Estimated reading time: 11 minutes
Work-life balance is always a challenge, but how do you manage working from home with kids? It’s a common experience for many parents, trying to keep your children happy and occupied while you complete necessary work (or home) tasks.
Rather than plopping them in front of a television or tablet all day long, here are 38 activities that will help your children entertain themselves while you work.
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1. Play With Your Kids First
One of the most important things you can do is set aside a little time to play with your children before you begin your workday. It doesn’t need to be long or fancy, just give them a little undivided attention to fill up their emotional buckets.
If you make this a habit, your kids will feel more satisfied with your relationship, and you’ll likely be able to accomplish a little bit more after you’ve already spent some time together.
2. Do Some Heavy Work
If your kids are like mine, they’re probably bouncing off the walls while you’re trying to make phone calls or get some work accomplished. If you have active kiddos like me, engage them in some heavy work activities to get their central nervous systems calmed down.
Heavy work is anything requiring some physical exertion. For example, have them push a weighted laundry basket around on the floor. Or have one child pull another (safely) across the floor on a blanket. Put a few books in their backpacks for extra weight and have them go on a scavenger hunt around the house.
Anything that gets those muscles engaged and working will help them feel more centered. Hopefully, when the activity is done, they’ll be physically and mentally ready to engage in some calm activities while you work.
3. Get Some Chores Going
If the payout is worthwhile, your kids likely won’t mind helping with some chores. Sweeping, dusting, mopping, feeding animals – anything age-appropriate and with an appropriate reward will motivate them to work.
My kiddos love cold hard cash but you could come up with your own rewards such as a special dinner, prize box, or whatever motivates your child.
4. Create A Scavenger Hunt
Give your kids a list of things to find in your house or yard. It could be as simple as printing off a list from BuggyAndBuddy.com or something more complex that you create and hide around the house.
You could create a map, leave clues, or send the kids on a real treasure hunt with a hidden prize at the end. Keep it easy enough that they can complete it without any assistance from you.
5. Get Them On Zwift
Zwift is an online cycling and running video game platform which encourages physical fitness in real life. The best part is kids ages 5 to 16 get a free account! You can visit zwift.com for information on how to get started.
Check out this link for a simple set-up to get your kids off and running (or cycling, as the case may be).
6. Yoga For Kids
You don’t have to do too many google searches to find Yoga programs for kids. My own clan loves Cosmic Kids Yoga, which you can find on Youtube.
7. Make Collages
Dig up your odds and ends of art supplies, paper, pasta, nature items, and glue, and have your kids create themed collages. Check out this Pinterest board for inspiration.
8. Box Drawing
If you’re anything like us, the Amazon and grocery delivery boxes are beginning to pile up in the garage. Once the danger of contamination has passed, give each kiddo a box and some crayons and have them get to work.
Maybe they want to turn their box into a house, a car, a plane, or an animal. They can color inside and out!
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9. Angry Pigs IRL
If you have a pile of smaller boxes, stack them up Angry Birds style. Have the kids toss stuffed animals at the piles and see if they can knock them a down in one shot.
Half of the fun is building up interestingly shaped towers and bridges. Kids can decorate the boxes to look like bricks and pigs if they like. Or have older children create their own game using these directions.
I remember long ago having SSR, or Sustained Silent Reading, in school. The teacher would set a timer for thirty minutes and we would spend the time reading a real, paper book. Celebrate thirty minutes of silence with a sticker, a hug, or a cookie.
11. Teach Then To “Cook”
Kids love cooking, and you can teach them to be independent with some things even when they are young. For example, five-year-olds might be able to make their own peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, or an older child could make toast or even scrambled eggs.
Once you teach them how to make a meal (appropriate for their age and ability, of course) they can enjoy creating a fun lunch for the family while you work. I like to work at the kitchen counter anyway, so I can offer some supervision while the kids are spreading peanut butter for their sandwiches or using the microwave to heat up leftovers.
12. Sensory Bins
Fill some bins with interesting objects such as beans and lentils, pompoms, sand and dinosaurs, dried pasta in different shapes, or small toys. Give kids scoops, cups, and spoons and let them play and explore.
You might want to put down a blanket to make cleanup easy and always be careful of choking hazards.
13. Thankfulness Wall
Tape a large piece of paper or cardboard to an empty wall in your home. You could even use the backside of leftover wrapping paper. Have your children fill it up with words and drawings of things they are thankful for. Use crayons, markers, or even paper and tape.
What kids don’t love to play in the bath? Give them a little extra bath time fun while you sit nearby and work. Bubbles, cups, spoons, or other safe items can make bathtime extra special (and long). Just be sure to aim that Zoom meeting away from the little one in the tub.
15. Cut Up Old Magazines
Gather up your old catalogs, magazines, and junk mail and have kids cut out any pictures they enjoy. They can use them to play, create artwork, or just to practice their scissor skills.
