Spending more time with your kids may have been one of the reasons you decided to start a business from home. But keeping a business running and children occupied so you can work can be a challenge.

For Amy Levitt, owner of Amydoodles, a personalized gift business in Needham, Massachusetts, the best solution is to involve her children in the business. Her son, now 8, was tapped as a helper when Levitt started the business four years ago. Her daughter, now 5, joined in as a toddler.

"If I have a big order, they can take things out of boxes and put labels on the back," says Levitt. "When I do a mailing, they attach labels and stamps. When a delivery arrives, they love to unpack cartons and put inventory away."

If your business isn't one in which children can participate, Liz Folger, author of The Stay-at-Home Mom's Guide to Making Money (Prima Publishing, $12, 800-632-8676), offers some suggestions to keep kids busy:

  • Keep grown-up "business" objects for kids to play with: old check registers and wallets, play money, Post-it notes, a nonworking phone or even a used typewriter. Set up a miniature desk in or near your office. Give the child junk mail to play with.
  • Check out crafts books from the library, buy supplies and let the children go at it.
  • Put up a tent in the house or backyard for the children to play in--but only while you're working.
  • Hold a writing or reading contest to keep children quiet while you work. The reward? Lunch out with you or some other fun family activity.
  • Ask your children's teachers for other activities kids might enjoy.

Evelyn Salvador, owner of Desktop Publishing Plus, a graphic-design and resume service in Coram, New York, offers these ideas:

  • Every 45 minutes to an hour, take a break to spend 15 minutes with the kids and start them on a new activity.
  • Spend part of your lunch break taking the kids on a short walk or playing in the yard. They'll have fun, and you'll feel refreshed.

Contact Sources

Amydoodles, (800) 388-3771, http://www.amydoodles.com

Liz Folger, Bizymommy@aol.com

Lynn Colwellis a life coach and writer in the Seattle area.