Last Updated May 16th, 2019

How To Prepare For Summer As A Work At Home Mom

How To Prepare For Summer As A Work At Home Mom

Summer break is getting close for schoolchildren. That means all too soon the kids will have many extra hours in which to express their boredom. It pays to prepare for summer as a work at home mom if you want to get some decent work hours in.

Not all of my ideas are about making things fun for the kids. Fun is good, and children need plenty of it, but you have to expect them to help around the house too. They don’t have school over the summer, and that means they have more time to help you, like it or not. And so…

Plan Ahead

The very first thing you need to do to prepare for summer as a work at home mom is plan ahead. There are several things you need to consider:

  • Will you make any changes to your regular schedule?
  • What do you need from your spouse?
  • What do you need from your kids?
  • How are you going to keep the kids out of your hair when you need to work?
  • What will you do when the kids say they’re bored?
  • Do you need to put the kids in daycare?
  • Are there vacations or events you need to plan around?
  • Of the things the kids want to do over the summer, which are realistic?
  • What could possibly go wrong?

Depending on what you do from home, you may have to keep to much the same routine or you may be able to change things around to suit yourself. Not all work at home jobs have flexible hours, after all. Be realistic when making your plans.

The changes you have to make to prepare to work at home during the summer will depend on the ages of your kids, of course. Kids who are too young for school won’t change much at all. School age children will have a more significant change, but their needs will change as they get older. A time will come when they won’t need all that much from you aside from rides and such.

Talk With Your Family

Once you know what you need, it’s time to talk things over with your family so that everyone’s on the same page or close to it. You can’t assume that they’ll understand otherwise.

Remind the kids of the rules regarding your work hours and interruptions. This is especially important if you’re going to be on the phone or if distractions are a major problem for you.

Be sure your spouse or significant other is on your side and ready to help. If they’re home during your work hours, they should be the one to help the kids with whatever – the kids should not be interrupting you at all if there’s another responsible adult available. They should also know how much background noise you can handle while working.

Once everyone understands your expectations and needs, you can think about the other things your family can do over the summer. You don’t have to manage every minute of your kids’ days, but you can make some plans.

Add New Chores To The Kids’ To Do Lists

child cleaning

Children are quite capable of helping around the house, and they should do it often. How many people have stories about the college freshman they knew who had never done his or her own laundry and was at a complete loss, or the friend who didn’t know how to cook even the most basic of foods?

Summer is a great time to encourage your kids to start cooking, even if they don’t want to. It’s an important life skill. If you have any doubts about how well kids can do in the kitchen, watch shows such as Masterchef Jr. Those kids are amazing.

If they can cook already, consider having them cook more often.

Think about what your kids are capable of cleaning, even if they won’t immediately do it to your standards. Dusting, sweeping, mopping, vacuuming, laundry, all that fun stuff. Surely some of it can be made at least partially a chore for the kids.

Keep Their School Skills Fresh

One big problem with such a long summer break is that children forget what they learned in school. Then their teachers have to go over all over it again at the start of the new school year. Summer learning loss is a real problem for kids.

There are plenty of websites which can help you help them retain the things they learned at school. You can find printable math worksheets and more online. Khan Academy has only a little suitable for elementary school aged kids, but it gets better as they get more advanced. Prodigy is better for younger kids, as it’s more game based.

You can also make up your own assignments for them. I prefer to keep summer work within the interests of each child when I can. The child who loves cats, for example, will read books about cats or with cats in them much more willingly than other books. Comic books and other easy reading are perfectly acceptable too. Reading anything is better than reading nothing.

I don’t suggest hours of schoolwork a day or even necessarily doing schoolwork every day. Even a half hour once or twice a week may be plenty, depending on the skills you’re working with.

Summer Camps And Classes

You don’t have to do all the educational stuff on your own, and it doesn’t all have to be educational anyhow. Look into summer camps and classes for your kids that fit into your budget and their interests.

When my kids were younger, for example, I insisted on swimming lessons for them every summer. My older ones have aged out now, but the youngest still gets them. My main reason for this was because their grandparents had a pool, as did some friends. These days we have less pool access for them, but it’s still a good idea to teach kids to swim. It’s a big part of water safety.

If camps and classes don’t fit into your budget, don’t feel bad. There are lots of other things your kids can do. Believe me, I know how hard it is to afford these things at times. There have been times where getting the money for swimming lessons was hard, and they’re relatively affordable. Fortunately, there are lots of free and cheap things you can do as a family that will be lots of fun.

Go To The Park

playground

Getting out to the park regularly gets the kids away from the electronic forms of entertainment, and if you have one young enough to nap yet, encourages naptime later on. If your kids are old enough to only be lightly watched as they play, you may even be able to bring your laptop and work while they play.

