Due to the coronavirus many companies have implemented a “work from home” policy for at least a few weeks. With many schools and daycares closing, this leaves parents in an interesting predicament. Working from home with kids around is not easy! I’ve seen a bunch of information come out about how to work from home with older kids. There is also information about homeschooling. However, I think it’s different to have a young toddler who needs constant supervision and attention, and can’t do much independently yet.
For the past year I have worked from home one day a week while watching Grayson. This has become more and more challenging as he has gotten older. I am far from an expert on this topic but I do think I have learned some things that I wanted to share. I was going to just do an Instagram post but then I realized I had too much to say about this! So I hope that this can help even just a few people who are getting worried about working from home with a young toddler.
How to Work from Home with a Young Toddler
To put some of this in perspective, Grayson is currently 15 months old. He has just started to walk about a month ago but still mostly crawls. He is a decent sleeper and I’ve had him on a 2 nap a day schedule since he was 7 months old. I work as a project manager for a school system, so when working from home I am answering lots of E-mails, working on budgets, scheduling and coordinating training, and sometimes have calls. There are a variety of other things I do but it changes day to day.
My usual situation is different than what we are facing now. I can usually prioritize certain tasks on my days in the office and leave easier and more day to day things to do on the one day that I worked from home. So this will probably not solve all your problems, but hopefully it will give you some ideas!
Make a To-Do List and Prioritize
At the beginning of each week, write down some of the tasks you know you will need to do. Then decide which ones can be done when your toddler is around, which ones need your full focus, and which ones require complete silence. This can help you decide when to do what. Most likely other things will come up throughout the week so you will either need to address them as they come up or add them to your list.
When Grayson is awake I tend to work on things that require less focus, like responding to E-mails. As E-mails come through I can reply to many of them on my phone so I don’t need to be sitting in front of my laptop constantly. I stay logged in so I can jump on at any moment if something urgent comes up.
Getting things done during nap time is huge! I find that I can actually get a lot done during those times if I really focus. I try to have everything ready to go before he goes down for his nap so I soon as I walk out of his room I can jump into work. Like if I know I will want a cup of coffee while I work I make it before I put him down so it’s ready to go. Sometimes I even open some of my files to they are ready to go. I work on things that require lots of concentration like budgets or reports. I also try to schedule any calls I have during nap times when possible.
Early Mornings and Late Nights
Unfortunately, sometimes working from home with a young toddler means working before they wake up in the morning and after they go to bed at time. During these times I focus on tasks with a deadline. It keeps me motivated because I know they need to get done.
On my work from home days we aren’t going anywhere to do activities, but I try to get out for a short walk in the middle of the day. This is good for both of us! Of course I have my phone so I am available if anything comes up. Usually this is just about 20 minutes, shorter than an actual lunch break.
Alternate fun activities with independent play
I have struggled with coming up with ways to keep Grayson entertained while I work from home. What I have found works pretty well is if I play with him on something exciting for about 10 minutes, I can then step away for a few minutes and leave him playing on his own (in the same room as me of course) while I do some work. By giving him that intense attention for a little while it buys me a little time that I don’t need to be right next to him.
Going along with this, make sure whatever room you are in is baby-proofed! We actually move to different rooms throughout the day. My office is the least baby-friendly area which makes it hard because I will be looking at my computer and then realize he is pulling heavy books off the bookshelf. It’s easier to work from my family room where I don’t have to have my eyes on him at every moment.
Sometimes I give him the most random things to play with and they are a hit! I noticed he loves playing in piles of clothes when I do laundry, so one day I filled his infant bathtub which a bunch of clean clothes and that kept him busy for a awhile. I also try to rotate his toys or take out new ones when I really need to get things done.
If you need to be available for calls during the day I would recommend keeping a pair of headphones nearby. You don’t want to have to hold your phone in one hand while also wrangling a toddler (who is probably getting into trouble as you are on your call). Plan to use the mute button if you are on a conference call that doesn’t require you to be constantly talking.
Its also important that the people you work with understand your situation. Right now many parents have no other choice than to work from home with their kids. When scheduling things I try to plan calls during nap time. If that doesn’t work I might just give them a heads up that my son will be around in the background.
A Note on Screen-time
We actually haven’t done any screen time for Grayson (yet). This is totally up to you and your situation. As someone who has been working from home regularly I didn’t want to get into that habit. I also think its much different if you have more than one child. Right now we have gotten by without screen time but if I get desperate that could change! If this situation is temporary for you right now it could be something to consider.
Here is an example of what our day might look like. Trust me, this changes quite a bit for various reasons! But I do think it is good to have a routine. Especially because I can predict when his naps will be and that helps me with planning my work day.
I also wanted to share a few resources I found for toddler activities. I haven’t done any of these but if I am home for a few more weeks I might need to try something new!
Good luck, and just do the best you can!
Have you ever worked from home with a young toddler?
Any tips for keeping a young toddler entertained at home all day?