16. Have Kids Clip Coupons
A friend of mine used to ‘pay’ her kids to cut coupons. They get practice picking out menu items and you get to save money.
17. Obstacle Course
Create your own indoor or outdoor obstacle course that your kids can enjoy while you work. See this video for inspiration:
18. Create A Special Box
Fill up a box with special toys or objects that your children can only have when you are doing something critical, such as when you need to make a conference call. You might put in unique toys, special puzzles, small activities, or even little treasures that they can explore.
When the time is done, put it away for the next time so it stays special. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
19. DIY Ball Pit
If you don’t have a ball pit, make one! A large cardboard box filled with pillows and stuffed animals is a great way to start. Or fill a small baby pool with whatever odds and ends of balls you have lying around the house.
20. Occupational Therapy Activities
Occupational therapists are geniuses at creating activities that are educational and good for development. You might try lacing games with shoelaces and cardboard with holes punched in it, pasta, Cheerios, Fruit Loops, or beads, depending on your child’s age.
Have children sort small objects by color into muffin tins or egg cartons. M&M’s are great motivators if they get to eat them afterward! Or set out different colored pieces of paper and have your child color match the paper with toys or stuffed animals in like colors.
21. Car And Ball Ramps
If balls or cars are the thing in your home, have your kids make ramps out of cardboard boxes, tubes, paper, and whatever else they can find. They can spend hours comparing which ramps, cars, or balls go faster and slower.
22. Play Store With Empty Cereal Boxes And Empty Gift Cards
My kids love to pretend they are going to Target on a shopping expedition. Set up a small pretend store with empty milk cartons, Tupperware, and cereal boxes, or have your kids design their own ‘foods.’ Give them some old, empty gift cards to use as credit cards and let their imagination run wild.
23. Get them Gardening
24. Write A Story
Ask your kids to write a story, journal about their day, or create a picture book of their experiences while at home. Each day, give them a writing prompt to keep them interested. Look here for a few ideas.
25. Watch Zoo Animals Live
Have kids make self-portraits of themselves. You’ll get a great insight into how they see themselves and their artistic abilities. Look here for directions on teaching children how to do it.
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27. Care For Pets
Teach your kids to help care for the family pets. Maybe they can feed and water the cat, walk the dog, or even give a well-behaved dog a bath in the yard. If you can’t have a housepet, you might consider easy mail order pets such as ant farms and sea monkeys.
28. Board Games
If your kids are a little older, you can stave off boredom with all kinds of board games. Monopoly, Sorry, Life, Battleship, and Candyland are great games to get you started.
If you have a bunch of old, broken games or odds and ends of pieces, have kids compile them and create their own unique game and then play it. Here’s how.
29. YouTube Learning
If you need to occupy little minds for a while and you’re out of ideas, try some educational table time with YouTube Learning.
30. Story Time from Space
Want your kids to read more? How about listening to a story from outer space?
31. Google Hangouts Or Zoom With Friends And Family
Tap into other friends or family members who are also trying to work from home. Have Grandma spend some time on Zoom reading to the kids, or let them try a Google Hangout so they can chat with their friends. Take turns with other parents being the supervisor, if needed.
32. Make Cards
If your kids are crafty, have them make cards for friends, family, First Responders, or residents of local nursing homes.
33. Virtual Babysitting
If you need more help at home and can’t have an in-person sitter, consider a virtual babysitter.
34. Tents and Forts
Haul out the blankets, sheets, and pillows and let kids create tents and forts in the living room or their bedrooms. They’ll have fun creating their special space. Give them a snack and an activity that they can have inside their fort to extend the playtime.
Playdough, homemade slime, or even a cookie sheet full of cornmeal and toy construction vehicles can make for fun play. If you’re worried about the mess, put down an old sheet to make cleanup easier. And if you don’t have any, don’t fret, you can find plenty of recipes to make your own, such as this one.
36. Find A New Hobby
Get your child interested in a new skill such as crocheting, journaling, sewing, cooking, doing origami, learning an instrument, or building intricate houses with Legos. Check out this list for a whole bunch of new ideas.
37. Building Contest With Macaroni And Marshmallows
Bigger kids can have a contest over who can build the highest tower out of spaghetti noodles and marshmallows. While this might be a little too challenging for small fingers, your older kids will get a kick out of creating tall towers.
38. Get Outside
If possible, work outside while your kids play in the yard. Let them swing, play in the sandbox, or play with buckets of water if it’s warm enough. Sit close enough to supervise fully but out of the way of water, flying sand, or runaway balls.
Hopefully, this list has given you some great ideas to keep your kids entertained. Some of them will require some effort on your part in the beginning, but once your child knows what to do, they’ll be entertained for hours while you get things done.
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