I’ve been working from home since May 1st. Two and a half months down and I’ve finally realized that I’m never going to get a darn thing done with a three year old boy running this household. My design business has required at least five hours of work a day. That’s five hours of time spent sitting at my computer in the back office. Five hours spent away from my son’s favorite playing ground- our living room.
My day was spent running from the office to the living room for emergency behind-the-couch-superhero-extractions and then back to the office to open and read half an email only to be beckoned to the bathroom for wipe inspection and then back to the computer just to realize… I have to pee.
I couldn’t keep these circus tricks up and maintain my sanity for one more day.
No longer would I spend nine hours a day fighting between work and play. After talking it over with my husband, I decided we had to find some extra money in our super-tight budget for art supplies, games and projects specifically to keep my bored and bothering three year old busy. It was one simple trip to Walmart and we were set with craft supplies, coloring books, outdoor toys and a plan.
1. Routine – Set your work hours. Know when you wake up in the morning what times you will devote to playing and learning with your child and what hours you’re devoting to work or household management. My mornings are spent with small daily chores, spending time during breakfast with Mason and getting him involved in his favorite toys (currently the Zoob Jr connector set- hours of play with this thing!). I get myself ready for the day and by 10am I’m ready to work.
2. Quiet Play – Find a workspace for your toddler to sit quietly at that is near you. Surround the workspace with small craft projects or quiet games that keep your child interested. I don’t expect my son to sit there for more than 45 minutes, an hour if I’m lucky. We surround his project table with coloring book, sketch pads, construction paper and a box of crayons. There’s also his magnetic tangram game, Tangoes, and he loves to sort the cherries on the Hi-Ho Cherry-O game. Be careful with this one! It has small pieces and if you have any doubt that your toddler can’t resist to put one in his mouth or you are not watching him carefully then this isn’t the game for you. Don’t forget to put a stack of books within reach and rotate the selection daily! Mason loves to read me the stories. Avengers, anyone?
List of Activities for Quiet Play:
- Glue sticks or stickers
- Games (Memory, flash cards, Hi-Ho Cherry-O, Cootie, Pop the Pig, Tangrams)
Don’t expect to not be somewhat involved with your child during this time. I set his workspace right next to mine. My chair simply swivels to the left and I can color on his page with him or assist him with moving tangram piece. Sometimes conversation can become a bit repetitive with a three year old and I find it hard to concentrate on working. I just set my Spotify on to a station or cd we both approve of (hello, Disney music?) and conversation ceases pretty quickly.
3. Break Time – Make sure you take a break! You don’t go to work outside of the home for eight hours and not get a lunch break, so don’t expect me to sit back here in my hole without leaving the “work zone” for a breather. Lunch time is our time. I’d like to say we eat together at the table with a side of intelligent conversation, but my brain has been cooking all morning. I want cartoons. So, we dine at the train table in the center of our living room with a pb&j and juice while watching the latest episode of Pound Puppies or Transformers Rescue Bots. We’ve even been known to catch an episode of My Little Pony once or twice… don’t judge. Take a moment to get a treat, clean up what mess the morning made, play with the dogs (or whatever you have) and return to your work/play day with a refreshed brain.
4. Get Outside – Getting out of the house can perform miracles with a toddler suffering from boredom. If your summer is anything like mine, it’s about 105 degrees outside right around lunch time. Not always ideal for outdoor play. Keep it short. Keep it sweet. And make it worth it! A little Vitamin D never hurt anyone, right? Slap some sunscreen on that kiddo and fill up every water toy you own in your backyard for 30 minutes of intense wear-him-out-for-nap-time play. We’ve got the bath toys, the buckets, the water hose sprayer, the slide going into he pool, the water table… and, of course, the dog. Having a water loving dog always helps your entertainment level.
Don’t have the time or energy to get the H2O play set up? Find some shade on the driveway or front porch and hand your toddler a giant shoebox of CHALK. Ahhhhhh. Mason goes nuts. Show them how you play hopscotch. Nothing is more hilarious than your kid laughing at you trying to hop on these silly chalked squares and then they try it and just stumble across the path, “I did it, see!” You sure did, sweetie. Let your toddler trace around you on the pavement and then you do the same for him. Then color them in! We even like to have chalk rolling races down the driveway since ours is sloped.
Point is – wear them out! It only takes about 30 minutes and my son is pooped. And sweaty. ick.
5. Nap Time – Duh. They’re “busy” so you can get busy! If your three year old has already given up nap time -I refuse to believe it will happen- then I suggest official “quiet time.” We’ve done this before with a softly playing cd (Mason likes Dave Mathews Band), low lighting and a stack of books in bed. Throw in some stuffed animals, too. Set the kitchen timer or something your kiddo can hear and let them know that they need to stay quiet and play in their room until the beeper goes off. I’ve successfully gotten a solid hour of work with this method before (and one time even TWO hours, but I’m not bragging).
6. Super Special Projects - Nothing is working. Games and coloring, movie time, two hours in the sun and water and no nap and this kid is still whining for something to do. Pull out the big guns. These are the projects and supplies you only get down for emergency situations (or playdates, etc). Mason’s favorite at the moment is bubble blowing and manly-bracelet making.
Set your toddler up with pipe cleaners and beads or buttons. We use pretty small beads because my son has never been one to put things in his mouth. I know a few kiddos I wouldn’t place within 15 feet of beads this small. Use your own judgement. Buttons, large beads or even cheerios or fruit loops are also an option! Show your child how to string the beads on the pipe cleaner and push them all the way to the bottom. It took Mason a while to finally figure it all out, but once he made three or four…or ten, bracelets for everyone he knows he was a pro.
Another fun activity is bubble blowing. I did this when I was a kid at my grandmother’s house and loved it. It’s always the simple things in life. Big plastic bowl, water, straw and dish soap. You will probably want them to do this on a water resistant table cloth, too. Pour some dish soap into the water, don’t fill the bowl up but about 2/3 of the way, and show your child how to BLOW. They make bubbles that just grow and grow and grow. It’s so fun, really. And don’t worry if they take in a gulp or two of the water. I always did and I turned out just fine. *wink
Some other super special project ideas I’ve got brewing:
- Finger painting
- Chalk painting
- Shaving cream drawing in the bathroom
- Gluing pom poms down on construction paper
- Make a door hanger with stickers, pipe cleaners, markers and fun paper cut outs
- Mess Free Painting from The Hippie House
I’m sure we’ll be discovering many more fun activities to keep us occupied around the house this summer. It’s only half over for us! And mommy is getting her second wind! If you have any great suggestions on how to keep a toddler busy while you get some work done, please SHARE!
I’d love to know!