5 Tips for Staying Productive with Kids at Home

by Kroger Health Staff

Last Updated: April 8, 2020

So, you’re a parent of one of the 32.5 million children who haven’t set foot inside their classrooms in approximately 4 weeks. The data says that you’re most likely working from home now, too, meaning you’ve suddenly found your 8-hours of kid-free time transformed into a Herculean effort of preparing pitch decks while preventing house fires. Whether you’re homeschooling older kids or stiff-arming toddlers away from video calls, you’re not alone. We’ve talked to several parents who are living and breathing this upheaval, and we have a few tips to share for how to keep your job, sanity, and even gratitude for the unexpected arrival of this new co-worker.
  1. Routine, routine, routine! You most likely had one, and it’s now been entirely destroyed. Like anything else, it takes time to get into a new groove. Give yourself some time to build and adjust to these new surroundings, but once you’ve found a flow that works, communicate it and stick to it. That might mean a certain set of activities while parents are in meetings, with more freedom when they’re not. It might mean set meal times that correspond to blocked calendar windows, or even a scheduled outdoor lap or two to burn off energy. Find what works and make it mandatory.
  2. Shrink your space. You know that feeling when you’re relieved that it’s quiet, then you realize it’s a little bit TOO quiet? By the time you connect the dots, someone has done something that will either require a lot of paper towels or a couple of band-aids. One way to simplify the supervision is to simply shrink the “space to roam” and keep the little ones within eyeshot. Maybe that means working in a smaller room, or making certain spaces off-limits. Either way, you’ll wish you had implemented this strategy when you hear the crash, followed by the cry, in the middle of a Zoom presentation.
  3. Say “no” to guilt. No one predicted this, and certainly, no one was fully prepared for it. The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted life for nearly everyone in one way or another, and you owe yourself some understanding as you do your best to cope. If you have to leverage extra screen time, or treats, or tolerating a few extra messes during this time, it’s OK. Staying healthy and safe is what’s most important right now.
  4. April Toy Switch-Up. Now is the time to consider pulling out the birthday gifts early, or procuring some low-cost, but “new to you” toys and games to keep things fresh and keep short attention spans engaged. Another option is to “cycle” toys—put some away for a few weeks, and then swap. Or, have a fun AND productive arts and crafts time. Bust out the old pair of pants you’ve been meaning to mend and teach the kids a new, real life skill.
  5. Let them meet! It’s true, even preschoolers are having video calls during this crazy time. Not only are these virtual hangouts fun for kids of all ages, they actually help contextualize and explain what you’re doing when you’re “having a meeting.” When kids start to understand what it’s like to communicate in these ways, they’re likely going to be more understanding the next time you remind them you can’t hear your colleague talking over the drums practice.

No matter how you’re coping during this time, you’re doing it well. Your kids will see, more than ever, the hard work you put in daily to provide for them. This extra time together—though brought about by a challenging reality—is still a gift of time that you’ll (albeit, eventually) cherish.

Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.