Working At Home with a Toddler

Getting some quiet time to do work when you’re home with a toddler all day can be incredibly difficult.  For many stay-at-home or work-at-home parents, there are always things that need to be done and kids are not always accommodating.  I personally have a lot of writing to do and although my daughter seems fine doing whatever she does when I’m moving around doing housework (dishes, laundry, etc.), as soon as I sit to write, she seems to view it as a personal affront and wants to play.  I oblige whenever I can, but like everyone else, I still need time to get my stuff done too.  I know many families use TV for these times when you need an hour or so – I admit I’ve done the same myself – but I also know that many of us don’t want to put our kids in front of the TV for that long or on a regular basis.  What else are you to do?

Some days I’m lucky and my daughter will be occupied already by her painting or play kitchen or magnets or puzzles, but sometimes not, and lately I’ve been swamped and in much need of some extra time.  In fact, I often find that many of the recommendations are ones that just aren’t a “go-to” in that my child won’t regularly be happily occupied by it, but rather it’s a hit or miss scenario.  I have searched for activities that I can hand her that don’t require my assistance, or even better, can’t use my assistance and here are some that truly seem to occupy a toddler (well, at least my toddler) to give you some of that precious work time when you need it…

Play Doh.  The less you have to go with it the better, but Play Doh is one of those fantastic things that kids seem to be forever impressed by.  Although you can play with your kids with it (I totally enjoy some Play Doh action at times), it isn’t necessary and often they become mesmerized within minutes.  But I’m quite serious about “the less you have to go with it” bit too.  My daughter has a Play Doh kit and some of these kits, though they say for kids 3+, really do require more strength or dexterity than a child that age has and so they will often call to you to come help.  So if you just give them the dough or even some cutting tools for it, they won’t need to call for you every few minutes.

Scissors and Paper.  First off, you don’t need sharp scissors for those of you who just imagined disaster.  The good, dullish scissors for younger kids are perfect.  But let’s face it – kids love to cut things.  The idea of scissors or the magical instrument that destroys things is really quite awesome, so anytime they are given the opportunity to cut, it’s a great time.  I know some parents will panic about scissors, but let’s face it, our kids need to learn how to use them and when given some time to practice, they will become quite adept with them and isn’t that a good thing?  The dull scissors for younger kids are perfect in this regard and if you want to make it purposeful, add some coloured paper and see them create little bits chopped up and use them as snowflakes later in a game.  Thanks to this practice, my 3 year old can open most anything with her scissors.  (Of course, it doesn’t beat trying to cut my hair, but then again, why would it?)

A Ball of Yarn.  No, I’m not talking about a cat, I am still talking about my toddler.  If you are willing to accept the loss of the ball of yarn (i.e., buy the cheap stuff), your toddler will find a million places to put it and various ways to use it in play.  I have found yarn in old cans, attached to stuffed animals as leashes, attached to spoons and then hung places, in my dresser, in my shoes, etc.  Throw in some scissors and although you may be finding bits of yarn for weeks, you will definitely have quite a bit of time to yourself to get your work done.  Just try not to look over too frequently or think too much about the clean up after.

Dried Beans/Pasta/Rice and Measuring Cups.  This is another one of those “This is gonna get messy” activities, but my goodness will you have time.  For some reason there is really nothing much more exciting than putting things in other things.  Honest to goodness.  We gave my daughter one of those mechanical fishing kits for Christmas and instead of fishing, she has managed to place all the fish in various containers based on colour.  The same goes with any kind of dried food (sadly, including dog food); it is way more fun to put into various containers then pour into other containers then pour back or heck, find a third container.  If you have lots of reusable ones, they are perfect, or perhaps you already have kid ones if you have a kid kitchen, but any old bowls or cups will do just fine too.  One caveat: Don’t plan on eating the food again after.  Just store it in another container to bring out the next time you need the hour for yourself.

By Tracy Cassels

January 06, 2014