We just got notice that M’s school is closed until further notice, and as someone who always works from home, I thought it might be time for me to share some tips for how to work at home with kids. Find my huge free printable list of fun things to do with kids at home here. This post contains affiliate links.
As a full-time work at home mom, I simply can’t take full weeks off when my kids have vacation.
So, to some degree, I’ve worked out a system for getting work done during those periods of time between school and camp.
Now, with many schools canceled indefinitely or for weeks, and knowing that many moms who have never had to work out of the house are stuck doing so, I decided to pull together a resource to help those of you who need to adapt.
I’m not about to pretend that I have it down pat.
I’ve done it enough times that I have advice and encouragement to share, but yes, it’s scary. You CAN do this. Your house will be messy, your kids will be happy, and you might just keep your sanity.
Don’t expect perfection.
And don’t worry! It’ll all be over soon!
Keeping a Schedule when you’re working from home:
While many schedules out there can be fantastic, if you’re trying to figure out how to work at home with kids, they may not work for you.
Here’s how I balance my schedule with kids at home for extended periods:
- Split time between setting up independent activities and doing parent-involved activities.
- Every day off, M and Y play independently until they start losing it. That’s when I get the most work done. Activities and scheduling starts only once I need it.
- Maintain outdoor play time weather permitting to make sure kids get some fresh air
- Implement screen-time incentives
- Normally, I’d rotate days that we go out on trips and days that we stay at home.
Here’s where it changes when the kids are at home for extended periods when we can’t go out, especially with the current situation.
- We will follow our normal school-day morning routine.
- I plan to do morning prayers together as a family.
- M will be doing some remote schooling. During that time, Y will get independent screen time for some of the time and I will hopefully read him books for some.
- M is in first grade. Unless the teacher provides it, I plan to create a reading log for him and will reward heavily.
- I hope to dedicate 1 hour a day to mom-involved activities if I can.
- I always, always keep a physical list of activities handy. You can print one I made for you here. It can get crazy to try researching this when the kids are around. Having a list handy that will allow you to
- We are avoiding making an exact schedule. If you’re going to work, you NEED the flexibility.
- The rest of the day will be set up as a few independent play stations that they can rotate between. I stocked up heavily at the Dollar Tree with new activities to do. (You can still do so online).
- We have a small, private, enclosed backyard. I also stocked up on outdoor toys (we don’t have any outdoor play structures) and purchased an “outdoor toy box” – a deck box. I will require 1 hour (weather permitting) of outdoor play before any screen time.
Want loads and loads of kids’ activities and craft ideas? Get the ebook!
And now’s where I’m going to go into screen time for work-at-home moms with kids because this is where moms get GUILT OVERLOAD!
How to work at home with kids and balance screen time:
Your kids can have LOADS of screen time.
And feeling guilty about it won’t help anyone.
Of course there are downsides to screen time. One of the biggest downsides is how it minimizes social interaction. I think you can ditch that worry for now.
Another issue is the lack of exercise and movement. This is why I require my kids to play outside first, weather permitting.
And finally, you can make it educational and use it as a tool to supplement school that they might be missing out on. Read through my list of kids learning apps here.
Another thing to keep in mind while allowing this flexibility in your life: this is an exceptional situation. During these times, rules change. This doesn’t mean that it’s your new normal and that’s fine.
If your kids had no outdoor play and 3 hours of garbage TV? They will be fine. You are doing more than fine. You’re doing it all and you’re nailing it.
How to actually get work done:
Between distractions and needy kids, here are some of my tips for allowing work to still happen when the kids are at home.
- Weekends can be your bread and butter. Considering your partner is around then to keep the kids busy, this can be the golden time when you get the most work done. My husband works as a warehouse manager in a very small company (fewer than ten employees) and is unable to work remotely. It will also be one of the very last places to close considering the existing workplace isolation. I am writing this on a Sunday while he took the kids out for a walk. I plan to get half the week’s work done this way.
- Plan better. Whittle your work down to the must-dos. Prioritize higher-focus tasks for while the kids are VERY occupied. It may take a day – or even a week – to get a handle on your kids’ schedule and when these times are for you.Keep lighter tasks (such as email purging) for when you’re really just struggling to get the work done.
