How to Work from Home with Kids Around

© Provided by Working Mother   Stressed out mom working while kid plays

By Meredith Bodgas, Working Mother

Schools and daycares are starting to close in neighborhoods across the country because of COVID-19 diagnoses. Even if your whole area is on lockdown, it doesn’t mean your responsibilities will change if you’re expected to work from home with kids. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to keep children happily occupied (and even learning) while you work at home during the coronavirus epidemic.

1. Free Virtual Learning Opportunities

If your school district is closed but hasn't provided virtual learning, check out this Google sheet: It's a list of top online educational services offering free access to their materials. A note: They each have different instructions for logging in, including requiring school officials to make the request.

2. Structuring the Day

Elementary school art teacher Alexandra Etscovitz, who also runs Art4YourChild in Needham, Massachusetts (follow her on Instagram @artiselementary), offers this realistic schedule that accounts for kids’ needs—and wants.

© Provided by Working Mother   These ideas break up your kids' day. By Alexandra Etscovitz

3. Give Them Visual Cues About Your Availability

Got a work call? Saying, “I’ll be off in half an hour,” doesn’t mean much to a 4-year-old. If you have one of those color-coded clocks, intended for letting a little one know not to get out of bed before a human hour, repurpose it to let them know when you’ll be able to give them your undivided attention. No special clock? Timers and digital clocks (with instructions such as "when this number 2 becomes a 3") can help.

4. Minimize the Chances They’ll Interrupt You

One way to do this: Consider prepping snacks and lunch for little hands ahead of the work day and keeping those meals accessible so kids can help themselves while you work from home. Give your child (age 3+) clear instructions, say, whenever they’re hungry, they can take one item from the lowest fridge shelf. They must shut the fridge door behind them and eat their snack at the table. Here’s the gold standard:

The same accessibility rule goes for activities. If they can play on a tablet, make sure it’s charged and within reach, and they are well-versed in operating it themselves. Put out toys, crafts and other playtime supplies that don’t require adult assembly at their eye level. Here are some ideas:
Nonscreen Activities for Kids at Home

Even in these desperate days, we know we can’t just leave Netflix running for hours (well, at least not every day we’re working from home with kids). Once they get bored of all the toys they finally have tons of time to play with, try these other options that don’t involve much effort on your part.

Nonscreen Activities for Kids at Home

Even in these desperate days, we know we can’t just leave Netflix running for hours (well, at least not every day we’re working from home with kids). Once they get bored of all the toys they finally have tons of time to play with, try these other options that don’t involve much effort on your part.

1. Save some boxes for fort building! Have your child gather those as well as the typical fort materials—blankets, pillows and chairs—and set up camp. Give them books and a flashlight so they can “read” inside their safe space.

2. Speaking of blankets and pillows, corral all of them into a single spot on a carpeted (or rug-covered) floor in your home, away from furniture and walls. Encourage your kids to jump into them...over and over. They can do belly flops, cannonballs, or even forward rolls. Helmets and knee pads are welcome.

3. Dump out your plastic bowls, strainers, ice cube trays, spoons and spatulas and encourage your kid to stack, sort, and even bang (if you can still work through the noise). If you’re a master of concentration, break out the metal pots and pans too.

4. Got some old Working Mother magazines lying around? We give your kids permission to cut them up with safety scissors and glue their favorite pictures onto construction paper. For older kids, give them a list of items to find in each issue and cut out.

5. If you have a long hallway, create an "obstacle course" using pillows, chairs, stools or whatever you can round up. This works especially well if you have more than one kid—they can compete to see who can finish the course faster.

6. Make a list—with simple drawings for the not-yet-reading folks—of items in your home that your child should go hunting for. That should buy you at least half an hour.

7. Put Alexa or Google Home to use: Your child can ask them to tell jokes, stories and more. Here are more things Google Home can do. And Alexa:

8. Fill zip-top bags with uncooked beans, rice or sand, for little kids to squish.

9. If you’re lucky enough to have bubble wrap on hand, tape some to the floor and tell your kids to jump around until every last bubble has popped. Not recommended for during conference calls.

10. Round up all the balls (pun intended) and have your kids roll them toward different (unbreakable) things to knock down—empty cereal boxes, water bottles and the like. When bowling gets old, tell your children to race two balls at a time toward a wall or door; keep having the balls compete to see which one is the fastest. Encourage them to crown a winner and create a congratulatory card for the triumphant ball.

11. Some dry-erase markers work on windows. Test to see if yours can serve as a canvas—and, more importantly, if a rag wipes away the color. If so, let your kids go to town on the windows and show you their creations during a call you don’t need to contribute too. Then, time them to see how quickly they can make all their artwork disappear.

12. Jennifer Garner (well, her nanny) also has a great idea.

13. So do we! And these work if your kids are under the weather.

Screentime Ideas for Kids at Home

Ages 2 to 5 Even toddlers tire of Blippi. Here are some slightly more under-the-radar options to break out when you’re trying to work from home with kids.

Mighty Machines, YouTube If you’re not already familiar with this 1990’s Canadian show, then clearly you haven’t gone very deep into a “kids trucks” playlist on YouTube. But you’ll be glad you’ve found it now. There are 36 episodes, about a half-hour long each, in which all kinds of real trucks, from fire engines to tow trucks to sanitation trucks, get voiced by offscreen actors and take kids through a regular day for them. Good luck getting the catchy, gritty theme song out of your head.

SciShow Kids, YouTube Even though these videos are short—about three to five minutes each—there are four years’ worth of mini science lessons, many on tough-to-answer questions little kids have, such as why do we get dizzy and where did the moon come from. They’re part animated and all hosted by engaging, enthusiastic mom Jessi Knudsen Castaneda. If you overhear it, you’ll probably find yourself learning some new things too.

Khan Academy Kids, available for iPhone, iPad, GooglePlay and Amazon Fire If the name Khan Academy rings a bell, it’s because they’ve had K-12 educational materials for years. But they recently launched a learning program for the pre-K and kindergarten set. Just like its forerunner, the interactive and truly enjoyable learning materials are all free.

Ages 5 to 8 Elementary-school age kids might have online lessons with their teachers, but there’s still that afterschool time to fill. Try these videos and apps.

GoNoodle Family Your kids might already know the movement and mindfulness app from school (many educators use it across the country). Even if you don’t have a login through their class, you can use it at home. It’s like an especially little kid-appropriate Dance, Dance Revolution with easy-to-follow themed moves set to songs children love—or will grow to love. But there are also breathing and yoga exercises that encourage calm, something you’ll all need after many days inside.

Mr. DeMaio, YouTube New Jersey teacher Michael DeMaio has a knack for explaining complicated concepts in a laugh-out-loud funny manner. He mixes live-action with animation, a la Roger Rabbit—and seamlessly works in 80’s and 90’s references millennial parents enjoy. There’s math, history and lots of science in his 70 videos, which range from a couple minutes long to about as long as a standard TV episode.

Get more media suggestions:, the nonprofit dedicated to telling parents and educators what they need to know about media kids might consume, has lists of the best movies, TV shows, books, apps, websites, music and more for children. You can filter by age group and media type and, for movies and shows, browse by streaming service.

See more at: Working Mother



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How to Work from Home with Kids Around
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