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How to Keep a Toddler Busy (So You Can Get Stuff Done)

Working at Home With a Toddler--Not Easy But Still Possible

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Toddler With Toys Kids Activities
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Toddlers and two-year-olds are naturally busy people, so this doesn’t seem like it should be that hard, right? Ha! Toddlers are busy all right--busy pulling everything out of your cabinets, busy undoing all your safety locks. In short, they are busy at keeping you busy.

So the first thing that a work-at-home mom with a toddler or two-year-old needs to do is to recognize that she may need some child care. How much and what kind really may depend on her job and activity level of her child(ren). (See this article How Much Child Care to help you determine if or how much child care you need to do your work-at-home job.)

That said, even parents of toddlers should be able to accomplish some things without additional childcare. You just have to accept that you can only work in short bursts--a bit like a toddler.

In general, my work-at-home mom philosophy is that kids need to be able to entertain themselves with independent play because learning to find your own fun is a life skill that will serve them into adulthood. In older kids, this means coming up with their own ideas for things to do, preparing for their own fun and cleaning up afterwards.

For toddlers--and to some degree preschoolers--this is too tall an order. (Even in older kids, how much parents must get involved varies depending on age.)

However, toddlerhood is the time to sow the seeds of independent play.

Create a Safe, Stimulating Space

Taking the time to create a secure space for your toddler or twos is the first step on your toddler’s road to independent play. If the area is not safe, then a parent must hover. And if a parent is hovering, the child will expect attention.

This is not to say that you should simply plop your child into the safety of play yard and go to work. The safe area has to be stimulating as well. If you have a laptop, you can work where your child’s safe zone is. If not, you will have to create a safe area in your home office by childproofing your office and rotating a stash of toys in the home office.

Also, have everything you need nearby--diaper changing supplies, snacks, maybe an extra set of clothes. The less time spent looking for what you need, the more time to accomplish your goals.

Working Within the Rhythm of a Toddler’s Day

Two basic facts rule a day in the life of a toddler: Toddlers have short attentions spans, and toddlers get tired easily.

A typical toddler day is spent going from one activity or toy to the next, eating and napping. After naptime, it starts all over again. The key is to know your child’s routine and plan accordingly. Though life is always changing with little ones, in general, you’ll want to think about:

  • how long a particular activity for your child will entertain her, so you can have the next one ready;
  • how long your child can play alone happily before he needs you to get down and play too;
  • what makes your child fall peacefully into naptime and what makes for a fussy send-off into dream time;
  • when does your child usually get hungry and how does he react when he is.

The work you plan to do while your child is awake should be something that can be easily interrupted. Save conference calls or work that takes a lot of concentration for when you have child care or when your child is napping. But remember that toddlers' schedules and nap time will change, so be prepared and keep in mind these WAHM Nap Time Dos and Don’ts.

Read on to find out what types of activities will keep your little one busy and learning how to play independently.

Next: Toddler Things To Do

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