In this post, you will find tips for working from home with a toddler. These tips were written during the coronavirus crisis in 2020 when all the schools and daycare centers were closed in Germany for months. Parents were forced to work from home with their kids at home. You can use these tips now also when your daycare center is closed but you still have to work. Most daycare centers in Germany are closed 40 days a year.
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Other childcare options besides daycare
Before we talk about the tips on working from home with a toddler, let’s explore what are the other options for childcare if your daycare is closed.
Sharing a babysitter
You can find a babysitter from your area with this website. It is cheaper if a babysitter is taking care of more kids. For example, if you have more than one kid, you can hire one babysitter for them.
If you have only one kid, you may want to share a babysitter with other parents. For example, you can invite some other kids from your neighborhood to your place. And hire a babysitter to look after them all together. This is an economical way for childcare support as you can then share the cost with your neighbors.
I love playdates. We usually invite kids from our neighborhood to our place for a playdate. My daughter loves playing with other kids and it is also easier for me when she has interaction with other kids. I can have some time to work while they are playing with each other. Besides, we also take turns with other parents so that I can take the kids one day and someone else can do that on the other day. This gives every parent some free time from time to time. And it is very helpful especially if we need to work from home.
For more different childcare options, check out this guide: Childcare in Germany – Kita and Other Options
Tips for working from home with a toddler
Let’s say we don’t have a babysitter or cannot organize a playdate easily. So, what can we do when we have to work from home with our toddler? I know that the easiest way is to turn on a TV show or give our kid an iPad. But we really want to minimize our screen time. Actually, we don’t even have a TV at home and I have never given my daughter any screen time until now (she is three years old).
Below are tips we find useful while working from home with a toddler:
1. Rotate toys
Kids get bored of their toys very fast. When my daughter gets a new toy, she is super excited about it for the first one or two days. But afterward, she loses interest completely and forgets about the toy. One way we discovered to make her interested in her toys for longer is to rotate her toys regularly.
We bought some big boxes and sorted her toys into different boxes. Every day, only one box is put in her play area, and the rest of the boxes stay in our basement. We change the box in her play area every three days. Whenever a new box is put in her play area, the toys are new to her again. The “new” toys keep her busy for a while and I can take advantage of this time to work.
2. Use toys that encourage independent play
We use toys that our daughter can play with by herself. What I can really recommend is a tiptoi pen. This is an electronic pen that can interact with tiptoi books. When my daughter uses this pen to touch a picture in the book, the pen will explain the picture, read a story or sing a song to her, etc. She can even play a game with this pen. For example, the pen may ask her to find certain animals on the page and she has to look for the animal with the pen.
This is a really good digital audio learning system and a great alternative to screen time. Different tiptoi books focus on different learning like music, numbers, color, etc. We have now three different tiptoi books at home and my daughter never gets tired of them. She can easily entertain herself for half an hour with a book, while I try to work as much as possible during that time. This is really a lifesaver for us!
Other toys like Legos or puzzles are also great for independent play. I usually ask my daughter to sit next to me and play while I am working with my computer. I give her some comments from time to time, e.g. when she needs help with the puzzle. So, it makes her feel like I am playing with her together.
3. Encourage kids’ imagination
Toddlers are very creative and they love to be in their imaginary world. They love to imitate what adults are doing. For example, my daughter has many stuffed animals in her play area. Sometimes, she likes to read books to them just like how I read books to her.
In her daycare center, she has a morning circle “Morgenkreis” every morning, where the kids sit in a circle and sing together. When I want to gain some time to work while the daycare center is closed, I ask my daughter to do a morning circle with her stuffed animals. She will organize each animal a seat, take the guitar and sing to them. She will also discipline them if any animal is not behaving. It sounds funny but I gain some time to work while she is busy with her animals.
