I love my toddler. She is my joy, but sometimes it can be tricky to balance being a work at home mommy with her high-energy, super-smart self wanting to help me and be involved with everything I do. I know I’m not the only mom who wants to deal with a child who is learning to be independent and wants to be involved with anything I am.

Have Work Time

We have started being really consistent with encouraging Autumn to have different activities that she does with me there, but that are mostly independent. Some of these include:

  • felt board time
  • coloring
  • blocks
  • “reading” books to herself
  • “doing laundry” where she empties the clothes out of her bottom two dresser drawers, then puts them away again.

This isn’t nearly all of the things she loves to do independently, but it should give you an idea of how we like to do things. She also loves to clean things (I am a very lucky mom, I know) and thinks it is just the best thing since sliced avacado. The times she can play independently help me have time to work on whatever project I am working on at the moment and makes a huge difference in the level of productivity I have throughout the week.

Include Them

In addition to letting her have independent play time, Autumn has a blast doing “big people” things with me. Letting her help with chores is a very fun thing for her that lets her learn how to be helpful, while keeping her busy doing something that won’t make my chore time less productive like making messes. I have found that when she gets time where she gets to work side by side with mommy, then the times where I need her to play independently so I can accomplish other tasks, she is much happier to do an independent activity. Here are some of the things she loves to do with Mommy to help.

Laundry – let your child put dirty clothes in the washer if you have a front-loader, or hand them the wet clothes to put into the dryer. Autumn loves this! Sometimes I run a load of laundry because she gets so excited about ‘laundee!’

Washing dishes – give your little one a wash cloth and a dish to ‘wash’ then exchange it when they think it is all clean.

Loading the dish washer – give your toddler the silverware to load at the very least. They can’t break it and although it might take a little longer, they can progress to bigger dishes later when the are ready.

Dusting – give your little one a rag or dusting mitt and show them the things they can dust. Autumn will walk around the room saying “clean, clean.” while doing this next to me while I dust things that are higher up. Once she is done, I go behind her and give things a once-over.

Picking up – giving your child a place to put things, like a toy basket where they can put toys when they are finished and a shelf they can reach where their books go, is a really great way to teach her to pick up after herself. We like to make a game out of cleaning up, not unlike Marry Poppins, now she does it herself when she is prompted. When a toy gets put away, she gets praised and encouraged to do another, then we rinse and repeat.

Wear Them Out

Just like us, kids need exercise. I hear moms talk about how wild their kids are a lot, how they run round the house and are almost unmanageable, and I almost always suggest to them that they get their kids more structured exercise.

Take a walk – walk until they start to look tired, but don’t make it too long so they are overtired and it stops being fun.

Go to the park – this is great, especially for days when you will be out and about anyway. Make errand days a treat by spending just 20 minutes at the park where they can run around to their heart’s content.

Race or play running games at home – for rainy days or times when going to the park isn’t an option,

Have a dance party– turn on some fun music and encourage your little one to dance with you. Break out some crazy moves and watch them have fun bringing their own pizazz to the party.

Give Everyone Quiet Time

I have noticed a trend among the other parents who stay at home with their children full-time. The ones who have built quiet time into their regular routine are generally happier, and much less prone to getting burned out. When you provide quiet time, it gives you and your little one a chance to reset after any kind of stress of the morning, and to get ready for the rest of the day. One of the best things you can do for yourself is to take time for you when your little one has quiet time. Yes, they means you should take time to not be productive every single day. You deserve a break and even if your child does not need a nap, them learning to have quiet time will make your life, and theirs, simpler.

As far as the amount of time your little one might need, every child is different and their needs are unique. A friend of mine has a son only 4 days older than Autumn named Jacob. He usually only takes one nap a day, most days. He sleeps less than 8 hours at night and functions well on that schedule. Autumn has always taken after me and needed more sleep. She usually sleeps around 11 hours at night, then has morning quiet time that lasts for half an hour in her bed, plus an afternoon nap which can be anywhere from 45 minutes to 3 hours.Your quiet time schedule is something you will have to play with to see what works best. Try something for a week and see how it works, then change it at the end of the week if you see it doesn’t work for both of you.

Whether the quiet time is a nap or just play time where they are alone by themselves, it gives everyone a chance to reset and go about the rest of the day with a better attitude. Mommy, or whoever has the kids that day, can take time to have some alone time and the kids can get some rest they need or work on being independent.

If you have a toddler, or remember back when your kids were this little, how did you balance working from home with them? What things kept them entertained and happy best? I would love some fresh ideas to try!