Working at Home with a Toddler – Tips and Tricks

Are you trying to work at home with a toddler? While you count yourself lucky to be able to continue working, it isn’t easy working at home with kids around. 

This 5 step plan helps you manage your time and your toddler and makes it easier to manage working at home:

  1. Calculate what time you need
  2. Look for existing opportunities of available time
  3. Create new opportunities that will create more time
  4. Set up a routine
  5. When it is time to play, give your toddler all your attention

If you are wondering, how do I entertain my toddler while working from home? This strategy might just be what you need! So don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Read on to find out how you can juggle parenting with working. 

How Do You Work With a Toddler?

Mums all around the world are working while raising their kids at home. And I am not just talking about maintaining the home, but full-on office jobs. Usually these woman are part or own a family business. Many can’t just take a few years off away from the business when you start having kids.

And this is challenging… I know as I have done it first hand! We bought a tool shop when my eldest son was three months old. It’s probably one of the craziest things we have done!

Now we still have that tool shop and I have built it up, improved it, given it a great online presence. I now also have three kids – five, three and one. I have made plenty of mistakes along the way, but I reckon I can share a thing or two about how I have managed to be relatively successful in both spheres.

Why would you work at home with a toddler?

There are a number of reasons why you may not be sending your child to childcare but the two main reasons are:

  1. Cost of childcare
  2. Wanting to spend more time with your kids

So, for whatever reason, you’re trying to keep up with your 9-5 alongside your 24/7 job of parenting. And that isn’t easy, no matter the age of your kids.  

Strategies for tackling the challenge

From nappies, tantrums, clingyness, naps to round the clock feeding times, you’re juggling more than most. And then you are managing a business and maintaining a household on top. Superwoman!

Mums everywhere wonder how they can work at home with a toddler or baby. The biggest key to working at home with a toddler home is to assess what your situation is and create a plan. You can’t just wing it when it comes to succeeding in working at home with a toddler.

You need to have a plan so you know when you’re in parent-mode and when you’re in work-mode. 

So lets dive in, and see if we can figure this out together!

Step 1. Work out what time you need

So the first thing you need to do is work out how many hours a week you need for your business, and whether this time has to be ‘within business hours’. For example, if you have to call clients and follow up on accounts- it might not be practical to do it late at night. So you need to slot it into the business day.

This is an important first step. If you don’t set a commitment and boundaries on what you are to achieve, your work like balance can go seriously wrong for example:

  1. Without a commitment of time, there is nothing holding you to complete your work each week. Time could flitter away between tantrums and feeds. You will be carrying that constant guilt that you are not providing your business the attention it needs
  2. Alternatively, you could find that you are working yourself to death. Operating on a couple of hours of broken sleep (you still have night feeds right!), staying up all night cramming in as much work as possible. Ummm, not sustainable.

Possible scenario: So you might work out that you need 21 hours a week in the office. Of this, 10 hours you need to call customers so they need to be during the business hours..

Potentially you also need to cook, clean and do washing. Argh! Death by washing, I certainly know the feeling! This can also be made easier through a plan like this – just by using your time more productively!

Step 2. Look for existing opportunities of available time

Look, let’s be realistic. Kids are not programmed to fit into your schedule. Often it seems the opposite. But at least if you have a good think about how they are wired, and set up a plan, you’re paving the way toward a better chance of success.

The thing about kids is that, once you have them, there is a huge incentive to use every available minute wisely. When you walk around the room, you are constantly picking things up ‘on the way past’. While the kettle boils you are unpacking the dishwasher.

So stop for a minute… take out your notebook and try and work out some trends and opportunities. This way you know you are getting the best out of the time your children are giving you.

Consider the time that your toddler sleeps

If you’re working from home with a toddler or young child who still naps, then you have hit the jackpot! Whether it is a 20 minute nap to a 3 hour nap – what ever the length, any sleep is a bonus!

This is time you can allocate towards your time needed to call customers. Even if your toddler naps only 30 minutes twice a day, that it still 5 hours by the end of the week that you can make those important phone calls. So plan to stop everything wherever you are and get work done while they’re napping.

Here’s an awesome tip! A white noise machine is a life saver. It just makes a constant shhhhh sound. This not only promotes longer naps, but also drowns out your voice so your baby doesn’t hear you talking and wake up!

