Working From Home With a Toddler

toddler girl playing with wooden toys

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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 keeping you busy.

The first thing that a work-at-home parent with a toddler or two-year-old needs to do is to recognize that some child care may be needed. How much and what kind really may depend on her job and activity level of her child(ren). 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.

How to Work From Home With a Toddler in Tow

In general, work-at-home parents should expect that kids learn to entertain themselves with independent play activities 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 afterward.

For toddlers—and to some degree preschoolers—that 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.

Work Within the Rhythm of a Toddler’s Day

Two basic facts rule a day in the life of a toddler: Toddlers have short attention 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 nap time, 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 will entertain your child so you can have the next one ready
  • How long your child can play alone happily
  • What makes your child fall peacefully into nap time and versus what makes for a fussy send-off
  • When your child usually gets hungry and how she reacts to indicate hunger

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 childcare or when your child is napping. But remember that toddlers' schedules and nap time will change, so be prepared to be flexible.

Get more tips for working from home with a toddler.

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