I suggest going either early in the day or in the evenings after dinner, as those are the cooler times of day. You’ll also have to worry less about sunburn.

We like to go to the movies in the park our local parks do in the summer. Free movies and a good chance of running into friends makes for a great evening for all concerned.

Trade Time With Other At Home Parents

If you know other stay at home or work at home parents, consider trading times where you have each others’ kids come over. If the kids are friends, this works great! They’re excited to see their friends, and no matter which house they’re at, they’ll probably be more focused on having fun together than on you.

Obviously, if you need quiet because you have a work at home customer service job or other phone work, don’t schedule your turns with the kids when you have to work. They’re going to be loud.

Alternatively, you may be fortunate enough to have family who can help you out. My kids sometimes spend a part of the summer with their grandparents. My sister and I will sometimes trade kids around, although that’s a 1:1 trade which means I still have kids around. But the cousins get along well and generally enjoy their time together, leaving me out of it.

Get A Mother’s Helper

I loved it when I had a mother’s helper when my oldest was a baby. It made life much easier. My helper was too young to be a babysitter, but quite aware of how her older sisters made money with babysitting. Of course she cost less to hire, as I was right there, able to change diapers and so forth. She just had to keep the baby entertained.

If you have a toddler and an older child, you can also pay the older child to have more specific duties toward the younger, beyond what you expect simply for the fact that you’re all family. It’s a good way to teach them responsibility and the value of earning money.

Go To The Library

child reading

If your kids love to read, heading to the library is a great way to encourage the habit without spending a fortune on books. Younger kids in particular have changing tastes which can make it difficult to keep a decent selection of books for them. The library, on the other hand, should have lots of books available.

Libraries can have a variety of programs for kids over the summer. Many have reading challenges, but they may also have events. We’ve seen magic shows at our library, for example, as well as many other fun programs. Check your local library’s website to see if anything interesting is coming up.

Have Arts And Crafts Supplies Available

Just how available you make the arts and crafts supplies depends on how much you can trust your kids to use them properly. You may need to keep some out of reach of younger children who might misuse them, while older children should have more or less free access. You know how far you can trust your kids.

As kids get older, the supplies should allow for their greater skills. We have a soldering kit for my kids, tools they’re allowed to use, good quality paints and more.

If your kids aren’t sure how to do something, encourage them to find resources. Library books can be a great place to start. YouTube videos are available on all kinds of subjects. It’s much easier to pick up a fun skill than it used to be.

Get Them Playing Outside

I know summer is hot and kids will grumble about it, but they should still play outside when possible. The trick is to make sure that they will have fun.

backyard soccer

The first thing to do is to have lots of fun things they can do outside. Consider all of the fun things you could have ready for them:

  • Bikes
  • Skates
  • Skateboards
  • Water toys
  • Soccer balls, baseballs, footballs, etc.
  • Sandbox
  • Swing set
  • Sidewalk chalk

If the days are too hot or you’re concerned about sun exposure, encourage your kids to play outside earlier or later in the day. Many outdoor games are more fun at night anyhow.

If you’re ambitious, set up the barbecue to cook dinner outside some nights. Dinner outside makes for great family time and gets everyone outdoors. Don’t forget the marshmallows!

Have A Dedicated Play Area

Just as you are better off working in a dedicated home office space in most cases, kids are often better off in an at least somewhat dedicated play area. It might be their bedrooms, but at least they’re playing someplace where they’re out of your hair. Just be sure to check out that suspicious silence. They’re either up to something or being so cute you’ll need a camera. Maybe both.

You don’t have to do all of these suggestions, of course. These are simply ideas that can help make your summer as a work at home mom better so you can be productive while letting your kids have fun.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated March 27th, 2019

Combining Office And Playroom – Is It A Good Idea?

Combining Office And Playroom - Is It A Good Idea?

When you work at home with small children, one big consideration is how you deal with the kids while you’re working. Smaller children need a lot more attention, and it’s not always easy to figure out how to make it all work. Combining office and playroom is hugely tempting. But is it a good idea?

That depends on a few factors. We’ll start with the problems with adding a play area.

Disadvantages Of Combining Office And Playroom

Not All Employers Allow It

You may not always be able to combine office and playroom. Many work at home employers do not allow distractions in the same room. If you work a lot on the phone, they probably especially do not allow background noise.

And we all know how good little kids are at making background noises.

Don’t risk your job just to keep your kids nearby while you work. If it’s a problem for your employer, find another way to keep your kids busy while you work. Trade babysitting, work hours when your spouse or someone else can care for your kids… whatever it takes, find a solution.

