Wondering how you can grab an hour to yourself even when you have kids at home with you?
Whether you’re working from home or have chores you need to get done, there comes a time we all need to be able to focus on a task without children interrupting us.
I have worked from home for nearly 10 years now, and five of those have been with kids at home.
Some days they are at nursery or school for a few hours, but I’ve always had some amount of time where I’ve had to get on with work while they are in the house.
It’s not easy at all. You get in the zone of working on something as just as your concentration is right on task, you hear “mummy” and have to stop to attend to what your child wants.
Of course none of this is the kids’ fault! I love being able to work flexibly and spend more time with my children.
I can’t expect them to just do as they are told, seeing as they are aged three and five.
So I have to get a little creative with how I grab time to myself for work when the children are at home with me.
The good news is that even though it can be hit and miss, there are ways you can entertain the kids and get an hour to yourself.
Before we get started, it’s important to avoid messy play if you want to be able to really get into your work for an hour. Chances are if you leave a three year old with pots of paint, it will end up in places where you really didn’t want it to, like your brand new sofa.
Whether you are a work at home mama whose kids are off school sick or are trying to get stuff done around the house while your toddler is at home, these top tips will help you to grab an hour to yourself.
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1. Smartphone and tablet games
There are some brilliant educational and entertaining games available for download on your smartphone or tablet.
I find I can get an hour of quiet time if I sit my toddler down next to me and hand her my smartphone with either the Baby Shark or Peppa Pig apps.
These apps have multiple games and videos. You have to be able to work with the noise from the phone, unless you have headphones you can give your child to use.
However with the volume turned down this is a great way to distract your little one.
It’s worth having a good look at the free apps available to find something appropriate for your child’s age.
Be aware that some apps may have in-app purchasing or ask for a subscription commitment, so have your one-tap payment protected by a password to stop your child racking up any big bills.
2. Set a timer with a reward
Sometimes bribery is the only option!
However you need to get the bribery benefit to last for an entire hour.
The solution is to get a timer and set it for 60 minutes. Tell your kids that when the timer ends they can have a biscuit or other treat.
This works even better when you tell them they can have their choice of treat at the end of the 60 minutes.
Make sure the timer is out of their reach so they can’t tamper with it, you know how clever kids can be!
3. Have emergency activity books and stickers
A good activity book can definitely buy you an hour of time.
It needs to be something your child can do by themselves, otherwise it defeats the point of getting yourself some time.
Avoid books that are full of written description of what your child needs to do, unless they are old enough to cope with reading this to themselves.
If your child is a toddler or just started school, stick to books with stickers. I love the Melissa and Doug range of removable stickers. These come with several sheets of stickers and pages for you to stick them on, then your child can lift them back up and put them somewhere else.
This is great because it’s perfect for smaller kids as well as older ones.
4. Let them be bored
Now you might immediately think this just means they will be nagging at you for something to do. And they will, at first. But you will be amazed at what your child might come up with to do, all by themselves.
The key to getting this to work can be toy rotation. You put out a few different toys or puzzles in your child’s play space and just let them get on with what they want to do.
Change these out for different toys the next day to give you a better chance of distracting them.
Another great prop for sparking their imagination is a large cardboard box. They can make it into a den, a house or a spaceship.
My kids like to fill giant cardboard boxes with their toys and a blanket. You can also try giving them a torch to use inside the box. This can buy you even more than an hour in time for you.
5. Try Cosmic Kids Yoga
The Cosmic Kids Yoga videos on YouTube are great fun for kids. Each video only lasts about 10 minutes but you can line up a playlist of them and just let your kids enjoy it.
Each video has a theme such as space, the farm, Frozen and nursery rhymes. It keeps my two very interested plus it’s exercise for them.
Have a good look around online for something else child-friendly if you don’t think this will work for you. It needs to be something that can autoplay and has enough content to give you that vital hour.
6. Save your scrap
Don’t ditch toilet rolls, egg cartons and milk cartons. You can allow your kids to use sellotape and pens to decorate the card and stick it together.
If your child is a little older let them have craft scissors too. A good pile of junk can spark your child’s imagination.
7. Use the TV
Ditch the guilt right now. There is absolutely nothing wrong with parking your child in front of the television for an hour or two if you need to get stuff done.
Television for kids is full of educational content these days. Try to show your child a variety of TV shows and just don’t worry about it.
For me it’s all about balance. If your child is only ever watching television from the moment the wake up to the moment they go to bed, then you’ve got a problem.
If they are watching a few hours of TV while you work, as well as having an hour outside, spending time colouring and reading, then you’re striking a balance.
Do not stress about using the TV as a way to buy yourself some time.
8. Challenge them to a building project
This one works best with kids aged three and over. You set them a challenge to build a town using a set of toys.
This might be using Lego, dolls, blocks or Sylvanian Families. Tell your child to build a whole town and that you will come and see it in an hour.
Give them lots of props and space to work with. This works especially well with my kids and their Lego. It often helps to show them pictures of Lego buildings to get them inspired.
9. Have a shift system
If your child just cannot be distracted long enough to get you a full hour then you need to start thinking about other options to gain your time.
This could be getting up an hour early to get your important work done, or asking your other half to give you time at the weekends or when they have finished work.
Sometimes you have to get creative with where you can claw back time.
It’s definitely not easy to work from home with your kids around, and often the secret is to get really good at working in very small bitesize chunks.
But it is possible to get stuff done with the kids around once you find the right distractions that work for your little ones!
Good luck! x