used is creating STEM challenges. Some we did were my children were tasked with building a structure out of plastic Solo cups, plastic flatware, and masking tape. Another activity I gave them was to build a movie set out of Legos. When I was finished, I would inspect their work and have them tell me about it.”
Get Kids to Do What They Want to Do Anyway
Sometimes the diversions and activities parents offer don’t garner much enthusiasm. If kids don’t find the activities interesting, you’re going to spend all your time devising new diversions. As you can imagine, this acts as a distraction from work.
“Letting them do what they want is easier than asking them to do something they are not really interested in. We let them try painting classes and calligraphy lessons, and what’s good is that they enjoy doing it. They refuse to get distracted which makes a parent’s job easier.”
Back to the Bath
Another strategy is to return to something you know works. Crystal Martin, owner of Marching North, finds that sometimes the only way to get things done is to camp out with the kids in the bathroom.
“I’m a stay-at-home mom, and I also run an online business and homeschool my two older kids. A good way to get some work done is to let all the kids play with toys in the bathtub. I put the toddler in the tub with a bunch of toys, the older kids like to play in the water while sitting outside the tub, and I bring my laptop in and type away.”
Things That Make You Go Hmmm….
Different kids find different things fun, so parents need the flexibility to let their kids show them their interests. Hayley Gallagher, a WFH mom, certified family therapist, and manager of a parenting blog called The Centered Parent, lets her daughter do her own thing when she needs some quiet.
“My daughter is just under 2 years old and she is at an age where weird things keep her entertained. Since COVID quarantine inspired us to tackle some more home remodeling projects, we discovered that sticking little pieces of painter’s tape on the wall keeps our daughter quite busy! She will stick the pieces all over the wall, on and off, over and over again. The Sticky Game, as we call it, usually holds her focus for at least a half an hour.”
Prepare with Projects in Advance
Once again, planning ahead pays off. Kelly Stanze is a WFH mom of a toddler and Marketing & Communications Manager for KURU Footwear who is currently sharing home workspace with her husband due to the pandemic. Her tip for quick diversions for kids when you’re working remotely is to prepare creative and fun craft projects in advance.
“Have some safe activities prepped. We have a few specific things we line up for him to do when we need a few minutes. Play-Doh at the kitchen table, coloring, and sensory activities are big wins. I’ll occasionally take a break from work to do a more hands-on crafting activity like painting, and the change of pace and mental stimulation leaves both he and I in a better (and more productive) state of mind when I have to get back to work.
Alexandra Fung, a WFH mom and CEO of Upparent, a parent-to-parent recommendation sharing site, also advises being prepared with activities ahead of time.
“Activity books are great for elementary school age, and of course, screen time is always a good back up, whether you pop in a movie, games, or even work in some learning with a documentary or educational/skill-building screen time. Coding websites like Scratch or online typing games like those we’ve collected here are great options.”
Who Doesn’t Love a Treasure Hunt?
Scavenger and treasures hunts are perennial favorites with kids (and adults, too). No one knows this better than the busy mother of three, Nerissa Zhang. This USAW Certified Sports Performance Coach, personal trainer, owner of two gyms in San Francisco, and CEO of The Bright App has a foolproof way to keep all of her kids occupied.
“When I need some time to focus, I use a dry-erase board to create variations of a treasure map or scavenger hunt list. Since my kids are at different reading levels, I use words as well as shapes and colors to create the map or list and then I send them off on their hunt. Sometimes we’ll do a rainbow treasure hunt and they have to find something that is every color of the rainbow or an alphabet treasure hunt where they have to find items that start with different letters.
The one treasure hunt rule is that they have to work together in order to complete each task or find each object and they can only ask for help if they are absolutely stuck and have completed or found all the other items on their list first. The last bit of advice to get this tactic to work after several times is to have a good reward that they earn at the end of their treasure hunt.”
Get the Kids Involved
Sometimes the kids just want involvement in what you’re doing. As a result, balancing this curiosity with productivity is essential. Nanika Coor, a clinical psychologist and respectful parenting therapist, invites her child to participate in the daily tasks of running her home.
“It’s a way of spending connected and quality time together and getting things accomplished at the same time. Not only does this keep her occupied, it also gives her a sense of being an important and contributing member of the family, she builds confidence in her abilities, and it meets her needs for autonomy as I put her ‘in charge’ of the household tasks that interest her.”
Sean Nguyen, Director of Internet Advisor takes his kiddo to ‘work’ with him.
“He knows that when I sit down at my designated place at the kitchen table with my laptop it’s ‘work time’, so I usually sit him on the other end and give him a task. It could be drawing, writing a story, or 50 ideas for games to play inside the house. That way, we’re both ‘working’, and I check what he did once I finish with my own task. He takes it very seriously and has something creative to do while I can actually do work. It works great for us.”
Just Say Yes to Technology
While too much screen time can lead to problems, certain technologies are ideal as quick diversions for kids when you’re working remotely. John Bedford, father of two and Editor of Viva Flavor reflects:
“I’ve been working at home full-time since last summer when I launched my business. It’s been a challenge having my wife and kids join me unexpectedly, to put it mildly! After six years we caved in and bought our daughter a tablet. Nothing fancy, just powerful enough to run the school apps. It’s something that mentally occupies her and keeps her stimulated when unexpected work demands crop up.”
If all else fails, finding quick diversions for kids when you’re working remotely can mean calling for help. As a result, recruiting friends or family members for assistance is valuable.
When Sandra Hurley, Operations Manager at Hayden Girls, needs her daughter out of the way for a while, she calls grandma.
“She loves her grandma, my mother would spend all day chatting to her if she could, and I know for sure that she’s occupied and safe, so it’s an easy way out for me. It’s like outsourcing childcare remotely, if only for a little bit while I catch up on some work or dinner. I’m amused that I manage to bring in skills and solutions from my job into my family.”
Fung also uses this strategy with Zoom calls and incorporates games, too.
“Another helpful option is enlisting family or friends to provide virtual babysitting during key times. Set up a FaceTime or Zoom call with grandma and consider organizing a fun game that both sides can play well over a video call to extend the time.
If you’re a fresh work-from-home parent who’s struggling with quick diversions, hopefully, these tips can steer you in the right direction. But don’t forget that balance is vital. With a mix of the aforementioned techniques, you can split your time evenly between work and parenting. Chances are your kids and employer will both thank you.
iStock Image: Olesia Kononenko, Glim
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