Is your work getting interrupted every 5 seconds by a super busy, attention seeking toddler?
I know the feels.
It’s been tough learning to get things done with a little person, and for a long time, I had myself convinced it wasn’t even possible.
But finally, she and I figured some things out, and now I can get SO much done (most days).
In this post, I’m sharing with you my 13 tips for working from home with a toddler (so that you don’t have to pay for childcare).
Whether your office has transitioned you to a remote position, you’re trying to make a little extra cash from home with a side gig, or you even just want to be more productive around the house during the day, these tips will help you get more done with a toddler.
Can You Get Work Done Outside of Naptime?
Working from home with a toddler is REALLY challenging.
They still need a lot of attention and interaction, they interrupt your focus very frequently, and you can’t really shut yourself in a room alone because you can’t trust them not to mutilate themselves or your house.
But, if you ONLY work during nap time, you’re only able to put in a couple of hours, and that’s assuming they’ll go down for a nap that day at all.
For a long time, I had myself convinced that I just could not do any computer work while my toddler was awake.
That meant only working in the morning before she got up, during naptime, or after she went to bed.
And none of those times were guaranteed.
Finally, I got to the point that I really wanted to scale my efforts and get serious about monetizing my blog, as well as start a Youtube channel.
Two or three hours a day just was not going to cut it.
So I had to find a way to work while she was awake.
And I’ve been stunned by just how much I can do using the tips and strategies I’m sharing with you today.
Is Working From Home With a Toddler Even Practical?
I don’t make a habit of sugar coating real life.
Working from home with a toddler is challenging.
My daughter isn’t quite two years old yet, and I won’t pretend like she goes off on her own and plays with Montessori activities so that I can work for hours on end.
She is needy, busy, and almost could not care less about her toys. Independent play is not her specialty.
So know… If I can get work done from home with a toddler who uses my body as a slide, SO CAN YOU!
It’s not easy, it takes a lot of patience and strategy, but it is doable.
13 Tips to Effectively Work From Home with a Toddler
1. Be realistic
Make sure your deep-set expectations are realistic.
I know you probably think you know that you can’t expect to sit down in the morning and crank out a normal 8 hour work day with a perfectly timed lunch break in the middle.
But does your subconscious know?
The more realistic and understanding you are of your toddler, the less you’ll be frustrated, and the more likely you’ll be to come up with effective solutions.
Go into your day knowing you might sometimes only be able to sit still for five minutes at a time, and be okay with that.
Roll with the punches and be patient with your toddler.
The more frustration they sense, the harder it will be to redirect them and get back to work.
Related: How to Get Your Toddler to Play Independently
2. Fill emotional buckets first
You will do yourself a HUGE favor if you schedule time with your toddler into the beginning of your work day, before you start anything else on your to-do list.
I call this time, “filling emotional buckets.”
Your toddler has been sleeping all night (yes, some of you laughed or snorted; mine doesn’t actually sleep all night either), and their emotional bucket–their fuel tank–is running on fumes.
Your toddler needs some quality time with you to refill that bucket, which is the juice that fuels their creative energies, their confidence, their independence, their joy, and so many other critical functions.
It can be hard to feel like you’re stalling your day to build a puzzle, or play blocks, or pretend to eat pom-poms, especially if you’re feeling motivated and ready to jump into work.
But seriously, this one little thing will help you get SO much more done.
3. Start with a written plan
If you’re going to be effective working from home with a toddler, you NEED a written plan.
Now, I don’t mean you need to time-schedule every item on your to-do list because that’s just setting yourself up for failure.
Your toddler can’t read your day planner, nor can they tell time.
Instead, you need a flexible to-do list that highlights your top priorities and keeps your focus on track (because you’re going to be interrupted 5,867,429 times).
I like to make sure and note the top few things I need to do, so that I make sure not to get distracted by the quick and tempting piddly tasks.
I also keep two separate planners for personal/home related tasks and blogging/work projects.
I suggest getting up at least 15 minutes before your toddler to write out your list without any distractions, but you could also do this while your toddler eats breakfast.
4. Keep active throughout the day
Don’t worry, I’m not telling you to jump up and do burpees every fifteen minutes.
What I mean is, make a point of not sitting in one place for too long.
Be intentional about getting up frequently to do other tasks around the house and interact with your toddler.
If you’re not familiar with the Pomodoro Technique, it helps to maximize your effort, focus, and creative energy with a timing structure: 25 minutes working, 5 minute break.
You probably won’t be able to keep a strict schedule like this with a toddler, but know that you’re not sabotaging yourself by getting up and shifting gears frequently.
Not only are you keeping your toddler engaged longer, you’re probably also helping to maximize your own efforts by forcing maximum output for short periods of time.
5. Turn housework into an activity
When you get up for the frequent breaks we talked about in Tip #4, you can keep the productivity train rolling by doing some housework with your toddler.
It’s really helpful to your toddler to see you up and doing things, so you can knock out multiple birds with one stone.