4. Creative artwork
Sometimes we need to be creative. My daughter always finds new activities very interesting. For example, we introduced the below artwork to her. It was great as it could occupy her for quite some time and it was not too messy for me. I asked her to sit next to me and showed her how she could glue her “car”. She was then very busy with tearing and gluing next to me. This activity requires only minimal supervision and I can work in parallel by her side.
5. Healthy snacks and meal
I take advantage of my daughter’s mealtime to catch up with my work. She loves eating and can eat several times a day. It may take her half an hour to finish her meal, and I use that time to work beside her. I always plan and prepare the food beforehand so that she can eat when she gets hungry. Fruits like mandarin and bananas are also great snacks. My daughter loves to peel the skin by herself (and she is slow). I can buy some time to work when she is having her fruits.
Read more: Water in Germany: Dealing with hard water
6. Establish a daily routine
It is important to have a routine with my daughter. She knows what to expect every day and it makes my day easier. For example, she has breakfast every morning after she gets up. Then it is music time and then indoor playing time. Lunchtime is around noon and followed by a nap. In the afternoon, it is outdoor playing time, snack time, and then indoor playing time again. Afterward, it is dinner time, taking shower, and bedtime.
Following a routine can help your toddler to know what to expect and she is also more likely to take her nap, which means that you have more quiet time to work. You can also plan your work tasks accordingly based on her activities.
7. Play in the bathtub
Another trick I use when I need some time to work is to put my daughter in our bathtub with some water and toys. She can play by herself happily for half an hour there. Of course, I need to be with her for safety reasons. I have a seat in our bathroom where I can work with my computer, while she plays with water.
8. Turn on kids’ music
My daughter loves listening to music, singing, and dancing. When I turn on her favorite music, she will be very excited and she will sing and dance along. This gives me some time to work on tasks that are possible with background noises.
9. Align with your partner
Your partner needs to know what kind of support you need from him or her. For example, when my husband comes home from work in the evening, he will take care of putting our daughter to bed. It means that I can use this time to focus on my work if needed. Similarly, he can take our kid to the playground on the weekend so that I can catch up on my work during a very busy time.
10. Start working early
My daughter usually goes to bed at 8 pm and gets up at 8 am. When I need some quiet time to work, I get up at 6 am. This gives me around 2 hours to concentrate on my work. I find that I can be really productive and get a lot of work done early in the morning before she wakes up. I am also less stressed to start my day with her when I know that part of my work for the day is already done.
11. Plan your work wisely
Make a to-do list every day and cross out your tasks once done. This helps you to be organized every day and have an overview of what still needs to be done. It is also motivating to see more tasks being crossed out. Sort your tasks by the level of concentration you need. For tasks that don’t require much concentration, you can do them in parallel while your kid plays next to you. Plan to do tasks that require a lot of attention during your kid’s nap time, in the early morning before your kid gets up, or in the evening after your kid goes to bed.
12. Bring your work outside
If the weather is good, you can let your kids play in your garden while you work there at the same time. In our garden, we have a slide and a swing. Our daughter also likes to play with her sandbox and Bobbycar there. What I do is that I bring my computer to our terrace and just work there, while watching my daughter play.
If you do not have a garden, you can also go to a playground where there are not so many people around. This may not be optimal if you need to work on your laptop. But maybe you have some documents to read? You can print them out and read them on the playground, while your kid is happily playing outside.
13. Relax, relax, and relax!
I understand fully how it is to work from home with a toddler. Even when I follow all the tips above, it works better some days and sometimes I just feel like nothing works. When you have this feeling that it is impossible to work anymore, try to relax and just put your laptop aside. Spend time with your kids and give them 100% your attention they need. You can catch up with your work again once you can. There is no point to continue working with a crying kid next to you. Work is work and it is not more important than your kid.
Think about it positively. When will you have the next chance to spend so much time together with your kid? Kids grow up fast. It is a great chance to bond now!
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Do you also work from home with a toddler? What works best for you? Leave a comment below and share your tips and experience!
Moving to Germany or new in Germany? Check out our Resources Page for all the help you need!