As I’m writing this, the world has done a pivot. Because of the Coronavirus, many parents are now forced to work from home, while their kids are home too. Older kids can be guided, but what about toddlers? I had to do quite a bit of research and ask some work from home legends, and current work from home parents how they get work done with kids who are also home.
This is the BEST EVER Work From Home List of Toddler activities So that you can Get Stuff Done. The list is divided up by age and lists the estimated work time (how long your child will probably focus and free you up to work). Enjoy!!!
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Activities For 2 Year Olds
So, your little one is 2 years old and you need to come up with home activities to keep them engaged (for some much-needed work time!).
Remember to keep them close to you when setting them up for individual play, as some of these activities might contain small parts, be messy, or create other hazards. Use your discretion!
Bubble Wrap Hammering
Got some bubble wrap, heavy-duty tape, and a wooden crab mallet (or a play hammer might work)?
Estimated work time: 10 minutes
Kinetic Sand Box Play
Get a storage container-like this one, put in a few pounds of the “sand” with various toys (trucks, dolls, dishes, a shark with an open mouth to “feed” sand, dinosaurs that leave cool dino-prints, etc.).
To get even more time, when boredom starts to set in, wse your Play Doh toys! They can make sand bricks, steam rolling the sand flat, and stamping all kinds of things into the sand.
Hint: you’ll want to put the container on a floor that can be easily swept up afterwards, and actually sweep the floor ahead of time. That way, when you sweep up the kinetic sand during clean-up, you can add it back in with the other sand because it won’t be filled with dirt.
Estimated work time: 15-minute to 25-minutes.
Dinosaur/Dolly Foot Prints
Break out the play doh, plus a few waterproof toys with feet ( I’ll bet you already have some at home!). Let your 2-year old make foot prints in the play doh, then flatten them out, over, and over, and over again.
Estimated work time: 5-10 minutes.
Bust out that storage container again, put it on the kitchen floor, and blend yourself up some foam (just using water and dish soap).
Let your child bring various toys into the container, as you merrily work from the breakfast counter or kitchen table (for me, this activity lasted 30 minutes! Golden opportunity, right there).
Estimated work time: 25-30 minutes (sometimes, 45!).
It’s no secret – and I’m sure you’ve realized this by now, as well – that little kids LOVE real, actual objects more than they love toys. So this has to be put in a special place and it is only brought out as a treat (when you need time). The less you use it, the more time the will spend playing with it.
Things like kitchen whisks, pipe cleaners, set of spare (old) keys, and lots of other things will keep your toddler MUCH more fascinated than toys.
Keep a basket and periodically throw some objects in there. When you need some work time, tell your child that she gets to play with the “Discovery Basket” (think: eyes lighting up, as she knows the treasures she’s about to get). Whip it out near you, and you both get to work. Make sure to put it up and out of sight for the next time they are “allowed” to play with it.
- Objects (use your discretion):
- Old (disinfected) fish tank net
- Cardboard paper towel/toilet paper roll
- Old set of keys (cleaned) + keyring that we no longer use
- Kitchen whisk
- Old (disinfected) remote control that no longer works
Estimated work time: 25-45 minutes (depending on how often you bring this out – keep it for only special work occasions and you might get closer to the 45-minute mark).
Water Play (Indoor AND Outdoor)
Kids love water play. Yes, it can get messy. But it’s also one of the few things that will keep them merrily engaged in a non-screen activity without you having to be doing it with them.
A few favorite water play ideas are:
Car Wash on the Coffee Table: Lay out a bath towel, fill a small metal bowl with some water, and toss a few waterproof toys or unbreakable items. Give him an old toothbrush. Bonus – sometimes add in a few pieces of ice. There’s 20 minutes, right there!
Ice Play: Take the trusty plastic container from before and put it on the kitchen floor. Put a kitchen rug down that your child can sit on, then add in some water, ice, a drainer, and a few kitchen tools. Viola! Happy activity! When boredom starts to settle in add in a few drops of food color to reset the clock!
Estimated work time = You can reasonably get between 15-35 minutes of work time with this.
Washable Paint in the Bathtub: A time or two, I’ve taken my laptop into the bathroom, sat on the toilet (seat down, I assure you), and got some work done. This was possible because I would get my kid naked like he was taking a bath, squirt a few different puddles of washable paints in the bath tub, and let him paint the bath tub + walls. Washes clean, and afterwards, I simply give him a bath!
Estimated work time = 20 minutes.
Water Painting: This one is so simple, I nearly slapped myself over the head as to why I didn’t think of it earlier. Just give your toddler a clean paint brush, and a bucket or bowl of water. Let him “paint” the outdoor patio, sidewalk, side of house – whatever. Doesn’t really matter, as it dries quickly! Estimated work time = 15-20 minutes.
Scrub the Water Table: Oddly enough, if you hand your little guy an old toothbrush and perhaps a scrub brush, put some water in their water table, and a squirt of soap…they might just spend 10 minutes scrubbing it clean for you. While smiling. We live in Houston, so ours grows algae pretty quickly. This was such a fun activity for my son!
Estimated work time = 5-10 minutes.
Home Activities for 3-Year-Olds
From the experts parents, what entertains a 2 year old may not work for a 3-year-old so we have a few more sophisticated tips.
Tape Roll Play
Got some duct tape, masking tape, and/or electrical tape at home? Let your little guy roll them across the floor. He might even chase it and get a great workout!
Estimated work time: 10-15 minutes.
Kid’s Song Play
You need a small basket of musical instruments – A triangle, a jingle bell, a rain stick, etc. You probably have all of these already, but here are a few suggestions.
Pick your child’s favorite song medley (the longer the better) and they are part of the band.
Estimated work time: 20-25 minutes.
Sticker Face Pads
I call this activity Sticker Faces, and my expert work from home warriors say that kids from 2-3 years are merrily engaged.
Estimated work time: 20 minutes or more.
Few toys will actually will entertain a toddler all by themselves. Because they engagement. This one “consistently worked” from my experts.
I hope I’ve shown you some fantastic (and cheap) solutions for how to keep toddler busy while working from home. With some prep work, a lot of patience, and time, you will get your work done.
The cause of this extra time with your little one may not be ideal, but cherish each momemnt that you have together. They go by fast.
Michelle Price- Johnson
Founder, Success Lab HQ
Michelle is a sought after broadcast consultant who made the pivot from helping build companies by buliding people, to helping build better lives by building people. michellepricejohnson.com