- You’re still crossing things off your to-do list and keeping productive
- Your toddler is less likely to get restless as quickly, and
- By involving your toddler in whatever task you’re doing, you’re adding some fuel to their emotional tank by spending quality time with them.
You might be worried that involving your toddler in housework will slow you down, and in a vacuum, that might be true.
But think about how long it will take to empty the dishwasher if you have to keep stopping to occupy your toddler with a different toy, or get them another snack, or peel them off your leg, or settle a tantrum (realistically all of the above).
By just including your toddler to begin with, you can both enjoy the chore, and probably still get it done in a reasonable amount of time.
6. Make sure to RE-fill emotional buckets
If you hadn’t gathered from the last two tips, you need to be RE-filling emotional buckets throughout the day.
You can’t just fill up your gas tank at the start of a road trip and expect to make it from Texas to California (which is probably what your toddler will feel like you’re trying to do).
You’ve got to plan for those regular pit stops to fuel up!
While you should definitely use Tip #5 and involve your toddler in whatever tasks possible, you also need to spend time doing what they want to do.
Even if it’s only for five minutes, you need to be giving them your undivided attention and be wholly present.
7. Take advantage of sleep times
Don’t forget to continue taking advantage of your toddler’s sleep times!
Wake up early and knock out some work first thing.
Utilize those nap times (when they happen).
Even squeeze in a little extra in the evenings after bedtime, if you really need to.
The times your toddler is sleeping is the perfect opportunity to get in some focused, uninterrupted work.
Or, to take a nap.
Seriously, don’t underestimate the power of a good nap, even if it means putting off work.
8. Get creative with activities
Make sure you’re providing your toddler with activities they are interested in, not just things you want them to be interested in.
Don’t take the random crap around your house for granted!
My toddler would way rather take my crochet hooks in and out of their pouch, in and out, than play with anything I actually bought for her.
Recycling is a goldmine, as are your kitchen drawers and cabinets.
Have a good time on Pinterest finding new uses for the stuff around your house.
Your toddler will keep busy on their own for much longer if you pay attention to their interests.
9. Do what you can when you can
I briefly touched on this before, but don’t try to schedule out every task on your to-do list for your entire day.
You’ll only be frustrated when you aren’t able to stay on track.
Routines and schedules work GREAT for some people, so if you can pull it off, more power to you!
However, I don’t want you to think that in order to be successful, you have to have a regimented daily work schedule.
I have found that in this season, it just isn’t realistic for me!
I am much more effective by just doing what I can when I can.
I try to stay on task by making sure I’m doing one of three things:
- My work tasks
- My home/personal tasks
- Engaging with my toddler.
I rotate between these three things continuously, as needed, unless I’m specifically taking a personal break, and that keeps me extremely productive with minimal frustrations.
10. Keep a toddler friendly environment
You can’t get anything done if you’re constantly worried about what your toddler is doing in the other room.
While I’m not particularly an advocate of “baby-proofing,” you should be comfortable letting your toddler roam and entertain herself while you work without feeling the need to jump up every 30 seconds to see what she’s up to.
Be conscious of what you leave lying around and what your toddler has access to.
On top of safety, though, keeping a toddler friendly-environment means that the space is organized and aesthetically appealing (as in not cluttered up and chaotic), as well as having items and activities your toddler can access herself.
All of these things will contribute to a toddler who is more self-sustaining for longer stretches.
11. Work out in the open
While different things will work for different people, I have found better success working in a common area where my toddler can see me, rather than trying to hole up in a back corner of the house.
I work at the dining room table, which gives me sight lines into the living room, kitchen, to the stairs, and down the hallway. Plus, I can hear what’s going on basically everywhere. She has a bigger zone to explore and play in, and I can more easily keep an eye and ear on what she’s up to.
12. Save outings for evening
This is very much a personal preference for me, but I just feel like any outing with a toddler takes up half my day.
By the time I get our things together, take her potty, get her shoes on (usually multiple times), buckle her into her seat, go somewhere, un-buckle her, et cetera, et cetera, I’ve been out half the day and I’m exhausted!
Not only have I used up a huge chunk of time, but now the last thing I want to do is start working.
I’ve found my day runs much more smoothly (and productively) if I save outings for the evening, after my to-do lists are done.
As an added bonus, then my husband is available, too!
13. Clock out
One of the most important boundaries you HAVE to set for yourself when you work from home is a finish line.
It’s hard enough to “clock out” when you work a normal job from home or are self-employed, but when you’re also a stay-at-home mom/parent… There is ALWAYS more to be done.
While you may never actually be DONE, you have to decide when you are FINISHED.
You absolutely need to clock out for the day, both for yourself and for your family.
Don’t get caught up in the trap of endless business.
(Here’s how to embrace slow living while staying productive as a SAHM).
Now I want to hear from you…
What kind of work are you trying to do from home?
Tell me about it in the comments below!
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