Any parent with a toddler or preschooler knows they’re an active bunch. A Harvard study says a child’s early development is “a highly interactive process.” It’s an incredible stage filled with curiosity and exploration, although this does usually keep mom and dad on their toes. That’s why we’ve assembled a list of unique ways you can multitask with your little one at home.
My youngest just entered the toddler stage and loves climbing into every nook and cranny of our house. Since I work from home, it can be tricky checking off my to-do list while she is this active. I recently turned to my fellow work-at-home moms for more ideas and compiled them below. I cannot wait to try many of these with my kids soon.
Tips from Work-at-Home Moms: How to Multitask with a Toddler or Preschooler at Home
Start with the right expectations.
Lisa Tanner, a homeschooling mother of nine, gives great advice about preparing the right type of activities for your little one.
“Keeping them nearby and engaged in appropriate activities is key. And also remember that they don’t have the ability to sit and do the same thing for hours on end. So take frequent breaks to connect and change things up.”
Give them an “office.”
When I was young, one of my favorite things to do at my grandmother’s house was to load her old typewriter with paper and plink away at the keys. It became one of my earliest memories of writing stories.
Now, when I’m typing on my own laptop, sometimes I lay out an old keyboard for my curious children to practice on beside me.
Jamie took it one step farther with this adorable idea for her preschooler.
“My 3-year-old always wants to help me work, so we created a ‘desk’ on a shelf in the walk-in closet of our home office space. I give her little tasks to do like letter tracing, Play-Doh, and coloring pages, and she tells me she is going to do work in her office.”
Listen as you stroll.
The next time you go for a walk with your child in a stroller or carrier, try listening to an audiobook, podcast, or album as you go. Using an app like Hoopla or Libby will connect you with your local library and provide you with thousands of free listening options.
Beth says taking her babies for a stroll while she listens to a podcast is part of her “daily self-care” and it allows her to, in her words, “think my own thoughts for a while.”
Remember, these suggestions aren’t meant to divide all of your attention away from your child. Chatting with them as you explore the outdoors is a wonderful, memory-making experience. These are simply ways to add little breaks to your day.
Double the fun at bath time.
Bath time is an excellent time for one-on-one bonding with our children. I’d be the last person to say you should pile up a to-do list of busy work each time your preschooler hops in the tub.
However, if you are safely and closely monitoring him, then here are few creative ways to occasionally enjoy a little “me time” while you hang out next to the tub:
Give yourself a manicure or pedicure
Do a round of cardio exercises or stretches
Knit or crochet
Play fun music and have a dance party (watch out for slippery spots on the floor!)
Jaymi gets work done by letting her kids have an extended bath party. “We throw our kids in an extra fun bath, bring in the laptop, and set up on the stool by the sink for a Bath Tub Power Hour. The kids splash, and we type away (just out of range of the water).”
What makes the bathtime “extra fun” for this family? Here is a great list of their favorite bath toys (several of which can be found around the house, like kitchen utensils and shaving cream!).
Prepare an activity bag.
My toddler loves to be in on the action. When I’m loading the dishwasher, she wants to climb right in and toss out anything she can get her hands on. I love the helping spirit behind it, but this makes for a messy and, at times, dangerous environment for her.
That’s why I’m grateful I came across these ideas from a few work-at-home mothers who thought ahead.
Becca makes what she calls “quiet bags.” “I fill up a paper bag with a bunch of random little stuff from around the house (pipe cleaners, empty egg carton, markers, stickers, hair elastics, a stick, anything) and tell them it's their quiet time to be creative independently. They have come up with some interesting things!”
Sherry puts together an “activity basket” that can change from one theme to the next. “One could have Play-Doh, one could be LEGOs, one could be paper and stamps/crayons, etc., and one could be a cup of water and a paintbrush, and they go outside and ‘paint’ the concrete.”
Rachel could always count on a bundle of books to help her children occupy their time. “Even at very young ages [our kids] would sit and look at their books and read. Especially if they were busy books, like sticker books or touchy-feely or lift the flap books. Even now, when I am trying to accomplish something, they are good at grabbing a book or a magazine and keeping busy.”
Fun in the sun.
Lots of fun can be had in the great outdoors. The next time you’re soaking up some vitamin D in the backyard with your little one, try this idea Katie uses to help her juggle work and play:
“I fill up a toy wagon outside with dishwashing liquid and water so they have bubbly water. Then I give them plastic animals, a plastic brush, and a face washer. My kids love water, so this keeps them happy ‘cleaning’ their animals for a solid hour and I can do whatever I need! I normally sit out back with them and enjoy a hot coffee and get some writing done.”
Bottom line: No one is perfect at this.
There is no secret formula for juggling the busyness of work and raising little ones. I believe we each must find a balance that functions for our own family. These suggestions worked individually for these parents, but each was also balanced with those moments of unplugging, setting down their work, and joining in the fun.
May this list help us all find new ways to pause, extend ourselves some grace when we fall short, seek support when it’s needed, and find joy in the journey.
Ready to keep reading? Here are some great bonus resources for parents:
What are some creative ways you multitask with little ones at home? Let us know in the comments below!
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