Kids Are Distracting

Let’s say you work for yourself or background noises aren’t a problem for your employer. Having kids in your home office can still be a problem.

Kids at play are distracting. Possibly less distracting than wondering what they’re up to in the other room, but still distracting.

Distractions mean you work more slowly and get less done. Odds are that it means you earn less money if you’re paid on productivity or by project, or that eventually, your employer will realize you aren’t as productive as you should be.

That’s a problem. A big one.

If you can’t cope with the distractions, don’t let your kids into your home office.

Tax Issues

Adding a play area for your kids may mess with your ability to take a home office deduction. If you aren’t taking that deduction, obviously this is not an issue, but it’s something to consider and bring up with a tax professional if you want the deduction. I can’t tell you for certain how it works if they only play while your work, but if the kids use your office for a play area or homework at other times, it’s absolutely not going to work. A home office must meet an exclusive use requirement, and letting the kids play in there is going to mess with that.

Child Safety

There are risks to having your child play in your home office too. Odds are there are a lot of power outlets with cords coming out, your chair may have wheels that can roll over small fingers or feet, kids may knock things down. If you want your kids in your home office, make sure you look at how you can make it safe for their age.

Advantages Of Combining Office And Playroom

play area

Kids Are Right There

This can be a huge advantage with small children, if they let you work. No worries about what they’re getting into. They’re in easy reach if they need you. They get to spend time with you even though they aren’t your main focus when you’re working.

An infant, for example, only needs a crib or playpen much of the day. If you’re into baby wearing, you may be able to do some work that way, so long as noise and speed don’t matter.

When my kids were toddlers, I used a combination of baby gates at the doors and play yard panels to keep them near and safe. I did medical transcription at the time, so I could generally respond quickly to their needs.

You’re Setting an Example

I believe that work at home parents can set a very good example for their kids. You’re showing them how to make work a part of their lives, how you help support your family. I like making sure my kids know that there’s more to life than being a mother, even when I’m prioritizing motherhood.

They Will Grow Out Of It

Your kids will only need to play in your home office for a relatively short time. Soon enough, they will be old enough to play in their bedrooms or other parts of the house without leaving you to worry about what they’re up to. Then there’s school, friends and all kinds of other reasons why they don’t want to be limited to the home office playroom anymore.

My kids almost never come into my home office anymore unless they need help with homework. It’s a lot quieter in there now than when my kids were little… although it helps that this is the first home we’ve been in where I have a door to close.

On the other hand, that door means that my home office is also the guest room. Sometimes there’s just no way to keep a space all to yourself. At least it’s mostly mine.

How To Make A Combined Home Office And Playroom Happen

If you really want your combined office and playroom to work well, you need to play it out. Don’t just throw a few toys around and call it good. The room has to work for both of you.

mom office desk

Set Up The Home Office First

The first function of your home office space must be as an office. What do you need to set up your work space?

Even if you have a laptop computer, I recommend having a desk and chair. These give you a defined place to work.

When the kids were little, I liked having a big enough desk that I could give them a little space on the desk too. This allowed them to pretend they were working too. But consider your work needs before you do this – for some jobs, it may be too much to have your kids right at your desk.

Consider what else you will need in your home office. Do you need a place to store your supplies? Do you need a printer?

Make the space as comfortable and productive a workspace as possible. Combining office and playroom creates enough challenges as is – consider your work needs before your child’s play needs, or this isn’t going to work.

Childproof

The next thing you want to do is make your office as safe as possible for your child. Exactly what this means depends on your child.

A child young enough to mostly be worn or limited to a play area won’t need a lot of childproofing. One who can wander the entire room but is still young enough to get into things will take more work.

As I said above, I used play yard panels to keep my toddlers out of the way. I wrapped them around my desk, so my toddlers had plenty of room to play and I didn’t have to worry about rolling over little fingers.

In general, you want to keep cords out of reach and make sure kids can’t punch the power button on your computer. There was a time when I had to cover the power button on my desktop computer with cardboard because the pretty, shiny light was too attractive to my kids. Toddler-induced shutdowns are a bad thing!

Get anything else you don’t want the kids to reach in a safe place too.

Make It Fun

Once everything is productive for you and safe for your kids, make it fun for them. The more fun your kids can have, the more they’ll let you work.

Pick out special toys that your kids love but are just for when you need to work. I always liked to include an old keyboard when my kids liked to pretend they were working too. Young enough kids never notice that it isn’t attached to anything – in fact, we removed the cord too.

If you need quiet in your workspace, think carefully about how you set your child up. It will be hard enough to have quiet with them in there – don’t make it impossible with noisy toys.

