This is a guest post by Ginny Hurst of modernwahm.com. She has been working at home with small kids for over three years and has some fantastic tips. Enjoy!
Hey friends! I’m a work-at-home mom with two little kids…and right now my life feels like a lesson in survival.
Raise your hand if you’ve been there!
I have worked at home for over 7 years – and for 3 1/2 of those years I have also had young children. I work for an actual employer from 8-5 – so those eight hours are not mine. My job isn’t the kind of job I can “just fit in during nap times”.
Yes, I have had some outside help, and now my daughter is in a preschool a few days a week.
But every day I work eight straight hours while accommodating my kids’ schedules.
Often my days are full of juggling toddler tantrums, grocery lists, hours in front of my laptop, trying to be a “clever Pinterest mom with all the mom tricks”, stale coffee, bath time, episodes of The Office at night – and if I’m lucky – wearing actual clothes.
And, every few weeks I adjust.
That’s the key, I think. I am constantly re-adjusting, planning new schedules, trying new tricks, and figuring out what my kids need.
I basically adjust every three months to provide my kids with the best schedule and educational activities so that they can play near me while I work.
Here are my best tips to work at home with kids! To read more, make sure you check out my site, Modern Work at Home Mom.
The best schedule to work at home with kids
I learned a long time ago that typical schedules don’t work for me.
I mean, they work, but they just leave me exhausted. I don’t want another “to do” list planner. I want a tool that finds hidden pockets of time – and doesn’t leave me surprised.
I have found that using a block schedule is the only way to “get it all done” and not feel stressed. The block schedule isn’t something you print off and write in your busy schedule, and just hope that it “all works out”.
Instead, it is a “routine builder” that shows you how to fit all your schedules together, and how to find hidden pockets of time.
Because I love this system so much, I created a free printable for you that shows you everything you need! I show you how to coordinate similar family events and to maximize each minute of your week.
As a bonus, I also show you how to schedule in self-care, your kids activities, your cleaning schedule, and any other activity that requires your time. All on one piece of paper.
The goal is to optimize every minute of the week before the week even begins.
Combine Your Office And Playroom In Your Home
Because I work at home with kids, I am constantly looking for ways to work near my kids. I love for my kids to work independently, but I also need to be able to monitor them at all times.
How do I do this? In each of my houses I have moved my desk to a central location.
In my old house, my desk was actually in my living room. This gave me a lot of space to work and be near my daughter.
Now in my new house, my desk is in our upstairs loft that is between our bedrooms. There is enough room to fit my desk, a small sofa, and a play area for my baby.
To set up a safe play area for my kids, I recommend buying a large “baby fence” to enclose a large area for your mobile to play in. I rotate the toys, and this gives me a safe place to let my kid explore.
To see the baby gate I use, check out my free WAHM resource guide here.
Teach Your Kids To Play Independently
I am a huge fan of teaching your kids to play independently.
Around six months old (yes, even before they can even sit up!), I put my babies in their room with some toys, and leave them to “play” for maybe 10 minutes. I repeat this every day to build up more time each day.
By the time my babies are around one year old, they are able to play by themselves for 30-40 minutes. By the time my daughter was two years old, she was able to play by herself for up to two hours. Because she stopped napping at age two, I would place her in her room for two hours and call it “quiet time”. Because she loves to play by herself, this worked great when she stopped napping. (You can read our full daily schedule here!)
To be honest, I would probably practice this with my kids even if I didn’t work from home. It is an excellent way to teach your child contentment and creativity!
Again, I am right next to my kids during this whole independent-play process. I check on them, watch them on the baby monitor, and encourage them with new toys.
Another way I use baby gates is to separate small babies from older kids playing.
Often my daughter needs a barrier between her and the baby. Adding a baby gate to her door accomplishes this. This is an excellent way to separate kids and give them places to play – while they are still right next to my desk.
Another invaluable tool is a baby monitor. I use mine all the time – even for my toddler!
