As the Corona Virus has officially reached the US, companies, schools, and communities are taking necessary precautions to reduce its spread. However, with many people practicing social isolation, working from home and having your kids home from school may be uncharted territory. I feel grateful that my kids, now 14 and 12, grew up with me working from home. While it may be a learning curve for those who aren’t used to it, I wanted to share some guidance based on my experience to lessen the growing pains. With many now facing working from home and caring for kids simultaneously, being up front with your co-workers or on calls with clients that you have kids at home will break the ice so you can laugh if you are interrupted.
Especially as you ease into this transition, it is imperative to have a game plan of activities in place to keep your children occupied. Here are a few ideas, broken up by age group, below:
Baby through Preschool: During these stages, it is more challenging to work from home if you do not have outside care. The way I managed was to have a sitter come in during the morning hours leading up to my kids’ naps so I could focus on work. I would recommend you try to find outside help to come into your home if your childcare facility is closed.However, if you cannot find someone, the best option is to develop a schedule in which you can work while they are sleeping. If you have a significant other also working from home, work to split your schedules for coverage. When my kids were little, I have fond memories of having a blanket by my desk so they could roll around. I also had a swing with music by my desk and would turn off the music whenever I had a call.
As they get a bit older and are able to do activities on their own, you might buy yourself time with activities such as:
- Sorting objects by color or shape – any item that is safe will work! For example, have them sort large Legos by color or shape into containers.
- Learning games on an iPad or device.
- Building a fort and putting a variety of toys inside to keep them entertained.
- Creating a treasure hunt in which you hide items that you have two of. For example, show them a stuffed animal and say, “go find another stuffed animal.”
Elementary, Middle, and High School: Starting in elementary school, your children are better at understanding that you are busy. Encourage them to respect your schedule while you are on the phone. It’s a good practice to encourage them to wait or write you a note (if they are able to write) instead of verbally interrupting your call. For example, my son will write a note to ask if he can go outside when I am on the phone. I can easily nod yes or no, even if I am on with a client or co-worker. Luckily, I can watch him play in our backyard while I am working.
Any activities that they can do independently will be helpful as you can turn your focus back to your work. As your kids progress into middle and high school, they will become masters at knowing to respect your work time. Communication is essential – lay the expectation upfront that you need time to focus. The following activities are ideas that may work for your Choose the ones that are age appropriate.
- Create a chore list – I put one on the counter so they know what they have to do for the day when they wake up. They are allowed to do their chores whenever they want, yet all items must be done by the end of the day. This rule works well as they have freedom to make their own schedule.
- Extra chores – Assign dollar amounts to additional chores you want done around the house. For example, I will pay $2.00 if they organize a cabinet. For more money, like $10.00, I ask them to organize the garage.
- Schoolwork – They must tell and show me all they have completed so I know they are in compliance.
- Start a puzzle and make it a competition on who can get the most pieces in a day.
- Read – My kids are incentivized for extra reading. They always want new shoes or the latest gadget, so I pay them a small amount each time they complete 60 chapters.
- Board games and cards – Go back to the basics! If you have one than one child, encourage them to play board games.
- Have them move their bodies by playing outside.
- Organize and downsize – Encourage them to organize their closet or collections such as baseball cards. Recently, my daughter sold high-quality clothes she did not want on Poshmark. (https://poshmark.com/)
- Research – Have them research how to do something they enjoy on YouTube. For instance, my son has been trying to solve a Rubik cube, so I suggested he research it on YouTube. My daughter loves soccer, so I suggested she look videos on soccer. Together, they have been tasked to search new recipes they want us to try as a family.
- How to Videos – Kids love TikTok these days. Have them make their own how-to videos on a new skill. Building on my daughter’s soccer research, I encouraged her to make a TikTok on soccer. Be involved in what they are creating to help make it more learning based.
- Find a Bargain Online – Do your kids want a new pair of shoes? Have them try to find a deal online instead of in store. Many times, you can find a new pair of shoes online that have not even been worn. My daughter once sold an unworn pair of shoes on EBay.
- Play on Educational Websites – Many sites have educational activities online. Check out a few of them here: http://bit.ly/Edukids1
- Practice typing – In addition to educational activities on the sites listed above, time at home is a great way for kids to practice the skills they will need in their education and future careers. Check out this site for a list of fun typing games for kids to familiarize themselves with keyboards. https://www.todaysparent.com/family/fun-typing-games-for-kids/
Lastly, aside from activities, it’s also important to think about their nourishment while they are at home. This one takes planning, especially if your kids are not typically not home for lunch. In the summer, it always throws me for a loop when my kids are home because I have to serve three meals instead of two. Plan, plan and plan. Have snacks they can grab and try to have dinner leftovers for lunch. As they get older, this is a great opportunity to teach them to self-serve and prepare their own food.
How do you keep your kids occupied during your work-from-home days? What recipes are go-tos for breakfast, lunch and dinner? I’d love to hear from you!