If you have a combination of toddlers and older kids in the house you might have different plans for each. When my daughter was two and slept, this was the the time where my eldest who was then four years old would play with his trains. He was old enough to understand the expectations of him, and it wasn’t some huge amount of time he had to fend for himself.

Consider the time that your toddler eats

Now we probably don’t want to be leaving the room too much while your toddler is eating. You don’t want them to choke! But I know, once finger food started happening my children were so engrossed in the food. Picking it up, making a good old mess that they did not need me to be idly sitting next to them.

While it may not the right time to get into in-depth bookwork and accounting figures, it is a perfect time to run around the room tidying it up so it frees up time for your business later.

What jobs can you easily do with your toddler?

So this section helps your business by inadvertently by freeing up some of your time for later in the day.

If you can turn activities with your kids into productive time, it can take pressure off your shoulders and set you up with more time for your business later in the day.

I know you are up for playing super heroes, but being super mum on your own can be draining. Not only that, kids learn by watching and participating. So if you turn on the TV and duck out to do the washing, you are not giving them any benefit or teaching them to contribute.

Putting the washing on the line is a great thing to do with your toddler. They might not physically put the washing on the line, but they are there with you watching and learning.

Plan to have the washing machine finished in time for your scheduled outdoor time, and on the way out, take the washing basket. It’s great for your child’s eye development to be outside a few hours a day. Having them come out while you hang the washing is a good kick up the butt to get them outdoors and once you get them out there the hardest bit is done and you should stay out there for a decent amount of time.

Don’t pick up toys on your own! From a young age kids enjoy putting blocks back into containers. Get them involved, get them doing it with you. Make it into a game – who can pack things away the fastest? Learn something from our childhood hero Mary Poppins…

“With every job there must be done, there is an element of fun. Find the fun and SNAP – the jobs a game!”

Hot tip: Not allocating time to yourself? Not exercising as much as you should be? Try dancing with your kids every day! It is so much fun and such a bonding experience

I found that once they are out of the pram, going for walks almost always ends up with a melt down. As I mentioned earlier, going outside is still super important, but I don’t like to venture too far. Chances are I’ll end up carrying three screaming kids home!

Step 3: Create new opportunities that will create more time

Ok so we now have strategies planned out to help us be productive with our kids. We think we are using our time in the smartest way but the hours still are not clocking up and our business still needs some love.

I’m sorry to say, that this might be where you have to look at your own lifestyle choices. Chances are your kids are going to bed around 7:30- 8pm. Just two hours every night is 14 hours a week. Going to bed at 10pm is not unreasonable. Alternatively, waking up early might suit your family better if they like to sleep in.

Allocate your kids some independent time.

This one can be hard to set up, but once you do, you are helping them as well as yourself.

Kids like to know what is expected of them. If you are going to be working at home with your toddler, you’ll need to understand that kids thrive when they know what is about to happen. So, if you want a quiet hour to jump on the laptop and get some work done, you need to do the ground work and train them to know how the time is going to play out.

Have certain routines in place that signal your children that you will be working. Even young babies respond to routines. Child specialists everywhere have long touted the success of a bedtime routine. 

Use this same concept to create a routine before you need to work. Just as a bath, bottle, and book signal bedtime, try creating a routine that includes 20 minutes of focused playtime with them getting them started- once engrossed you can duck away.

This works best if the activity is a special activity that they don’t have access to do all the time. I keep all ‘sets of toys’ out of reach. This serves two purposes.

  1. A farm set, train set, blocks, lego all spewed across the house takes AAAGES to clean up. They are out of reach so they are not spread across the house daily creating much extra work!
  2. When you bring them out it is a real treat! You will have a greater chance of totally absorbing your kids. Easily giving you another hour each day to finish up those important activities that you had to do during business hours.

Hot Tip: Only keep singular items in the toy box for daily access by your kids. Less is more… truly.

Afterward, if they allowed you to work in a quiet and focused environment, be sure to reward them. You can play with them or give a small treat.

Cook in bulk to reduce the amount of time cooking and cleaning

When the kids are too young it can be hard to cook with them. So much mess, sharp knives, and endless tantrums. But I find so much time is wasted cooking and cleaning all the pots and pans each evening. It might be time to think about the way you cook.

I have a 6 litre slow cooker – do you know how many dinners that makes!! If I make a spaghetti bolognese, do I make only enough for that one dinner? Hell no… I use the biggest frying pan I have and make enough to feed an army.

