Working Alongside Your Toddler

If you have a small child and work at home, you probably struggle with finding new ways to entertain your child while you work. Have you noticed that imitating you is one of your toddler’s favorite activities? Take advantage of this by creating space in your office for your child to “work.”

Select a small table and chair and place it in a cozy corner of your office. It’s a bonus if your child can help you select a special “desk” just for her. A table with a plastic finish or cover will be easier to clean than wood. When selecting a chair, be sure your child can place her feet on the floor while sitting in the chair. A soft cushion can make the chair more inviting to sit in.

Stock your child’s “office” with special toys, puzzles and art supplies that are only to be used at their desk. This will give your child incentive to want to play in her “office.” Good choices are washable crayons, modeling dough, washable markers, stickers, colored paper, coloring and activity books, wooden puzzles, paper dolls, a toy telephone, and vinyl sticker play sets (like Colorforms). You can also provide office supplies like sticky notes and, if your child is over three years of age, large plastic paper clips, paste, Popsicle sticks and pipe cleaners.

If it’s snack time while you’re working you can provide dry snacks like cereal, rice cakes or granola bites for your child to munch while you’re working. Try to keep these snacks special so that your child only gets them while working in their “office.”

When you sit down to work, select one or two of the above items for your child to play with while you work. Try to give your child specific tasks like coloring a picture for daddy or mommy, building animals from modeling dough or making artwork for a friend or grandparent.

If your child interrupts, remind them gently that you are working and that they need to “work,” too. When you need to receive or make a telephone call, hand your child her own toy telephone so that she can imitate you while you’re talking. An old keyboard and mouse can provide endless entertainment for your toddler.

Build up to longer and longer stretches of working in your office side-by-side with your toddler. Give lots of praise when she plays quietly alongside you and don’t call too much attention to demanding or loud behavior. When you wrap up work for the day, head outside for a romp with your child to burn off all that “sitting still” energy.

Following these simple steps can help you build time for work as well as encourage your child to learn by imitating your daily activities.

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