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March 19, 2020
Friends, we are going through some crazy, unprecedented times and we are all trying to figure out how to navigate the changing landscape of our surroundings. Many people are now working from home for the first time in their life. If anybody knows a little bit about this it’s me. I just celebrated 6 years in business (yay me) and for 4 of those years I worked full time with my kids at home. Being productive with kids at home is tough and changes drastically depending on the age of your kiddos.
To give you an idea of my perspective, my children are almost 3 and 6 so these tips are for the parents of younger children who are now out of kindergarten and daycare.
We are fortunate enough to have a dog who refuses to do the daily deed in our yard. I think it’s his way of tricking us into getting out for two walks per day. Well fresh air is good for us all so get the kids ready and get them out of the house. Even a 15-minute walk will make them better behaved and that is the ultimate goal for survival when working from home with kids. It is impossible to rush them so if you ARE in a rush that day, bring the wagon or let them ride their bikes so that you can walk at your own pace.
I have an office with all of my packing materials, tools, machinery, printers, computers, and supplies. However, I understand that working from home may be new to you so you may not have a designated office space. So I highly recommend that you set your computer up somewhere that is relatively central so that you can keep an eye on what is going on with the kids. If your kids are like mine, they love to pound on the kids and slam the mouse down and touch your computer and spread your papers all over the place and take your pens and press buttons on printers and stick your labels on stuff and I could go on and on. So, I suggest putting your computer up high where your kids can’t reach it. If your kids are still small then the best place for that would be the kitchen counter. Another suggestion: do not, I repeat, DO NOT leave a stool or chair near your computer. If you have a climbing two year old, they will most definitely jump up there once you have your back turned and start pounding away on the keyboard in an effort to “help” mommy. When you do step away from the computer, move the keyboard and mouse to the back of the counter so wandering fingers can’t reach them.
It would also be ideal if you can set up a work space for your littles right next to you. Every summer when my daughter is off, she has a designated desk in my office. In those drawers there is a variety of markers, stamps, paper punches, paper, scissors, glue, tape, bingo dabbers and of course, a package of wipes for quick clean up.
You will find that when you work from home you (and the kids) will snack a lot. Food prepping helps, you can even make their lunch as if they are going to school or daycare. That way if you are in the middle of something important and they are hungry, they can grab their lunch bag and snack away. Saving the treats for later in the day can really help with bribery if you need to resort to that. Don’t worry, we have all done it so bribe away! Fill their sippy cups with their favorite drinks and put them in the fridge or somewhere that they can reach them. This is good for a couple of reasons. Firstly, when they ask you for a drink you can tell them exactly where it is. Secondly, there will be no major spills going on in the kitchen while you’re trying to work because they don’t have to get it themselves.
If you still have a baby monitor in the house, now is the time to use it. Set it up in the playroom, basement or wherever it is that they are hanging out so that you can ensure they are being safe. Put it up high if you can so that they don’t play with it, throw it or knock it over.
If they are pre-scheduled you are lucky! That means you can pre-plan and that’s exactly what you should do. Take 10 or 15 minutes before the call and pay attention to your kids. Play with them, entertain them, and feed them. Always make sure they have a full belly and a drink before the call. Depending on the age of your children this is the perfect time to put on their favorite show and don’t feel guilty about it. If they are too young to sit still and watch a show, bring out a bin of quiet toys they haven’t seen in a while and set them up close to you so you can be sure they are safe. If you have multiple kids, this will be the perfect time for them to start fighting, if you have worked from home before you know this is true. So give one of them the ipad for their favorite show and give the other one the TV. Establish this well before the call so they know who is getting what. Explain to them that Mommy (or Daddy) needs a few minutes so your questions and requests will have to wait. Last of all – good luck!
You may not like this one but when you have toddlers at home, we all know it is nearly impossible to get much done during the day. Sometimes when I try to do a 15-minute task during the day it can take 45 minutes to an hour. And I find that if I am pulled away from what I am doing I forget what I was doing and I start working on something else. Before you know it, you have 15 different tasks on the going and nothing has been accomplished. So if you have a task that requires your undivided attention, the best time to work is at night or very early in the morning. I love being able to put my undivided attention into my work as it is the most efficient use of time and it will ease your stress during the day. Now I understand some employers are not flexible with your working hours so this will only apply to those of us who have flex hours.
Try to remember that your kids adore you (if they are still young). Typically when they start acting out and driving you crazy they really just want your attention. So as simple as it sounds, stop and give them a few minutes of undivided attention. Play hide and seek, get outside for a few minutes, snuggle, read a book, give them a snack, help build a fort, the ideas are endless.
With everyone being at home right now there will be a lot of messes happening everywhere throughout the house. Now is a good time to brainwash your kids into thinking that cleaning is fun, I mean get your kids to help with cleaning. Kids are very creative and love to use their imaginations so lets combine the two. A fellow WAHM (work at home mamma) suggests combining clean up duties with imaginative play. Pretend that they are the garbage man (or lady) and have them go around and gather all of the garbage. Then pretend that they work in a restaurant and have them go and gather all of the dishes. If you trust that your kids won't start smashing stuff with the broom or mop, let them have a go. They can pretend to be the maintenance people in their school or daycare facility. The object of the game is to get them involved and help make them feel helpful.
There is one activity that we know our kids will get lost in and you need to save that activity for a time when you are desperate. We have a bean bin that is full of coloured beans that I purchased at our local bulk food store. I added some scoops, bowls, strainers, funnels, spoons, and other kitchen utensils that the kids love to play with. Now when I let the kids play with this, I have to accept that I will get half an hour of play that requires half an hour of clean up. This is a last resort activity when I really just need to get some things done. Here are a few ideas: let the kids have a bath (if they are old enough for independence), do the dishes, play with play dough, engage in a sensory bin, paint (if you are brave), play with kinetic sand, and the list goes on!
Gone are the days of working your 9 to 5 shift with evenings off. When the kids are home you have to be flexible. This is a tough routine because you never really get a break from anything. You are surrounded by your work, your chores, and your energetic kids. Take a deep breath and do what you can. Exercise, eat healthy, drink a lot of water, shower, brush your teeth, and get outside.
I love you guys and we will get through this craziness together. If you have any tips for other parents out there, drop them below.
Until next time!
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