- If you don’t already, keep a physical planner. It’s how I self-discipline as a work-at-home mom. Planners can be fantastic organizational tools, and staying organized WILL be your best friend now.
- Take it outside: If you have a contained backyard, take your laptop outside and get done what you can while the kids are most productively occupied.
How to keep the kids busy + more tips on how to work at home with kids:
Incentivize heavily. I will be making a “daily tasks” chart. This is different from a routine or chore chart. It’ll basically outline the goals I have for each day. M and Y will each receive a prize at the end of the day if they complete everything.
I haven’t made it yet, because we’re still waiting to hear from school what our remote schooling days will look like, but here are some ideas that I have on my list:
- Read 2 books (for a 1st grader)
- Played outdoors for half an hour (will be excused for days under 40 degrees or raining)
- Ate a healthy lunch
- Went to bed by 7
- Took Turns…
Activity books are a double win. I hand my kids a pack of Post-it Flags, some Quarto Steam Club picks and allow them to mark the activities they want to do.
Not only does that entertain them for literally hours sometimes, but it also gives us ideas for activities to do after.
Fresh activities are a win.
When looking for long-term toys, I usually opt for quality over quantity. When I look for work-at-home survival, the more the better.
That’s why I recommend stocking up on many cheap inexpensive activities that you can pull out at a moment’s notice – and even use as rewards! I’ll include some fantastic resources for that below.
Move. Go for walks, get outdoors in isolated places. Kids behave based on their moods. Getting them some fresh air will help improve their moods.
Empathize. As hard as it is for you, it’s hard for your kids as well. Just understanding that can help you make better decisions, help your kids deal with it better, and allow you to react properly when things get tough.
Inexpensive Items, where to get activities & prizes for the kids while social distancing:
Before it was too late, I ran out to local discount and dollar stores to pick things up. If you still can, I recommend you do. For about $60 I got about 40 activities and prizes to take me through the coming weeks, including activity books, cheap outdoor toys, and more.
You can also purchase loads of printables online! Typically, you can get these once and print it for each child, without leaving the house. I have some available for purchase in my new Teachers Pay Teachers store as well as my Etsy shop.
Getting cheap activities for kids:
Tips for finding the right items:
- Focus on out-of-the-box, creative, and active ideas.
- Aim for things that will entertain for 30 minutes to an hour. Consider yourself lucky if they entertain for longer. For example, with art supplies, my kids are spoiled and tend to use a new one for an hour and ditch it. Even though I normally avoid buying new stuff (we have so much!) I do when they will be home and I need to work, because an hour of entertainment during that time is a win.
- Go for craft making kits rather than raw materials. Kids will know what to do with it more, and require less intervention – allowing you more time to work.
Where to get these types of small incentives and activities online:
- Oriental Trading is a great resource for prizes and small craft kits.
- Bullseye Playground by Target has fantastic inexpensive toys. Online, they come grouped into sets, so you’ll be buying a few at once, but the sets typically contain a variety in the same category.
- Dollar Tree online is a great resource for activities, outdoor toys, puzzles, and more. You may find yourself buying more than you need because you need to buy packs, however, for many items the minimum is four and they come in a variety pack.
For very specific items, Walmart and Amazon are my best friends…
Ideas for small, one-off activities to look out for:
Some of these you may even already have!
- Dry erase boards + markers
- Paper clips, rubber bands, index cards, other versatile office supplies
- Art supplies (for example, gel pens, paint sticks, and more implements your kids aren’t tired of already.)
- Activity books (mazes, word hunts, connec the dots)
- Sensory materials (doughs, slimes, etc)
Don’t forget to take care of yourself:
- Don’t skip meals
- Go for a walk once your partner has come home.
- Stop working 2 hours before bedtime.
- Drink well!
Your immune system needs you to take care of yourself now more than ever!
Things, such as housekeeping, will fall to the side. Your house will be a mess (if it makes you feel better mine is too).
And finally, I’ll say it again, be flexible. Things won’t go exactly as you planned but it’ll be fine!
Got any tips to share with moms trying to figure out how to work at home with kids? Comment below and share your wisdom!