Welcome to the Zera Zoo! Just kidding, it is only zoo-like some days. Today, I am going to take you through my tried and tested methods of how I manage to work from home with 3 kids under the age of 4.
A little background before we get started. I am a Special Education and Inclusion Specialist by trade. When we decided to start our family, I left working in the classroom daily to pursue more flexible options that would allow me to raise my family! And what a blessing that was, finding my role here with Teacher Time To Go. But it also had me switching gears to work from home for the first time. A task and struggle that I know many families have transitioned to in the last few years for a multitude of reasons.
Before diving in, I want to preface by sharing that I by no means have this all figured out. Some days we survive around here rather than thrive. Some days go smoothly, and others are messy. Prime example, as I write this blog post to share with you all, I have a baby strapped to my chest in the carrier because she is teething and cranky and we’re potty training my 2.5 year old so I stop every so often to remind him when to use the bathroom.
Routines & Set Expectations
This has been BY FAR the most important and integral part of making work from home go smoothly. I have a touch base call each morning with the admin team. Generally, it is the same amount of time each day which helps with the predictability. My kids have learned that while I am on this call, the expectation is to find a quiet activity to do after they finish their breakfast. Most days, this looks like getting their breakfast ready to go and sitting them down at the table 2 minutes before my call starts, and turning on the tv. It’s predictable and something they would do relatively independently anyway. So while I sit across the room to keep an eye on them, I can also have an uninterrupted meeting. This goes for my other calls throughout the day while conducting interviews. The kids know that when I am on my phone or laptop, it’s time for a quiet activity until I am finished.
Open Ended Play
This is also a great way to get some quiet moments. However, sometimes it does take some creativity and getting them started. Open ended play can include anything from magnetic tiles, lego, building blocks, dress-up clothes, play-dough, sensory bins etc. Items that allow them to creatively play independently.
Some days this goes smoother than others and the time that they are occupied can vary. But they are relatively easy to set up and their imaginations run wild!
For younger kids, these are INCREDIBLE. Water play can include water mats, water painting books, or coloring books with special water pens. I can be on a phone call or working on my computer without panicking that the kids are writing all over the walls with crayons, paint, or markers! They make so many of these “cleaner” activities these days that require only water in a special pen to be creative! We also have a fold-out floor mat that they can use.
Melissa & Doug makes Water Wow books that reveal secret images when wet (they also dry and can be reused), and they now make similar painting pages that remind me of paint by numbers except only require water!
Books & Educational Technology
I write this one with love because there are just some days that I hand my kids the tablet for 15 minutes so that I can respond to emails without rewriting the same sentence over and over again. There are many options for educational apps and games that I have uploaded. The best part is that most devices have “Parent Control Features”. This allows me to give them the tablet knowing they can only access certain things and not go on shopping sprees while I am working. There are also creative apps like the Osmos series that allow kids to have a STEM experience while using technology.
When my kids have tv-time I use my own version of “Parent Control Features”. I turn on a show/channel and then take the remote with me! Usually, by the time I am done with a call, they aren’t even watching it anyway!
Another great alternative to screen time is NEW BOOKS. We rotate books in our house. So I always have a “stash” of books to bring out that are new and exciting for my children! These aren’t always brand new books. When I use book rotations they are often older books that they just forgot we owned or haven’t seen in a while!
*** Parents, know that you are doing an AMAZING job, no matter your circumstances. ***
I would LOVE to hear any other tips/tricks you have for successfully working from home, leave a comment below!
Be Silly. Be Honest. Be Kind. 💜