ParenTalk- Keeping You Child Busy While You Work
The covid-19 pandemic has posed newer challenges for working parents. While it may seem like a blessing to stay safe in the confines of home, as health dangers loom outside, it can get exhausting to handle work and kids. A 3-year-old begging for your attention towards their new artwork, while you are on a video call with a client or work colleagues, may seem cute once but can get frustrating if it happens frequently. I have been a work-from-home parent since my elder one was born and I understand how difficult it is to cater to you a toddler’s breastfeeding demands as you struggle to write a 1000 words article. Apart from focus, it also costs you your productivity and still dunks you deep in guilt that you didn’t tend 100% to the child who was asking for attention. As they grow up, they spell it out more clearly. Oh, Mumma! You are always working. Read to me now, please!
So how do you balance work and kids while working from home? Parenting groups are brimming with such queries. According to a survey by Microsoft, nearly 54% of parents said that it was difficult to handle household responsibilities while working from home. An increasing number of parents are now resorting to screen time to work in peace. This has caused an increase in the likelihood of eye issues in kids and also increased the amount of guilt parents deal with.
Are you also looking for ways to engage your kids positively while you work? Here is a list of activities that will require minimal to no parental intervention. You can customize these activities for most age groups and do not require a lot of things. All you need are some common products lying around the house. In most cases, you can help them in the beginning and set the ball rolling, and then let them play on their own:
Painting: This one never gets boring. It is a favorite at our home for the 1.5-year-old and the 5-year-old. As long as you permit some mess, this can keep them engaged for hours. Start with finger painting for younger kids. Just ration some amount of paint and give them a cardboard box or paper. Let them run free with their imagination. It is amazing how this process helps them become more creative. Their rainbow may have just the color black, but that is how they learn. For very little children, source a big cardboard box, give them crayons or paints, put them in the box, and get back to your office call. You can help them have fun with textures later by giving them offbeat painting tools like leaves, sponges, combs, old toy cars, etc.
Animal rescue: This kids’ activity is suited for children over 3 years old. It is a sensory activity that is also a great way to teach them about the states of matter and the concept of floating and sinking. If you do not have the bandwidth for explanations and lessons, let them enjoy sensory and water play. Fill a big bowl with water and put some animal figurines. Freeze the bowl. Demold the ice, give them a small amount of salt and a spoon or a children’s hammer. Let them rescue their favorite animals from the ice. Tell them that sprinkling salt will help the ice to melt faster and let the fun unfold. This will keep them occupied for at least 15 mins as your finish writing that work email.
Sort the veggies: Enjoy as others raise their brows when you smartly let your child do some of your work as you sort it on the professional front. After a hectic hour of vegetable shopping, it can get understandably exhausting to sort the veggies into refrigerator bags. Let the child do it for you. Give them 2-3 bags at a time and tell them which vegetable goes in which bag. This way they learn vegetables, learn to sort, do a chunk of your work, and let you stay in peace for office work. Do not worry about the mess, it is easier to broom the floor than having them hanging on your feet while you work.
Set their workstation: Kids imitate parents. They love to have their own laptop and pretend to be just like their parents. Also, it is a proven fact that the more you request them to leave you alone, the more they hang around trying to check how many letters a single backspace click deletes. A friend set up her child’s study table next to her workstation and placed a toy laptop. I tried it too but added another layer to the kids’ activity by making a crafty laptop and a toy phone with an old cardboard box over the weekend. The child was the creative designer of course. I do not have a solution for their constant chatter, but this works a lot of times for us.
Toy wash station: Messy play keeps them engaged the most. Set up a toy wash station in a balcony or a corner of your room and work in peace. You will need a small bucket, tub, or plastic bin. Fill it with water. Give them a bag of plastic toys to wash. Just remember to keep toys with electrical sockets or batteries away. Also, give them towels to wipe the wet toys once washed. Let your child’s interests drive this activity. Parents with kids obsessed with cars can set up a car wash. It is almost always an animal wash farm at our home.
Open-ended toys: Magnatiles and Lego have been babysitters for us all through the lockdown. Make around 2-3 different open-ended toys available and let them choose. Jigsaw puzzles or games requiring your help may not be ideal for this. Keep it open-ended and free-flowing.
Scribble wall or floor: Don’t hate me for this suggestion. I know how much you love your walls and floors. However, when kids are allowed to express their creativity freely, they develop better fine motor skills and grow up to be more creative. You do not have to give free rein over all the walls and floors, set up a dedicated space for scribbling. You can use a bottle of chalk paint to create a scribbling space or use one of those whiteboard or blackboard stickers available in the market. You can also use jumbo sidewalk chalk to scribble any surface. It can be easily washed or wiped away.
- Bed or balcony camp: Set up a camp using bed sheets and pillows in the balcony or the corner of the bed. Place your child’s favorite toys inside. Now, isn’t that the fondest memory from your childhood? Kids love to spend hours pretend playing in their camp. It is a great way to keep them busy when you work.
While giving them screen time is the easiest, engaging them meaningfully is a great way to ensure overall development in children. There are a plethora of activities for kids that can help you concentrate on work. Figure out a few that work best for you so you don’t need to prepare new setups each day. Try keeping it more open-ended and child-led, so your involvement is minimum.
All the best!
Smriti is a freelance content writer and an avid reader. She quit her 6 year-long IT career to embrace her love for writing. She writes content across genres and takes pride in her ability to research and carve magic with words. She passionately writes about parenting and is currently working on her book. When not writing or reading, she can be seen running behind any of her 2 kids or learning Deutsch.