How to Keep Little Ones Busy When You Have to Work

School is looming ahead for most of us, and for many of us it doesn’t look the same as it ever has.  The balance of working from home, leading virtual schooling or a new home school, and tending to younger children is a problem many of us have not faced on such a long-term basis before.

How do we work from home, help our school aged kids with their virtual schooling, and tend to little ones who want our attention or want to be part of what’s going on?

 This has typically been an issue for traditional home-schoolers, but with all the work and school variations parents are facing, it has become a question for many more families.  

While there is no one solution that will work for every family or for every child, there are plenty of ideas available so that you do not have to come up with ideas on your own or reinvent something that is already out there.

So let’s dig in!

Meeting attention needs

Parents of toddlers and preschoolers know that when you sit down to work alone to help your other children, the little ones immediately need you.  Telling them to go play rarely works for long.  You understand their need, but you are too overwhelmed to meet it at the moment, and things get ugly for you both.

I found that if I let my daughter sit on my lap while I worked with my other kids, she would (mostly) sit sweetly with me and let me continue.  After a little while, she would hop down and go play for quite a while without needing me again. 

So try letting a little one sit on your lap, set the expectation that he is welcome to sit with you, but he has to let you work.  Add a quick snuggle or a hug when you can, and try to put up with typing with your arms around him. The general discomfort for a little while just might fill his little attention tank so that he will be content to go entertain himself for a longer period of time.

Find ways to include them

Sometimes, all it takes is a coloring page and a seat at the table with everyone else.  We have some free coloring pages to print here.

Almost any activity your child enjoys can be done at the table, or wherever you or your kids are working, instead of in a different area.  She could play with play-do, stickers, activity books, blocks, action figures or dolls, puzzles, building sets, Legos, food toys, or anything else she enjoys.  A seat at the table can make a big difference.

A few signs that go along with these activities are draw, build, and play.

If your little one is interested in what any of the rest of you are doing, see if you can find a way to allow them to do it also, or in their own way.  If a sibling is working on math, maybe your littler child can play with number magnets.  This concept can play out a million different ways and depends on your knowledge of your child.  It takes a little more thinking ahead, but we have a couple of weeks still, so get thinking!

You can even teach this concept using the sign for together.  We get to do this together!

Provide things for them to do

Make sure your youngest kids have plenty to do.  Their attention spans are short.

This could also look different ways depending on you and your child.  You could prepare fun or educational busy boxes for them to rotate through. There are many preschool busy box/bag ideas available on the internet. 

Or you could have three or four of their toys or sets set out to specifically play with that morning. Let your child choose which toys, or maybe it’s better if you choose.   Here’s another chance to practice signing! You can teach the signs for blocks, doll, train, or any of the toy signs we have here in our dictionary.

Another child might be great at picking out what to play with herself, so once she’s ready to play, she’ll be fine.  

You have options!

Don’t feel stuck, and don’t give up.  If something doesn’t work after trying for a few days, try something else.  Some days will still be hard, but hopefully some of these tips will help you have fewer of those hard days.

Of course, watching a fun and educational MySigningTime video can keep your kids busy too.  A digital subscription to MySigningTime can be found here. You get a 14-day free trial, and it can be watched from anywhere!

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