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How to Keep the Kids Entertained Whilst You're Working
"How the fork* is that going to work?"
*fork being the polite way to describe how you might be feeling right now. I'm pretty sure you know exactly what I mean!
If you're a working parent, like me, you've probably asked yourself that question more than once, when thinking about how you're going to balance working from home and looking after the kids for the coming weeks (or months!).
It's going to be no easy task, that's for sure. But not impossible. With COVID-19 looking like it'll be disrupting life as we know it for the foreseeable future, we'll all have to find a way to muddle through.
One of the biggest fears I'm hearing from working parents is "how on earth am I going to make that virtual meeting/ conference / training session work with the kids about?". First of all, I want to manage your expectations - there'll be times when you feel super frustrated. A little stressed. The kids are going to play up at some point and you'll be lucky to avoid having to dive from behind the camera because your beloved little human has hold of something expensive and easily-breakable. Or in my case, they decided to pee on the floor!
This might be particularly weighing on your mind if you've got a team to support and you're trying to lead by example by being super productive and efficient working from home. If that's you - maybe you're the Founder, CTO, COO or Team Manager - let me tell you something...
You have a wonderful opportunity to shape the company's culture as you shift to a more remote (and family-friendly) way of working. Show your team how it's done - invite the kids to say "hi", dash off when you need to and laugh about when they pee on the floor, trash the living room or sneak extra biscuits knowing you're too busy to tell them off.
So let's get that clear - the kids are here to stay. Our little work buddies for at least a few weeks (more likely months).
Whilst it's important to recognise it'll be a tough juggling act, there are lots of things you can do to help keep your children entertained whilst you facilitate, or join, virtual meetings.
Here are ten things you can try to keep the kids distracted whilst you're on a conference or video call.
1. The Virtual Babysitter
Most kids these days own some kind of iPad or tablet. If not, it might be a good investment and something worth considering. Yes, I know, calling on the virtual babysitter isn't ideal, but these aren't ideal times.
Restricting your child's access to their iPad before your meeting can mean time on their tablet (or TV) is a treat for them and a great way to keep them distracted whilst you're busy.
YouTube Kids and Netflix Kids are great options to keep your younger kids entertained for a while.
2. Plan around Mealtimes
Breakfast and lunch times can be a great time to schedule meetings. Growing children are always hungry (or is it just mine?) and are usually quite content whilst they're refuelling.
When scheduling - or accepting - meeting requests, why not suggest meeting over virtual breakfast or lunch? That way the kids will be occupied whilst you talk business.
If that's not possible and you've got a mid-morning meeting at 11, why not bring forward lunchtime? Or - if you've got a call at 2, consider pushing your child's lunch back slightly. With slightly out of sink mealtimes, you'll probably grab 15 minutes to yourself whilst they snack in between meals.On that note, let's talk about snacks...
3. Snacks... Lots of them
I survived a 40 minute meeting earlier this week with no interruptions by creating a lunchbox full of snacks, each in individual containers. Snacks don't have to mean crisps or chocolate, you can get creative with lots of healthy snacks like build your own fruit salad or build a burger, using crackers, cheese and ham. If you're setting a mini-food challenge for your kids it can be helpful to let the people on your call know, so they're prepared if your child wants to come and show off their creation!
This can work well if your kids are 4+. Create a bingo challenge for them to complete whilst you're busy. Send your little ones round the house on a mission to find all the household items on their Bingo challenge, whilst you grab 15-20 minutes. You can download our printable Bingo Challenge here.
5. No Mess Colouring
Encourage your little artists to create their very own masterpiece using pens that won't ruin your dining table, should their drawings extend beyond the edges of the paper. Crayola Color Wonder pens are a good option, with ink only showing on their special paper. You can take a look at their pens on their website here.
6. Water Fun
If your home-office happens to be wherever you place your laptop, this option might work well. Let the kids play outside with water. Whether that's playing with a water table, or watering the plants for you, they're likely to have at least half an hour of fun - and you have 30 minutes to concentrate on your meeting.
It's probably a good idea to check your WiFi connection before venturing out into the garden and position yourself somewhere you can keep an eye on them too.
7. Garden Play
Kids love being in the garden and as they're stuck at home more than usual, they probably want to burn off some energy and get some fresh air. With the warmer months just round the corner, now might be a good time to invest in some garden fun - whether that's a trampoline, slide or climbing frame. You'll thank me for this later, as it'll provide much needed entertainment, even outside of your working day!
8. Lego Challenges
Try setting the kids a Lego challenge from the 30 day Lego Challenge, by freehomeschooldeals.com. From roller coasters to alien invasions, there's a challenge to keep even the most imaginative little person occupied. You can print the 30 day challenge here
9. Introduce the Kids
At some point your kids are going to say something inappropriate, need your urgent attention, or want to come and see what you're up to. Rather than hope for the best, let your children come and introduce themselves to your colleagues and spend a few minutes setting the expectation that you may need to dash off as short notice.
10. Set up shop next to them
Whether you invite your little one to come and set up next to you at the dining table, or you snuggle next to them whilst they watch their favourite film (or let's face it, Ryan's World on YouTube), having physical contact with them will give them comfort. A happy and relaxed child is less likely to have a meltdown whilst you're mid-conversation.
Whilst juggling parenting and work is far from ideal, try to embrace having the kids at home, make time for precious family moments and find a new way of working that works for the whole family. I'm sure one day we'll look back and miss these days...
We don't get any commission should you choose to purchase anything from any of the links in this blog. These are just personal recommendations from things we've tried.