The constant round of lockdowns across the world has more parents than ever working from home. The extra challenge right now, of course is working from home with very young children at home too.
There’s no denying that this is a hard task, but it’s also not an impossible one.
I’m one of those crazy parents who voluntarily decided to work from home and home-school my youngest two children, way before lockdowns made it necessary rather than optional. As a qualified teacher, I knew that I wanted to educate my children myself – at least for the first few years of life.
I want to share my experiences with you, because I know that you’ve probably been thrown into this role and it does take some adjusting to. Don’t despair though working from home AND caring for young children is a possibility.
It’s worth remembering…
Be kind to yourself! We are in the midst of a global pandemic, so go easy on yourself. You don’t have to stick to the way things are traditionally done and where possible you should be simplifying your day.
These nine essential tips will really help you to balance working from home and childcare BUT do try to let go of perfection.
Working from Home Tip 1: Share the Load
It’s a pretty obvious point, but one that needs to be made! If you’re here because you’ve found yourself doing all of the childcare AND attempting to work from home, then some honest conversations need to be had.
You and your partner need to work out a rota so that you do have periods in the day where you can get on with some uninterrupted worktime. Right now as I type this, my husband is making the children lunch and taking his break whilst I do my work.
Here’s some strategies to try:
- Coordinate diaries so that you don’t schedule important meetings at the same time
- Take lunch breaks at separate times
- Stagger the start of your working day – you don’t have to do a traditional 9-5pm day.
Working from Home Tip 2: Fill their Cup
If you find that your child is constantly vying for your attention whilst you are working from home, then it’s likely that they are in need of some real quality time.
I have personally found that giving my children undivided attention during the morning means that I am able to get on with my work later on in the day without a constant round of interruptions.
Here are some cup filling ideas:
- Play side by side with your child in the play space – put your phone away and give them undivided attention
- Get out for a walk – the fresh air will help burn off extra energy
- Bake or cook together – practical life activities are just as valuable, if not more valuable than planned activities
Working from Home Tip 3: Create a Rhythm
A daily rhythm can do wonders for children. When they know what to expect during various points in the day, they are much more likely to be settled.
It’s really worth remembering that your child’s life has been turned upside-down. They are used to things being done in a certain way and all of a sudden, they are at home and their favourite places have closed.
So creating a simple daily rhythm helps children and us adults to really get into a groove when working from home and playing at home. It helps kids understand the boundaries too – they will know when it is time for play and when it is time for you to work.
You can find out more about creating your own daily rhythm by clicking here.
Working from Home Tip 4: 5 minute fixes
I am a huge advocate for independent play but there are also times in the day that a planned activity or two will work wonders. However, now is absolutely not the time to be recreating elaborate cardboard DIYs that you’ve seen over on Instagram.
Here’s why: very young children don’t have the attention span so simplicity is best.
When it comes to independent play, children tend to have an attention span of 2-5 minutes per year of age so aim for activities that take you 5 minutes or less to set up.
You can find some ideas to get you started here.
Working from Home Tip 5: Utilise Naptime
Working from home during lockdown means that you’ll need to utilise those times of day when your child is sleeping! Hopefully your child still naps, so where possible schedule meetings or completed focused tasks when they are asleep.
If your child no longer naps, try setting up some quiet time activities instead. Here’s some ideas to try:
- Sticker books
- Colouring pad and pencils
- Listen to an audiobook
The key is providing your child with an activity that they can do independently without creating lots of mess for you to tidy up.
To go one better than quiet time activities, try creating a play space close to where you work. You can find out exactly how we create a home environment that is geared towards independence and play here.
Working from Home Tip 6: Practical Life Activities
One sure fire way to manage your time effectively when you’re working from home with young children around is to involve them in plenty of practical life activities. Children learn so much when they are involved in daily life.
We often think that children need a special activity in order to learn, but the reality is that just by involving them in daily life, they are learning. Visit this link for more practical life ideas.
Working from Home Tip 7: Provide fewer toys – and make them open-ended
If you’re over your child complaining about how bored they are, chances are they have way too many toys and are feeling rather overwhelmed.
Instead, start a simple toy rotation system with fewer toys. Within the selection, at least half should be open-ended in nature. The reason behind this is simple, a child has so many more play possibilities if the toy can be played with in a variety of ways.
When you think about the average battery operated toys, then the opposite is the case. A toy laptop might seem cute, but it loses appeal after the first few plays.
Open-ended toy examples include:
- Wooden blocks
- Train set
- Magnetic Tiles
- Animal figurines
Working from Home Tip 8: Save TV time for when you really need it
TV time can be extremely useful – if you use it as a tool. Whilst it can feel like the quickest and easiest thing to do, if you have the TV on all day long when you are working from home, it loses it’s power.
Instead, save short durations of TV time for when you have that important meeting or when you really need to focus on finishing a task.
Try to avoid TV time early in the morning and instead opt for an audiobook. The Tonies box is an excellent option because children can change the book themselves. I bought my children one for Christmas and it has made such a difference to our daily routine and it has definitely reduced the amount of TV they watch.
Here’s my top pick of fun and educational shows on YouTube:
Working from Home Tip 9: Foster Independence
Life becomes easier all-round when your child is more independent. If you find yourself having to do every single little task for your child right now, think about making it easier for them to be able to do things all by themselves.
Here’s some examples:
- If your child cannot reach their clothes because the rail is too high, lower the rack.
- If your child keeps asking you for water, fill a bottle at the start of the day or use a water dispenser that they can reach
- Keep outdoor wear in labelled baskets so they know where to find their things
In my course, Your Playful Home, I talk you through the entire journey, from establishing a welcoming home environment, to fostering independence and understanding play. You can find out more about it here.
- Working from home with young kids around does require you to let go of perfection – be kind to yourself!
- Fill your child’s cup with quality, focused one on one time
- A daily rhythm will help your child to understand boundaries
- Use TV as a tool and not a babysitter
- Help your children to become independent by providing the right environment
- This isn’t an overnight magic fix – consistency is crucial for this to work!