littleBIG Marketing Strategist and co-GM Kate Thompson shares her top tips for working from home with kids.
The last few weeks have been a steep learning curve as my husband and I learn to work from home in our marketing jobs, while juggling our diva four-year-old Frankie and our chatterbox six-year-old Teddy. Here are some of the things I’ve found really help us to keep it all in balance.
1. Prep like a doomsdayer
The night before, I shower, lay out everyone’s clothes, chop up snacks and rotate toys (this is inspired by my idol Catherine Brooks @letsmakeitworkbaby). The toy rotation involves strategically leaving toys they haven’t played with in a while set up in fun scenarios….Bluey figurines in a “creek”, Ninja Turtles stealthily preparing for a battle on a shelf, a masking tape car racing track, craft projects or playdough with interesting bits and pieces (feathers, sticks, flowers) set up on a tray.
Some I leave out for them to discover, others I leave aside to whip out when they’re trying to kill each other with a foam noodle while I’m on a video call. I love @letsmakeitworkbaby, @dayswithgrey and @little_play_ideas for easy inspo.
I also write up a whiteboard plan of meetings, scheduled hours of uninterrupted work time for each of us, and a list of suggested activities for the day (see ideas below). I make sure that I do my “deep thinking” tasks in my uninterrupted work time and email and admin while the kids are set up with an activity.
2. Fill the buckets
I try to give each person in the family 30 minutes of quality time where they choose an activity to do one-on-one, and for the kids this is often before we start work. For me it’s reading my book alone, my husband might watch old AFL games (severely footy deprived), for Teddy it might be building Lego and Frankie usually chooses baking or Barbies. In this way each of us feels as though we’ve had our “bucket” filled and are more likely to be happy playing independently or tolerant of the curveballs and stresses that come our way.
3. Dance, jump and run it out
Physical exercise is a reset button for all of us. Intersperse a couple of sessions through the day to get energy out and keep fun levels high. We’ve been loving:
A good old-fashioned game of “statues”, musical bumps or musical chairs. A dance comp. Gymnastics comp. Ninja obstacle course. A game of 2 square. Totem tennis.
4. Choose games that work to your advantage….
– Yes, I take my laptop or phone into the pantry during games of hide and seek
– Set up a drawing challenge… but your drawing is your work
– Send them off on a treasure or scavenger hunt – you can make it as simple as items that are yellow, items that start with A, or use some of the great printables going around like the ones from @thefestiveco
– Get the kids to set up a zoo, a doctor office or a café where they make signs, menus, receipts etc (while you are a customer working or the receptionist)
– Set challenges…who can build the tallest tower, who can build the best cubby house, who can build the best ship out of a box, the best Lego rocket etc. There’s a great 30-day Lego challenge going around, and I love this nature list
5. Ditch the screen time guilt
I love that meme…”turn the subtitles on and BAM, your kids are reading”. I’ve got to be honest; I’m embracing screen time. It’s the only way I can get stuff done. BUT I’m not feeling guilty about it, because I’m trying my best to use it in a positive way, there are SOOO many great resources out there at the moment. We’re loving:
– Australian Reptile Park has amazing live streams and educational videos (our fave was the Funnel Web milking)
– Facetime play dates… Teddy has played Lego, hangman, guess who, guess the drawing and more (as well as discussing poo and Minecraft eyeroll) while Frankie and her friends love a houseparty disco playdate
– Google 3D animals…type an animal’s name into google in your web browser, then click view in 3D to bring a life size version into your lounge room. Start with tiger, shark or penguin for wow factor.
– Teddy loves Code Camp who have been offering a free school holiday program …and now I’m adding coder to my list of digital marketing skills LOL
6. Fun family dinner
Despite all my planning, at some point one or all of us (including, ok usually, me) ends up losing their shit. So, at the end of the day we’re enjoying doing family dinners (which aren’t usually possible when we’re both at work). Easy shared themes work well…. all making pizzas, or DIY wraps, tacos, rice paper rolls. The adults enjoy a well-earned drink and we reconnect, and each share our highlights and lowlights of the day. It’s my hope that it means that at the end of all of this, they’ll remember COVID-19 as a special family time where we learned, laughed and grew together.