Art supplies are a great choice once the kids are old enough. Set up an easel or small table with protection for the floor, and let your kids go at their favorite art supplies.

A chalkboard wall is another fun idea. Then your kids will have a space where they can draw on the wall.

A cardboard box playhouse can also be a great idea, and free, if you can find a large enough box. We’ve built them out of appliance boxes and boxes we had saved for us at home improvement stores. Cut some doors and windows, and kids have a great place to play and draw.

Don’t Forget A Spot For Naps

Young children fall asleep at the most random times. Make sure they can do that in your office too – you might just get some extra quiet work time you weren’t expecting.

A blanket and some pillows can help with this. Kids don’t mind sleeping on the floor, but you can add some cushions for them to curl up on if you want.

The blankets may also be good for making a blanket fort, which all children enjoy.

Make The Most Of Storage Space

Just because the kids play in there doesn’t mean your home office needs to fall into chaos. It’s okay if things get messy when the kids are actually playing, but you don’t want a mess all of the time. Set up enough storage space to put your things away as well as the kids’ toys.

Storage bins are great for children’s toys. They can handle odd shapes easily. Have a little fun with color to make the room more interesting for the kids.

Bookshelves and file cabinets can be a help too.

Whatever you do, make sure you don’t allow clutter to mess up your workspace. If a clutter problem develops, find a way to control it. Add more storage space if necessary and possible.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated June 1st, 2018

11 Ways To Prepare To Work At Home Over The Summer

11 Ways To Prepare To Work At Home Over The Summer

School getting out for the summer presents some challenges for work at home parents. Suddenly the kids are home all day and want to do things with you. This makes it really difficult to work sometimes, while still being the mom or dad you want to be. It’s time to make plans and prepare to work at home over the summer so that you can continue to be productive.

1. Review your work routine.

Taking a look at your work routine is an important part of preparing to work at home over the summer. Is it going to work for you with the kids at home? If you’re used to getting all your work done when they’re at school, for example, how will you cope when the kids are home all day? When will be the best time for you to work now? How will you keep up with what needs doing?

Working at home during the summer often takes a bit more flexibility than when the kids are at school. Be prepared and think about what’s about to happen in your daily life.

If necessary, work more when the kids are sleeping. Pick late evening or early morning, whichever you prefer, and focus on work when the kids are in bed. Working when your spouse is home and able to be in charge of the kids can also help. Use daycare if that’s what it takes.

2. Talk to your kids about your work needs.

Hopefully, your kids are used to you working at home if you’ve been doing it a while. Even so, it’s a good idea to remind them that during the summer you still need to work even if they’re on vacation.

If you’re planning set work hours and a set location in the house, let them know about it and explain that they aren’t to bother you unnecessarily when you’re working. Lay down some rules so they know when they can interrupt. They may not get it perfect, being kids and all, but it should help.

This shouldn’t be much of a problem with older kids but can be challenging with younger ones. Your younger children may need more attention than you can afford with your work at home requirements. Consider if daycare is necessary. It can be better for all of you. Do what’s necessary to have a productive work at home day.

3. Encourage age and location appropriate independence.

climbing rocksI’m a big believer in encouraging my kids to do things on their own. When my kids were young, they could play out back on their own. They’re old enough now that they can play out front, ride their bikes around the neighborhood, or even go to the store for a treat on their own. The youngest can’t go to the store yet on her own, but with the prospect of getting some candy or ice cream, it’s easy for her to get a sibling to take her when she wants to go.

These are privileges they’ve earned. They’ve shown they’re capable, and it’s a generally safe neighborhood. They also have rules about how they can play on the computer and know the consequences of breaking the rules.

Children need time to play independently. They do not need their parents participating in everything they do. Participate some of the time, absolutely, that’s just fun, but remember how much fun you had just being a kid with your siblings and friends, and let your kids do likewise. Hopefully without getting into too much trouble. After all, if they’re happily playing you should be able to get some of your own stuff done.

4. Encourage outdoor play.

Summer’s hot, and sometimes it’s hard to get the kids to play outside. They’re too used to air conditioned buildings. But outside play is healthy and should be normal. Think about how much of the summer you spent outside as a child, despite the heat.

I usually push for my kids to go play outside first thing in the morning. The sun’s rays aren’t quite so strong then, it’s cooler, and they have energy. Sunscreen is still a generally good choice.

There are a lot of things you can do to encourage outside play. When my kids were younger, we would walk to the playground in the morning. That got the urge to go there handled at a time of day we all could stand. The walk would also tire them out a little, as it was over a mile and mostly uphill. Funny thing, no matter how tired they were on the walk, they always had plenty of energy for the playground itself.

Make sure you set up a lot of ways for your kids to play outside at home.  If you have a sandbox, make sure you have some great toys for it. A cover is also a good idea to keep any local cats from using it as a litterbox. If you keep your sandbox in a shady area, it can be used for much of the day.

diving

A Slip ‘n Slide, sprinklers, water guns and other water toys also help get kids outside and playing. Most of these won’t cost all that much money. Water play is the perfect way to get kids to outside and play no matter how hot it is. If you have a swimming pool or easy access to one, so much the better.

You may also want to set up a screen time rule for the summer. Have your kids play outside before they can watch TV or use other devices. No heavy buildups of screen time with the promise to go outside “soon” either. No carryovers to the next day. This rule keeps them wanting to play outside earlier in the day, with the promise of being allowed to relax indoors when the day is at its hottest.

One trick my kids tried early on was to each claim screen time separately, and watch the shows someone else had picked. They soon found out that it didn’t matter who picked out the show – if you watch it, the time counts as your screen time.

5. Know where their friends live.

You really want to know where your kids’ friends live, especially the ones who will be home during the day. That way, you can encourage them to all play together at one house or another. Don’t be the parent always sending your kids to someone else’s house; take your turn. Kids with friends over are usually too busy playing with friends to bother you other than for the occasional snack or when an argument breaks out. Hopefully, that’s less often than when your kids are home with just you.

If you’re lucky, your kids will have some friends within walking distance. That’s not something my kids have had often, but it’s such a help when friends have been that close to us.

Of course, the time it takes to drop kids off with a friend can be worth it if you get more work time.

6. Get the kids out of the house without you if possible.

When my kids were younger, we lived close enough to grandparents that we could send the kids off to see them. It was a huge help. These days, I have to come up with other plans.

While we don’t live close enough for daytime visits to grandparents, we sometimes send the kids to spend several days with them. This works pretty well, although the planning is difficult at times.

One alternative is to look at local day camps if that’s in your budget. While these can add up fast, it’s one way to get the kids out, doing something fun and still giving yourself the day to work. The big question is whether it will be worth it financially. Many camps are expensive. Of course, the kids will enjoy the experience as well if you choose the right camp.

As they get older, of course, expect your kids to do things on their own in the local area without you. It’s good practice for when they head out on their own.

7. Have craft projects available.

kids painting

Most kids love to do crafts, so have the materials for their favorites readily available. My youngest loves to paint, for example, so her supplies are often just right there on her table, although the water for rinsing the brush doesn’t stay out too much.

We keep better craft supplies for the older kids, as well as a soldering kit and other challenging activities. The craft supplies you need will depend on age. The older they get, the better quality the paints we get for them.

Make sure your kids understand the safety rules for crafting as necessary. My kids are allowed to use a glue gun, for example, and that gets very hot. They know that they can get burned by it and that if they ever leave it plugged in after use, they will lose all use of it.

Crafting sometimes means allowing them to use a computer, phone or tablet to look up ideas or instructions. So long as that’s what they’re doing, I allow it. Our screen time limits aren’t meant to limit their access to information, after all. They’re meant to limit the time spent sitting, staring at a screen and doing nothing else.

8. Be ready for “I’m bored!”

There are many ways to cope with kids who announce that they’re bored. For the most part, it’s a good idea to tell them to go figure out something to do. This is especially important when you need to work.

Children need to learn to entertain themselves, especially without staring at a screen. If you always give them ideas for what to do, they will keep relying on you for that rather than using their own creativity. The whole point of having a lot of things available to them is so that your kids can find things to do when they’re bored.

But there are times when it’s easier to give them ideas. That doesn’t mean your kids will like your ideas. My own favorite is to suggest a chore that needs doing, as there are always chores that need doing. Kids will usually think of something else they’d rather do, really fast. If not, the chore gets done, and the kid learns to not complain too often about being bored. That said…

9. Have kids do daily chores.

When school’s out, there’s no reason for kids to not help out more around the house. During the school year, chores depend on time left over after homework is done. If homework is heavy, there are fewer kid chores to be done.

During the summer, there’s no such excuse, and kids need to do chores so they can learn to cope with all the things a home needs to be done. Decide what’s age appropriate for your kids.

We have some chores that must be completed on certain days. Dishes are daily, of course. Some of their assignments alternate weekly, so the same person isn’t responsible for the same job all of the time. This keeps away arguments over whose chore list is the hardest. I found that alternating weeks saved arguments over alternating days. It’s amazing how easy it is to lose track of who did what when it changes daily. Change it weekly, and everyone knows who’s on duty. Keep it age appropriate, of course.

My kids get assigned weeks to either help make dinner or make it entirely on their own, depending on skill level. The kid on duty also has to help with the grocery shopping, with the oldest being responsible for planning almost the entire list. They also get to plan one dessert a week, which they really enjoy.

10. Plan.

Solid planning can help make a great summer for your family while still giving you time to work at home.

Start out with the things you absolutely must get done, such as the work time you need. Add in planned family vacations. Then take a look at the most important things you want to add in.

I insist on swimming lessons for my kids until they reach a high enough level, for example. While we don’t have a pool, another family member does, as do some friends. The ability to swim is a safety issue and a major part of water safety. You may have other activities for your kids that you consider a priority.

On the fun side, my youngest loves to go to Movies In The Park, a local event where they show a popular movie at the park one night a week. It’s great fun, and we make plans to meet with friends there so the kids can play before the movie.

Libraries may also have fun activities for the summer. Our local library has reading challenges as well as special events. The kids have been able to meet interesting animals there, watched magic shows and more.

carousel

11. Be spontaneous.

If your work schedule allows it, take the time to be spontaneous. Go to the water park on a really hot day. Play tag with the kids. Accept that invitation from a friend. Make a special treat. Have fun during your workday when possible..

It won’t always be possible to be spontaneous. That’s what happens when you work at home over the summer. You have responsibilities. Take care of those, and make time for fun when you can.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated March 14th, 2018

How To Encourage Your Kids To Be More Independent

How To Encourage Your Kids To Be More Independent

What do you think about when you think about your childhood? Odds are, you don’t think about the television you watched, at least not as much as you think about the fun things you did, especially without your parents. Many kids now don’t do nearly so much on their own. Wouldn’t you like to encourage your kids to be more independent?

It can be difficult to encourage your kids to be more independent these days. There are a lot of things encouraging them to stay inside, from the delights of online games to the fears many parents have of allowing even their teens to do things on their own.

Being comfortable doing things on their own is vital for your kids, both now and later in life. You don’t want them to be completely dependent on you as adults, do you? Now is the time to teach your kids to enjoy age appropriate independence, so they can do more and more on their own as they grow up.

This is not just something to do when the kids are small, although you can start then. It’s something to do throughout their lives.

Books To Read

With all the highly protective parents around, it can be very difficult to let your kids be more independent. Many have very few friends who can meet up with them on their own. Mine have this problem, even my teens. Everyone is in too many activities. They don’t have time to run around and just be kids.

Worse, some people will report kids for being outside if they think they’re too young to be out alone, even when the kids are a perfectly reasonable age. It’s reasonable to be concerned if a two or three year old is wandering the neighborhood alone; it’s quite another when the child is ten or more.

Reading some of these books may help you get more comfortable.

Free Range Kids – I received a free copy of this to review years ago. It’s still worth a read. Kids are capable of so much if you just let them try.

Last Child In The Woods – Another book I received a copy of long ago. It makes excellent arguments for why kids need to get out in nature.

Balanced and Barefoot – I haven’t read this one, but it strikes me as another good choice. The author is a pediatric occupational therapist, and the book explains why kids need to play independently outside. Developmentally, it’s a big deal.

Playborhood – One of the big reasons many parents don’t let their kids play outside is because there’s nobody out there for them to play with. You can change that.

Know Your Local Laws

Laws regarding kids can vary quite a bit from state to state. Make sure you know what your local laws say about things such as leaving kids home alone or leaving them in the car.

If you’re unfortunate enough to have excessively concerned neighbors, knowing the laws won’t always protect you from CPS. Some CPS agents will have their own ideas as to what is safe for kids. But for the most part, knowing the laws in your area should be enough.

On the plus side, some states such as Utah, are looking at making laws that state parents can let their kids play outside safely. It’s too bad that it takes a law to allow something that used to be assumed, but that’s where we’re at.

Get Your Kids Outside

Encourage your kids to be more independent by getting them to play outside, both on their own and with you. If you don’t have a yard, this may mean finding a park or playground where they can play, and will take more of your time.

Taking your kids for a hike is another good way to get them outside. Give them room to roam ahead or behind you as appropriate to the situation. Don’t make them stick right by your side without a good reason.

As kids get older, find more ways for them to go outside without you. If your neighborhood is safe, as many are, just encourage them to go play outside. Make sure they have toys that are fun for them to use outside.

My son, for example, loves remote control anything. Remote control toys are best used outdoors for the most part, unless they’re just too small for that.

Bikes, skates, balls and so forth are classics that are always good for kids to play with outside. Give them a good supply of outdoor toys, and playing out there becomes much more appealing.

Help Your Kids Build Skills

Independence isn’t just about playing outside. You should also give your kids the skills they need to do interesting things without you.

What that means depends on what your kids want to do. Your child might be artistic or they might enjoy building things. They may be into electronics.

Do things with your kids that help them build up the skills they need to take their interests farther. While you don’t want to overdo scheduled activities, the occasional class in their interests is a good thing.

Learn with your kids also. Make things with them. Teach them some of your skills, or pick up a new one with them.

I helped my son build a computer, for example. He did as much of the work as possible, and did online research as necessary. I helped with the build and with troubleshooting. We had lots of fun together. It was a huge boost to his confidence.

Set Appropriate Limits

Some people badmouth kids who are allowed to go out and about on their own because they assume they’re troublemakers. Don’t assume that encouraging your kids to be more independent means you don’t have to enforce limits. Of course you do.

The big ones, of course, are to respect other people and to respect their property. If your kids are doing something that might injure someone or damage someone else’s property, there’s a problem.

There’s a difference between letting your kids run wild and encouraging them to be independent, after all. That difference is in your expectations for their behavior. Set your expectations high.

Give your kids solid rules for how to deal with playing in the street. The old cry of “car!” when a car is approaching is great when there’s a group of kids playing and a car comes along. Make sure they know that they have to clear the street when a car comes along. Lots of games are far more fun for kids if they can play in the street, but they need to respect the primary use of the street. It’s safer for your kids and much less frustrating for neighbors.

Don’t let your kids play in the street unless you know they can handle it. If the kids are too young or don’t pay enough attention to traffic, it’s not safe. And of course, if the cars go too fast through your area, it’s probably not a good idea to include the street in their play. Use your judgment.

How far you let your kids wander will depend on their ages and the general safety of the area you live in. My kids love going to the store for ice cream, which is about a mile away. The older two can do this on their own if they like. The youngest must have one of the older ones with her.

Further along is a park they can go to, but they must use the crosswalks at the lights. I’ve seen too many close calls by that park to want to cross at the crosswalk that doesn’t have so much as a stop sign myself, never mind letting my kids do it. Too many drivers fail to stop for pedestrians in that crosswalk. The stoplights make it a little safer.

Teach Them To Be Safe

Beyond setting appropriate rules comes teaching your kids to be safe in general.

This is not “stranger danger.” There are times when talking to a stranger is entirely appropriate.

Teach them to be aware of their surroundings. Teach them how to deal with problems they may encounter. You can’t teach them everything, but when you talk about the more likely situations they’ll face, they have a better chance of dealing with other situations as well.

Teach Your Kids That You Trust Them

If you want your kids to be trustworthy, you have to trust them. This takes years of building up so that they’re confident in themselves and in your trust.

This starts as soon as they’re old enough to play alone, especially outside. Don’t insist upon being a part of everything they do.

When they’re playing in the yard or in the park, watch from a distance. Don’t be right there to help them climb. If they ask for help, that’s fine. That’s trust.

As they get older, set up rules that are based on trust, both when they’re out and about and at home. Do what needs to be done to keep your kids safe online, but trust them as well.

This means don’t check up on everything they do. You don’t have to check their texts daily when they get to that age, not unless you have a reason to mistrust them or if there’s a known problem you’re helping with.

I’ve had occasion to check my kids’ texts due to a suspected problem. I explained clearly what the situation was, so they knew I wasn’t being arbitrary.

At the same time, you want them to trust you. If your kids come to you with a problem, talk it out reasonably with them. Don’t get mad right away. Listen to the whole story. Discuss where things went wrong, and discipline appropriately. Done right, you’ll increase trust by not going overboard.

I’ve had to help my oldest with problems where she had to share texts with me to help with a situation she did not know how to deal with. We even had to consider whether to get the school involved. I was very glad that she trusted us enough that she could come to me with such a problem.

Give Them Responsibilities

Having responsibilities helps kids to be more independent. From helping to load the dishwasher when they’re small, to helping prepare dishes and keep the house and yard up as they get older, responsibilities help kids become more independent.

You should also make them responsible for their own homework as much as possible. Help them build the habit of starting on time. Don’t help them unless they need it, and even they don’t just hand the answer to them.

It’s often difficult to give your kids responsibilities. Teaching them to do chores is harder than doing it yourself during the learning curve. Some kids want you right there when they have homework to do or have a difficult time learning to manage their time. Give it time, and it will get easier for all of you.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated September 8th, 2017

How to Limit Kids’ Screen Time While You Work at Home

How to Limit Kids' Screen Time While You Work at Home

It’s hard balancing working at home with being a parent. Someone always wants something. Even when school’s in session, kids find ways to need you right when you’re trying to be really productive. And of course, they always want permission to watch TV, use a tablet or a computer. But you can’t let them do that all the time. Kids need limits on their screen time. Sometimes that’s difficult when you’re working at home and screens are the easy way to get them to give you some peace and quiet.

This issue has become both easier and more difficult for me as my kids have gotten older. They’re all old enough now that they can play on their own for quite some time, but the oldest in particular likes to play online games where she can interact with friends whose parents never seem to want to let them just come over.

Giving screen time to the kids is, of course, one of the easiest ways to keep them busy and somewhat quiet while I work, but it’s not ideal. Fortunately, there are good ways to limit kids’ screen time while you work at home. Try a few and see what works for you.

Talk About Screen Time Limits And Set Rules

It’s good to get into the habit of talking about it when you’re going to make a rule change such as limiting screen time. The ages of your children will determine how much they have to say, and you can try to come to a mutually agreeable solution. You can set limits per day or week, and consider ways for kids to earn extra time if you like.

One thing you may have to discuss is how much screen time parents have. Since I work at home, I’ve had to explain why the rules don’t apply the same way to me. I work on my computer, after all. If you aren’t following the rules yourself, be sure to have a fair reason why.

One long standing rule we have is that the kids may not bring screens into their bedrooms – except on sick days when I want them to try to keep their germs to themselves. Keeping screens out of the bedrooms means no one can just sit and stare at a screen for hours without being noticed, and they won’t stay up at night watching stuff.

I don’t count homework time against their allowed screen time. That’s school work, and the older the kids get, the more often the computer is required to get their homework done. They’d be upset if that was the only time they could use the computer, and I would consider that reasonable.

Consider Educational Computer Games And Apps

If you want to give your kids a little more leeway on how long they use screens, find some acceptable computer games or apps for them. My youngest adores The Prodigy Game, an online math game, which is nice because she needs a little extra help with her math.

You may also want to give some leeway if your child is building a skill using the computer or a table. My oldest wants to be an animator, so it’s completely reasonable to allow her extra time to work on that skill, just as it would be for one trying to develop an app or do other work that requires a computer.

Don’t give your kids unlimited time with screen just because it’s an educational game, of course. It’s not unreasonable to allow them some extra time if they can convince you of the value of what they’re doing.

Send them outside

Send Them Outside

Many kids these days seem to really resist playing outside when it’s hot out. I suspect it has to do with air conditioning. Why go outside when inside is soooo comfortable?

I aim to get my kids outside during the more pleasant parts of the day – morning before it really heats up, evening as it cools off. In the heat of the day is more difficult, but a nice sprinkler and a healthy supply of Super Soakers really improves their interest.

Consider also whether your kids are old enough to go to the park on their own or with a group of friends while you work. Whether or not this is possible depends on a lot of factors, but there comes a time when it’s really good for kids to be allowed to do things without direct adult supervision. Once they can do that, you may worry, but you can get things done while they’re gone. You can go along and try working on your laptop or tablet if you like or if the kids are too young to go on their own, but if your kids are old enough to go to the park on their own, you’ll probably be more productive at home.

Classes, Camps, etc.

What do your kids want to learn about or do during their spare time? My kids take swim lessons at least part of each summer, and we look at other classes, soccer camp and so forth. There may be signups at various times, both during the school year and in summer, depending on where you live. While I don’t believe in overscheduling kids (they need down time too!), signing them up for something they really want to do is great for keeping them away from the TV or computer and can give you some work time. If the classes are short, you may be better off bringing some work along on your laptop than driving back and forth for drop off and pick up.

Have activities ready for the kids

Have Activities Ready For the Kids

I keep a variety of craft supplies ready for my kids. My kids went through a phase where they constantly wanted to make things with Perler beads. They print designs off the internet for whatever they want to make, and my oldest is allowed to use the iron to press them.

Pay attention to the kinds of crafts and other activities your kids enjoy so you can keep supplies ready for them. The easier it is for the kids to access the supplies on their own, the more they’ll use them rather than watch TV, and the more they’ll let you work.

Board games are another good choice. Play as a family sometimes, but make sure your kids know how to play some games just with each other. Some games are good for a wide range of ages – mine play Sorry together sometimes, for example.

Be ready to help the kids negotiate when they can’t agree on what to do. One time I persuaded my two older kids to play a game called Greed (what they wanted to do) while taking turns playing Mastermind with my youngest. It worked out pretty well, as everyone was doing something they wanted to do.

There will probably still be times when you’d rather let your kids watch TV or play on a computer or tablet. If you plan alternatives in advance, you won’t have to give in as often. As everyone gets used to relying on screens less and less for daily entertainment, it gets easier all around.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

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