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[Educator Network] Tips for Working from Home with Younger Children

[Educator Network] Tips for Working from Home with Younger Children

For many, the allure of working from home full time has lost a bit of its shine. Sure, at first it seemed awesome having zero commute and access to your very own kitchen during lunch time, but it wasn’t long before we realized how difficult it really is to try and work when there is laundry to fold, or how working with young children around can make the prospect of getting things done even more daunting.

In the months that have followed since the COVID-19 pandemic caused schools and work places to shut down, many have established routines, rituals, and strategies for helping to stay productive while everyone is staying at home. But now that school has started up again, and new routines might be necessary, it doesn’t hurt to take a look back a some of these tips and tricks, or even pick up a new idea. After all, it seems like the key to this year is staying flexible.


  • Set aside a few cool toys that your kids can play with, or special movie viewings only during "Work Time." If your children have something to look forward to, they'll be less likely to interrupt you (hopefully).


  • If you have the space, set up an activity center in your home office so kids feel as if they have their own designated place to do projects while you catch up on e-mails.


  • Use the mute button during conference calls to avoid any unexpected yells, giggles and kitchen noises that you might feel is intrusive.

  • Establish a signal for your kiddos when it is OK to talk to you. Take down the sign when your meeting is over. Take off your headset. Open your office door. Let older children know when you are free. If your kids can understand when they can disturb you, they might be more likely to wait until that time.


  • For younger children, use a nonverbal "Do not disturb" when you need quiet time. Imagine wearing a tiara If you have an office door, tie a red ribbon on it when you're not to be bothered.


  • Give your child a special way to communicate, such as a fun sticky note pack. They can write their important information and stick it on the door. This gives them the outlet they need to keep track of all the things they needed to tell you while you are on a call.


  • Ask younger children to make or decorate a homemade ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign. This gives you one arts and crafts activity, and who knows, maybe they will respect the objective if they see other people respecting their sign.


  • Go ahead and write out a schedule (including which parent is on primary kid duty if you’re trading off) and pin it to the wall or the refrigerator so kids can refer to it throughout the day. However, keep in mind this needs to reflect how YOUR family functions. Is it a picture schedule? Does it include outdoor activities? Does it start with a morning routine? Does it include the e-learning routine that might need a parent support? Does it use your village? Is there flexibility built in?


  • Put a list on the fridge labeled ‘BORED?’ and have a number of activities listed; like coloring, dance party, crafts and at the bottom, chores. This list might need to be revisited on a regular basis.


  • Your littles will benefit from a routine, some kids feel quite anxious if they don’t have one. Try to build a routine that makes sense to your family. Give it at least a week to take hold. I remember once hearing that said it takes two weeks to build a habit and two days to unravel it.


  • When it is safe and appropriate to do so, such as when your young children are being monitored by another responsible adult, consider wearing noise-cancelling headphones. This might help to both block out noise (maybe) and serve as an additional visual cue to those sweet interrupters.


  • Let your kids make some of their own choices. Giving them the power to choose some of their own activities and self-serve meals and snacks helps build independence. This also givesyou a chunk of unbroken time for work. Try a list on the fridge of lunch choices and snack choices. This may save you hours of walking them through what is in the fridge. For younger children, you may need to prep and pre package single serving snacks. Older children can put ingredients together into a meal. Is this time saving? I don’t know, especially if you are left with a kitchen that has been upended? Maybe not, but it might be a learning opportunity.


  • Consider setting up activity stations for the littles to choose from. It doesn’t have to be complicated or messy. When I was in the classroom, I had small pop bottles filled with sand and ‘gem’ stones. I filled the bottles, screwed tight the top and then used duct tape to reinforce the closed top. Students could shake the bottle and move the sand around to reveal the treasures. Remember, there will be times that the activity you spent hours locating, setting up and explaining with the expectation of having a full 20 mins of uninterrupted work time, may, in fact take 2 mins and leave you with a mess to clean up. Some days are like that. Expect there to be your own “Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day” reboot.


  • Even with the best-laid plans, your children will interrupt your work. Calls will be photo bombed, dishes will be dropped, tantrums will be thrown. Lean in. We understand, it is time to revisit the schedule, the activity table, the support and yes, the tiara. If you are on a call, and are expecting the breakdown, and your mute option is no longer an option, give the team a heads up and no one will be caught off guard.


  • Presume there is time built into the schedule where you are out of the office. During that time play, support schoolwork, or get outside. Consider an activity that you do together, drawing, board games, dance parties or scavenger hunts. Video calls family members can give everyone someone different to talk to. Develop this list of activities together and implement the ones that work in the moment or put them in a hat or jar and pick. If you give the kids your full attention during breaks, they will look forward to them, don’t mess with that, if you said we would, block out the time and do it. It might just be easier for them to get through your working blocks if they know there is play coming and they will have your full attention.


  • Even if your kiddos don’t take naps, schedule some down time. Try 30 minutes to an hour of reading, quite time, playing with blocks, or another quiet activity after an outdoor activity.

These are some ideas to try. Don’t give up, this is not an exhausted list just a starting place. Your family may find additional ways to work through this unique normal. Talk to your kids, chances are, they are disappointed that they are not back in school too.