Being home with kids is a huge blessing, but it can also be really hard to get anything done! Whether you’re a stay-at-home parent, a working parent, or a work-from-home parent, here are 7 suggestions for how to be productive with kids at home.
I love spending time with my kids! But sometimes I’ve got stuff that needs to get done and they seem to need something every five seconds, ruining my focus and making tasks that should take me 20 minutes take 3 hours. You feel me, mamas?
Whether you’re a work-from-home mom who needs to get work done or a stay-at-home mom who needs to get laundry, dishes, and cooking done (or you just need ten minutes to yourself for once–we’ve all been there), here are seven tips to help you step away from the kids for a bit to actually cross something off your to-do list:
When to Tackle the Most Important Tasks
Schedule whatever is most important, or the toughest to do with kids around, while the kids are automatically busy. During school, naps, extracurriculars, before they wake up in the morning, or after they go to bed at night. This might seem obvious, but I’ve found it’s actually not always instinctual.
Find those times of day when you’re kid free and block them off as sacred time to get done whatever is most important. This is key for how to be productive with kids!
And yes, some days what’s most important might be taking a nap yourself, getting in a workout, or sneaking in a few minutes of reading. Your self-care matters, mama! For more tips on self-care, check out Why Self-Care is Important and How to Create a Self-Care Plan.
Implement Quiet Time
Even if your kids aren’t napping anymore, you can still designate a block of time every day for quiet time. It might be a nightmare at first and take some training, but if you stick with it and are willing to go through some trial and error, your kids will learn to give you a block of time every day (or at least most days) to get things done. If you have nappers and non-nappers, try to schedule quiet time during the younger one’s naps so you have some kid-free time.
First, make sure they are fed beforehand. Then put them in a safe space, like their bedroom, set the rules, put on an audiobook or a favorite playlist, then pull out some toys for them to play with and tell them they aren’t allowed to leave the room until you come get them (or the clock has a 3 at the front or whatever method you choose). You can also use an Okay to Wake Clock or a Countdown Timer. My kids love their countdown timers, though they will only work for an hour at a time.
Now you’re free to go get something done, kid-free. Remember, this will take training! Start with a really short amount of time, like 10 minutes, and slowly add more time as they get used to it. At first, they’ll probably come out every 3.5 seconds and there will be a lot of crying. Gently but firmly stand your ground and, with time, it will get easier until you eventually have an hour or maybe even two to yourself!
Bring Out a Favorite Toy or Activity
Does your kid have a very favorite toy or activity? Something that they love more than anything else? If so, store this toy or activity elsewhere and only bring it out when you need some time to tackle an important task. This way, it’ll keep their attention longer so you can get stuff done.
You can mimic this concept by making activity boxes as well. This is a great option to use for quiet time! Just get a set of 5 small boxes or bins (one for Monday-Friday) and fill each one with a few toys, books, or activities. You can get some free printable activities on Pinterest, raid your current toy stash, and hit up the dollar store to fill in any gaps. I did this with 10 boxes (two weeks’ worth) and used them for months and my daughter never got bored!
Fun Snack and Coloring Sheets
If your kids are old enough to safely eat alone, give them an out the ordinary snack along with some colored pencils and coloring books or printable coloring sheets and let them have at it!
Seriously, coloring sheets bring HOURS of entertainment. I’m not sure what it is about snacks and coloring, but it keeps little hands and mouths busy for longer than you’d think!
For snack ideas, check out this post I did for Fun Cheap or Free: Out-of-the-Box After-School Snacks for Kids.
Camp Castle Playmats has my favorite coloring sheets! You can print them on regular paper or send them to a print shop and get them printed up to 36×48, which the kids think is SO COOL! Lay it out on your kitchen table or put it on the floor for hours of fun! Camp Castle has several options including a Rainbow Land, Under the Sea, a Dollhouse, a Racetrack, and various holiday themed options. Check them out HERE and use code COLORMYHAPPY for 10% off your order!
Give Them a Task
If you can’t be productive without your kids, try to be productive with your kids! Sometimes kids love to help. They want to be with Mom and think it’s fun to feel big!
Even if they don’t like it, it’s good to give them some responsibility. They learn so much from it! Yes, this takes more time and effort up front, but it pays off in the long run–both in saving you time and also in teaching them important life lessons and skills.
Admittedly, I’m not the best at this, but I’m working on it!
How to Make This Work
Any chores you typically do that your kids are old enough to learn how to do themselves? Start teaching, mama!
Do you have your own business? Is there a way you could involve your kids in helping you with it?
You can even give them an unnecessary task to keep their hands busy so you have a few minutes to cross something off your list. Like taking a baby wipe to door handles or baseboards–even if they don’t need to be cleaned. Or “organizing” business cards. Or drawing a picture to keep for you to hang on your wall to “motivate” you. Make them feel like they’re a part of it!
Or “hire” them to help you out and pay them a small amount of money to teach them to value work and saving money to buy something they want. Seriously, kids will do a lot for pennies and dimes!
I pay my older kiddo a small amount of money for every hour he “watches” his little sister so I can get some uninterrupted work done. I’m still at home, but when I pay him, he spends the hour doing whatever he can to keep her happy so he can earn his money! They get along so much better during these times and I can get some work done!
Get Your Kids on a Routine
Most kids thrive on routines. It helps them to always know what to expect–even if things change from time to time or the routines are very flexible. Having that little bit of stability is SO beneficial!
And it benefits you too. If you have a good routine in place, your kids start to work on autopilot. They know what’s coming next, so they do it without asking you every little question. “Is it snack time?” “Can I watch a show?” “I want to play with my friends.” “Do I have to do chores?” If you have a routine in place, they already know the answer, so they eventually stop asking.
If they’re not asking you 5 million questions a day, you’re not getting interrupted as often, are you’re able to be more productive with kids at home.
Check out 3 Easy Routines for Kids and Our Summer Routine to give you some ideas.
Give Them Pockets of Your Time
When kids feel like they’ve gotten attention from you, they’re more likely to play independently when it’s time for you to get something done.
So I like to work pockets of time in throughout the day to spend quality time connecting with my kids. These pockets of time become habits, so the kids know they’re coming and are willing to give me time and space to tackle laundry, dishes, and work in between.
Here are some examples:
- One-on-one time or a fun activity in the morning
- Reading a chapter book aloud with morning snack
- A dance party after lunch
- Game time during afternoon snack
- Books and cuddles before bed
Each of these things only takes 10 minutes or so and packs a big punch on feeling connected to those who matter most throughout the day.
Any time I want to spend more time with them or can tell one of my kids needs it, I’m free to add in even more time. But these built-in pockets of time make a world of difference!
How to Be Productive with Kids
It’s not always easy to be productive with kids at home, but it’s definitely possible. With a little work up front, you can create time to get done the things you need to get done, nourish your self-care, and still have a great relationship with your kids!
Creating that time for you also teaches them independence, creativity, the value of hard work, and that mommy is a person too (and then, in turn, when they become a parent, that it’s okay to have some time away from their kids too).
How do you get things done while your kids are home?
For more productivity tips, check out these posts: