94 Ways to Keep Kids Busy for the Work at Home Parent

This article is one of the most popular ever written on Sparkplugging. 

I’ve had a couple of readers bemoan the fact that summer break is coming soon. I must admit that though I love my children dearly, I’m not exactly jumping for joy that I will have 3 rambunctious, screaming kids + a friend posse running around my house for the next three months.

Ways to Keep Kids Busy

But regardless, I have run a home business 3 times now from when my first daughter was 5 months old to today, when she is almost 13 and can do a little babysitting herself.

So here’s the good news:

You CAN run a business from home no matter what age your children are.

The bad news?

The smaller your children are, the smaller your business To Do list should be.

Plain and simple, until your kids are 3-4 years old, don’t expect yourself to be super-mom. Kids this young just need too much attention and the business will have to fit in between nap times and play dates – oh, and get used to starting your most productive work at 10:00pm. ;)

Home Business Productivity Tips for All Ages

  1. Get the kids their own computer – when you can get a new CPU and monitor
    for less than $500 total, it’s hard to say no – plus, they will need it for school eventually, anyway!
  2. Own a laptop with wireless internet – so that you can move around the house or yard as needed.
  3. Get a SmartPhone – so you can stay connected even when you’re at the zoo.
  4. Use a Chore Chart – give the kids some structure and responsibility during the day.
  5. Schedule play time just like you do your work time – I try to stay off the computer on Fridays to ensure we get to enjoy the summer months together.
  6. Use the Future Post option (for bloggers) - you can maintain a regular publishing schedule by future-dating your posts(when you’re likely writing in the middle of the night!!)
  7. Find other parents in the neighborhood and swap play dates - critical to the sanity of both of you!
  8. Make it easy for your kids to be independent – set up an area for them to do their own thing, and keep it well stocked with projects and games.
  9. Buy grab food or make healthy snack packages – that way they can feed themselves when they get hungry
  10. Set up a schedule for ordering out – both you and the kids can look forward to it!
  11. Segment and schedule your days – the younger the kids, the more you want to ‘chunk’ you days into activities, downtime, work time and TV time, but it’s a great productivity tool no matter what the ages of your children.
  12. Load up on popsicles – it always keeps them quiet for a few minutes for an important phone call and there are plenty of healthy kinds to choose from (or make your own).
  13. Get cheap movie rentals – most older titles can be rented for way less than new releases.
  14. Buy a pool pass – you won’t get anything done at the pool, but you’ll wear your kids out and they will nap longer! ;)
  15. Download and print ’78 Parent Child Activites’ – formatted for 3×5 index cards!


Summer Activities for Children Age 1-4

If your kids are in this age bracket – I feel for you! Really, I had a hard time getting anything done without a part time sitter or a “mother’s helper”. If you really want to have a successful home business and you have very little kids, I would really recommend you consider hiring some help.

But for the days that you have to work and the little ones are right there with you, here’s a few ideas:

  1. Buy age appropriate computer games – my kids started at the age of 2
  2. Set up easy to find bookmarks for kid-friendly sites – I have my kids’ sites set up with the rest of my shortcuts right on my FireFox toolbar.
  3. Stock up on workbooks and coloring books, along with crayons, markers, stencils, etc. and plenty of plain paper
  4. Create an activity ‘station’ where the kids can go to make a mess whenever they want
  5. Create a baby-proofed room and barricade yourselves in - baby plays while you answer emails!
  6. Rotate toys – kids get bored quickly, so once or twice a month, hide the old and bring in the new!
  7. Get a baby sling or baby backpack – my kids never made a peep when they could sit in their backpack and watch what mom or dad was doing

Summer Activities for Children Age 4-7

  1. Keep the kids moving and active (in my house, I have a harder time keeping them still!!)
  2. Take trips to the Library – and do business research while you’re there!
  3. Download fun worksheets and sneak in some learning.
  4. Make or buy a flower press and let the kids weed the garden for you.
  5. Get a sandbox – just make sure you also get a lid so that it doesn’t turn into the neighborhood litter box!
  6. Order cheap craft project kits from Oriental Trading (they have great stuff for older kids too)
  7. Teach your kids how to make a fortune teller.
  8. Buy a cheap digital camera for your budding photographer
    1. Let them create their own scrapbooks
    2. Teach them to create their own PowerPoint presentations
    3. Download a free screen saver maker and let them create their own slideshows
    4. Throw the images into Photoshop and create ink jet t-shirt transfers

  1. Keep on hand at ALL TIMES:
    1. Bubbles
    2. Sidewalk chalk
    3. Water balloons
    4. Board games (with all the pieces!!)
    5. Working sprinkler or kiddie pool (preferably both)
    6. Art supplies

  1. Bookmark these activity web sites:
    1. Printables4Kids
    2. Animal Printables & Jigsaw Puzzles at AnimalJr.
    3. StarFall Reading Games
    4. DLTK’s Summer Activities
    5. KidSites.com
    6. TheKidzPage.com
    7. Kidscom.com
    8. U.S. Fire Administration for Kids
    9. PlayKidsGames.com
    10. Discovery.com School Resources
    11. Internet4Classrooms
    12. CBC Kids
  2. Lest I miss stating the obvious:
    1. CartoonNetwork.com
    2. Disney.com
    3. PBSKids.org
    4. Nick.com
    5. NickJr.com
    6. Yahoo! Kids
    7. Crayola.com
    8. FamilyFun Magazine online
    9. Scholastic.com

Summer Activities for Children Age 8-13

  1. Get a metal detector and let the kids explore the yard
  2. Cut up some wrapping paper and let your kids loose on this Origami site
  3. Keep common ingredients in your pantry for kid friendly cooking projects
  4. For the brave parents, let the kids do science projects
  5. Buy a cheap sewing machine and make kid’s sewing projects
  6. Turn your junk mail into a recycled pulpy mess and make paper
  7. Bookmark these sites
    1. Summer.About.com
    2. National Geographic Kids
    3. NASA Kids Activities
    4. The EPA (yes, the Environmental Protection Agency!) Kids Club
    5. Animal Planet
    6. Discovery Kids

Craft Project Resources for All Ages

  1. EnchantedLearning.com – extremely comprehensive list sorted by holiday, theme, materials, or topic
  2. AllCrafts.net – free crafts listing
  3. FamilyCrafts.About.com
  4. ChildParenting.About.com – Summer arts and crafts
  5. CraftForKids.com
  6. The Best Kids Book Site – also has a huge crafting section
  7. OneHourCraft – for older kids (and, erm, their moms!)

 

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Comments

  1. says

    Thanks for the great list and insight. I struggle with this daily with my four year old and 16 month old at home. I find myself working late at night like you mentioned. Of course by morning I regret it but believe it will all pay off in the end. When my husband is home he is very helpful as well, so he will do a lot of the childcare so I can get some work done, including my new podcast support show for moms at http://mamastimeout.com. I did have to cut back to every other week because of the time involved in getting guests, preparing for the show, etc.

    Thanks again for the info and sharing your experiences with other moms who are striving to work at home and make it work with little ones under five.

    Pattys last blog post..A Place for Mom Bloggers to Socialize

  2. says

    This is such a great list you’ve got going! I love the idea of a separate computer! I also liked how you mentioned inexpensive ideas such as movie rentals, activity stations, and sidewalk chalk. There’s something for everyone to do!

    Jennas last blog post..Prescription Drug May Cause T.B.

  3. Tom.L HomeBusiness says

    Excellent resource! I like the idea of having a laptop, this way you can work where ever you choose.

    Tom.L HomeBusinesss last blog post..The Importance Of Good Copywriting

  4. Super Mom says

    Thank you THANK you for the ideas! I have a laptop as well and couldn’t live without it.

    Super Moms last blog post..Rabbit Reno’s!

  5. Jared says

    With a blackberry and a computer, your kids will stay busy for hours. Thanks for the info.

  6. says

    Great tips which I will employ starting tomorrow, and which I summarized and credited in my education blog.

    I think the key to following these steps is to communicate expectations around their schedule and your own so everyone is clear.

  7. says

    Great list.

    I’d also like to give a mention to the Kea Coloring Book.

    Kids love coloring pages, and this highly interactive on-line coloring book will keep kids entertained for hours. It’s good clean fun, and educational too.

    Oh – And it’s free!

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