How to Keep Your Kids Busy While You're at Work
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A large portion of the U.S. is now working from home, and we're all asking the same question: How do I get any work done? Throw kids into the mix, and it can be even harder to remain productive. Parenthood is all about experimentation, so here are some ideas you can try at home to help you get the ball rolling.
Put on a movie
Turning on your kids' favorite movie or TV show is a surefire way of diverting their attention for at least an hour. There are plenty of studies as to why you shouldn’t be allowing your kids to have too much screen time. However, an hour or two a day is a nice respite from your parenting labors and shouldn’t do any harm, especially since there are educational options for digital media. Your kids can learn while also being entertained.
For semi-self-governing kids who can work the TV on their own, parental controls are easy to enable so you can limit the content they have access to and maintain your peace of mind. You can even turn off the sound so they have to read subtitles. This will help them read more and expand their mind.
If you don’t have them already, there are several streaming options that are affordable and provide access to a lot of great content geared toward kids. The newest Disney+ is $6.99 per month, and basic Hulu and Netflix plans start at $5.99 and $8.99 per month, respectively.
Set up an art project
This will most likely be a messy cleanup, but a fun art project can entertain children for hours. Cover anything valuable with newspaper or plastic, break out the paint sets and tell your kids to draw you the most colorful picture they can. Less destructive but equally messy alternatives include Play-Doh and Legos that can be built and destroyed over and over again. It's best if you can have one area in your home dedicated to art projects. This will help kids compartmentalize.
Coloring books are a happy medium unless your kids color a little too far outside the lines and end up decorating the walls and furniture. If this is the case, take the art project outside, where cleanups are much easier. Sidewalk chalk is a great alternative for bright, sunny days.
Speaking of the outdoors, playing outside is an awesome and wholesome activity for kids. I don’t recommend this without supervision, but the great outdoors is one of the greatest forms of child entertainment. Determine a work project you can complete on a laptop and take it outside while you watch your kids play to their hearts’ content. Being able to have them in your peripherals and listen for any cries of distress will keep them safe and entertained as you focus on your work.
This is also a much healthier alternative to the previously mentioned distraction of television. Playing outside is proven to aid in physical, cognitive and social development. I like to do two or three 15-minute breaks outside. Helps take out energy.
During the heat of summer, a simple sprinkler can provide enough entertainment for the entire afternoon. Or, as long as you make it perfectly clear that you are not to be in the crosshairs, help them set up a water balloon fight. There are so many water-based activities that can be arranged that can fill an entire day with fun.
Kids are easily bribed, and you can use this to your advantage by introducing some games that require complete silence. Promise some treats as a prize and inform your little ones that the last one to make noise wins. This should buy you the last few minutes you need to make the finishing touches on an important assignment or meet an upcoming deadline.
You can instigate other time-consuming games such as hide-and-seek, and even suggest some clever hiding spots to elongate the duration of the activity. Kids in hiding are, in theory, exceptionally quiet, and a nice game of hide-and-seek can be just enough quiet time to get the next page of your business proposal done. Children rarely want to play a game only once, so you can probably get in a good three rounds or so before you need to find another source of entertainment.
Enlist their help
Depending on the nature of your job, you might be able to use your kids’ help completing a project. Have the older kids shred some files for you to declutter your office, or ask them for some creative insight to cure your writer’s block. If there is nothing they can feasibly do, invent some tasks they can perform to make them feel helpful. Running some small errands around the house will keep them entertained for small sections of time and also help you with some of the things you were going to get around to eventually.
If your kids are homeschooled or have homework assigned to them, invite them to join you at your desk for some productive bonding time. A focused child tends to be a quiet one, and if they ever have questions about their assignments you are right there to help them continue. You can make this work time together a part of your daily routine. You are raising the next generation of leaders, after all, and the best teaching is done in the home.