How to entertain the kids when you work from home
By: Claire, redwigwam
Working from home has been a revelation for many working families. No long commute. Home every night for dinner. You’re just so much more present and part of family life.
Now normality is returning, those of us still working from home are probably doing it through choice. That means you’ll most likely have a dedicated office set up – somewhere you can concentrate on work and away from family life.
During school terms, I find this ideal – the children are out most of the day, and they go to afterschool club a couple of days a week, alongside other sports clubs.
It works perfectly.
But now the summer holidays are upon us, the balance is off. We use holiday clubs some of the time, but inevitably they are at home more than they usually are. Demanding snacks. Making noise. It is their home after all.
Now, I’m not going to lie. My kids would be so happy if I sat them on the Switch or let them watch YouTube (or the dream – BOTH) for the whole time they are at home. But then I start feeling guilty about too much screen time on top of the mum guilt of working through the holidays.
So, if the children are at home while I am working, I try to get them to do something that’s not electronic related. I find saying ‘go and play’ doesn’t always work, but setting up a simple activity they can do together usually leads to something else and a harmonious day for us all.
Here are 12 simple ideas to entertain the kids while you work from home
1) Arts and crafts
Now, the idea of getting paint out unsupervised might be a step too far, but there are plenty of other arts and crafts ideas they can do independently.
We especially like sand pictures, where you use glue to stick coloured sand to a picture – either one they have drawn or printed out.
We also enjoy scratch art, gem paintings or just a spot of mindful colouring. All relatively mess-free.
You could even encourage them to make scrapbooks of their holidays. Collect leaflets or other memories of places they have been and (maybe, just maybe) write a sentence or two about what they did (I know, writing outside school is asking for the impossible!!)
Brilliant memories for them – and a reminder to you that you really didn’t just work all summer!
2) Rock painting
This is a HUGE hit with my boys. We invested in some paint pens (which are also AWESOME for drawing on windows at Halloween and Christmas!) and they’ll spend ages decorating some of the many, many stones and rocks we bring back from our walks. Felt pens will do the job just as well though!
You can always ‘hide’ the rocks when you go for a walk too – our village has a Facebook group where you share any painted rocks you’ve found, so do have a look for similar!
3) Board games
Now, this does depend on the ages of the children, but at 8, mine are perfectly capable of playing games with each other.
I tend to get a couple of games out (usually a favourite and then ones they haven’t played for a while) and then leave them to it. Often, they’ll then go on to dig out other games – our only rules are no arguing about who’s go it is or who’s won and put the game back in the box before you get another one out!
4) Hama beads
These are a HUGE hit here. If you’ve not used them before, they are small, coloured beads you make into pictures using shaped boards. When they are happy with their design, you iron them to stick them together.
My desk coaster was lovingly fashioned out of these!
5) Marble run
You’ll need to make sure you’re hidden away if you have calls as it can be NOISY but seeing how high/long they can build a marble run is always a winner.
I don’t know what age they grow out of bubbles, but we aren’t there yet!
One of the best tips I saw for smaller children was taping the bubble mixture to something, so they don’t accidentally tip the whole thing out in the excitement of chasing bubbles.
There’s a cool recipe for making ‘giant bubble’ liquid here if you want to get a bit fancy! (My kids are happy with fairy liquid!)
(Also, bubbles are ACE in freezing weather too – blow them when it’s below zero and watch them freeze on the lawn. May or may not have been late for school doing that once!)
7) Air-dry clay
This stuff was an absolute lifesaver when we had to isolate with Covid earlier in the year. They spent hours building Among Us characters and making keyrings for their friends. It dries fairly hard after a couple of hours, or you can also bake it in the oven.
If the kids are younger, Play-doh is also great fun. Just accept the colours are going to get mixed and you’ll inevitably end up with it all being brown!
8) Jigsaw puzzles
We love a jigsaw puzzle here! The great things is, bigger kids can help younger siblings, and they come in so many numbers of pieces there really is something for everyone.
I often find once they’ve done one jigsaw, they find more and make it a bit of a project to complete as many as they can find!
You can even make your own by sticking pictures to card and cutting them up – can their sibling – or even you – put the picture back together again.
9) Den building
No specialist equipment needed here – just somewhere they are allowed to make a den (under the table or behind the sofa usual spots here!)
I let them drag their bed covers and teddies down and they’ll make it cosy.
Can’t let this list go without a mention of our favourite thing to play with. We have a pile of bricks that can become anything – usually no intervention from me required.
11) Paper planes
Who can make the best paper plane. How far can it fly? What modifications can you make to make it fly further?
If you have unused wallpaper, hang a strip from a doorway (needs to reach the floor) and cut holes in it to fly the planes through. Give each ‘target’ a score (you can draw it on) and see who can score the most.
12) Audio books
OK, so not quite free-from-electronics this one, but sometimes needs must. Loads of brilliant books for them to listen to out there – my boys have an app from school that allows them to read along too, but David Walliams and Roald Dahl on Audible are always big winners.
One final point – do manage your expectations. Sometimes, they’ll sit at one of these activities for ages – on other days, they are less keen for whatever reason. If I have a busy work schedule, I pick my battles and let them have screen time.
At least I tried!