If every time you cook you make it in large quantities you can freeze the exact amounts you need for a family dinner. Then you only have the cooking time and washing up once. When you have your frozen meals, it is only one or 2 dishes you have to wash (eg the casserole dish in the microwave, and the pasta pot). If you really want to streamline your time you can also pre-cook your pasta but I find it gets a bit mushy and a pasta pot takes 10 seconds to clean.

Now you are not spending 8-9pm cleaning up the kitchen and can get into the office an hour earlier and do book work.

Working of an evening

It is so tempting to ‘switch off’ after dinner and turn on that TV. But come on, we are on this planet to live and not watch others live. 1 hour a day is 7 hours a week, or 365 hours a year!! If you spend 365 hours of ‘TV time’ on your business, that’s surely got to take some the stress off your shoulders.

I find my best productivity hours are of an evening. No phone calls coming in, my children are sleeping and I can really focus until my baby wakes up for her first feed around 10pm.

Can someone help you?

If your time in the office makes money, potentially it is a bad business decision for you to clean your bathrooms, vacuum, mop and pack away clothes each week.

What do I mean by this? Say if you spend 4 hours marketing your business, that could bring in thousands of dollars. But if you spend 4 hours doing a deep clean, that is time you have lost and you might have saved less than $150.

If you are loosing potential opportunities to build your business because you are doing tasks that anyone can do. You are probably better off hiring someone to come and help. A lot of people see a helper as lavish, but it is really the basics of economics. Time is money after all, use your time and skills for the things that will get your family ahead.

Also, remember there are aupairs, and high school and college students. Ask around in your network to see who knows somebody looking for a few extra hours of work right now.

Just listen here supermum, keep in mind that you can’t be expected to do it all!

These are unprecedented times and many in the previous generations of mums have not had to navigate waters like these. They too worked hard, but their job descriptions were different to yours. Give yourself permission to not be able to get it all done – you don’t have to be ultimate housewife as well as business owner.

I know your hubby is doing superdad things and also working his butt off. Ask for help. Whether it’s asking your spouse to take turns working and watching the kids or if it includes asking a coworker to help with a project. It’s okay to ask for help when you need it.

It’s important in times like this to give your health and well-being priority. So, remember to ask for help and give yourself grace if you can’t get everything done all the time.

Set up a routine

Ok now you are a pro. You have assessed your situation. Worked out what opportunities you can take, and now it is time to set this plan in motion.

The number one tip for mums everywhere is to get a schedule in action!

Draw up your schedule for the week. Split it into days if needed. Laminate each sheet and put it on your fridge. COMMIT TO IT…

At the end of each day get a white board marker and tick it off last minute before you head to bed. At the end of the week, you can have the satisfaction of seeing all your daily schedule crossed off.

When it is time to play, give your toddler all your attention

The thing that most working mums have is ‘mum guilt’. This is guilt that they are not spending more time with their kids, or guilt they are not spending enough time on their business.

I am a big advocate of quality over quantity. If you spend all day with your kids but they are sitting in front of the TV – that’s not too good…

So when it is time to play, really get into it! They are more likely to let you go and do work if they feel secure and have got the love they have craved. Get outside, play games, show them how to do jobs, get them growing a garden. You are setting them up for success in their lives as they are learning early about productivity and responsibility.

BUT always remember, they will only be little once! No matter your business, how much you earn, just enjoy your time with your babies. Yes, it is hard, and some days they are absolute mongrels. But it is so special at the same time.

So remember to commit to the time you have set. No more no less. This is the best path to no regrets and ultimate success in working at home with a toddler.

Are you now confident in working from home with a toddler?

If you are still asking, how do I keep my kids busy while working from home, then I must’ve failed! Hopefully this has given you a solid framework for working at home with a toddler!

Now, there is no sugar coating it, working from home with a toddler can be challenging even in the best of times. But armed with a plan and developing schedules and routines, you too will succeed.

As the saying goes, a few minutes to plan will save you hours in the long run. So, start now… don’t put it off.

As your children become older, the distractions can change a bit. You might not be personally feeding them, but you might be balancing helping them with their school work. The older they are, the more likely you can include them in your plan and ask for quiet focus time. Take them on as your partner in this new adventure, and let them help guide the process.

I won’t promise it’ll be easy, but with some extra effort you can have your cake and eat it too. All while being thankful everyone is healthy and you are doing the best for you and your family.

For more helpful information, check out our other articles on our blog today.

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