I have our monitor set up in my son’s room, and often put both kids in there to play. I watch them from down the hall, and love being able to see their play.
If you have toddlers in a separate room, this is an excellent way to keep an eye on them.
Lazy Mom Hack: A fun game to keep them occupied is to play Simon Says through the monitor. It’s great entertainment that lets you work and “play” with your kids.
Click here to see my favorite baby gates and monitors.
How To Work Full Time With A Newborn
At the beginning, babies just lay and coo and roll around. This is an easy stage to handle! When my children are young, I just have a play mat set up near my desk so they can roll around – and I would work. Also, thank goodness for their two naps a day!
At about four months, I transition my babies to play to a jumping and standing toy. My favorite is the Fisher-Price Jumparoo (see more about it here). This is the BEST stationary toy for this age – and allows them to jump and play near me independently. My babies usually jump in this up to an hour or two a day.
They love it – I love it. It’s my favorite toy at this age.
How To Work Full Time With A One Year Old
When my kids get older, I create a gated-in baby playing area where they can walk around and play with all their toys. It is right by my desk, and my babies honestly love this area and looked forward to playing in it. Again – they have everything they need and it is completely baby-proof.
We use a large baby fence to enclose a large play space – or to block off part of the living room. I totally recommend it for kids of any age.
To see how this looks like in my house, check out how I combine my office and play area here.
Another trick during this stage is to constantly rotate your toys. I never give my kids access to all their toys at one time, because kids thrive on surprises.
I love to weekly pull out new sets of toys that they forgot. One week we might be into Magnatiles and building blocks – and the next week it is all about trucks and cars.
This is an excellent trick to constantly plan how you are going to entertain your kids each day.
How To Work Full Time With A Toddler
Toddlers are just harder. All the time.
But, by the time my daughter was over one year, she was happily playing by herself for long periods of time.
Her bedroom and play area are right by my desk. And in her bedroom, she has a play kitchen, lots of toys, games, crayons for drawing, and several cabinets where I can rotate toys.
In the morning she usually watches a little show while I start work. And then by mid-morning, she is playing with a game or toy that I have set aside for her.
Let’s talk about screen time for a minute. Yes, I let my toddler watch a few small shows. Usually, she watches just one or two that I strategically use during the day. Sometimes I know I have a meeting later, so I save her show until then. Some days my mornings are crazy, and I use the show to get through the first hour of the day. My goal is always to use the screen time to my advantage!
We always try to get outside at lunch and late afternoon, so I like to balance out screen time and outside time to make sure she has lots of different kinds of stimuli.
If you have a toddler, you definitely need to follow Busy Toddler on Instagram. Her account is magic, and I use her activities weekly!
I am always just searching for the best education ideas for each age group. Currently, my daughter is very into puzzles. She builds and rebuilds puzzles many times over – sometimes up to 30 or 40 minutes.
Another option is to pay for an activity subscription box that gives your kid structured, educational activities every week.
I absolutely love KiwiCo activity boxes because they use the STEM process (science, technology, engineering, math) to give you smart, hands-on activities to do with your child. We have been buying these for our kids for over two years, and love them! We pay for them with our own pennies. This is definitely not sponsored.
You Can Work At Home With Kids
Hey mama, you’ve got this!
I know some days you will literally feel like you fail. I feel that way most days. But, just know that you are not alone and you are doing an amazing job.
Please stop by Modern Work at Home Mom and say hi! I’d love to meet you and hear all about the work you are doing. You’ve got this!
Bio guest blogger:
Ginny Hurst is a work-at-home mom to a 3-year-old daughter and a 1-year-old son. She works full time 8-5 for a remote company, and also juggles watching little ones, spending time with her husband of ten years, and writing the blog Modern Work at Home Mom at modernwahm.com. She started blogging seven years ago, and now uses Modern WAHM to connect with other work-at-home moms. She loves to be outdoors, read a good mystery, and binge Gilmore Girls. But, really, she just loves an empty dishwasher, an inbox with no unread emails, and walking around the cul de sac a hundred times.