You’ve been there… you need to get stuff done. That phone call, that email, that meal you need to cook. Sometimes you just need a few minutes. Here is how you can occupy your kids to actually get things done.
“Hold on for one minute, please” I told the lady on the phone, “let me go to the other room.”
As I closed the door to drown out the screams, I covered my ear with my hand and said…
“Okay, what was it you wanted to know?”
She needed my insurance information, birth dates, and other detailed things that required concentration.
With one part of my brain on the phone and the other part on the flailing screaming children on the other side of the wall, I carried on. I secretly hoped the phone lady had kids, but hey. If she didn’t… well… what can I say?
Kids are loud. The end.
Sometimes you need to get things done
We spend much of the day being present with our kids, meeting their needs, and working our routine. We want to give them all individual time and love and attention and this is well and good. But there are sometimes, many times in fact, when we need our kids occupied so we can take care of business. Business might mean cooking, cleaning, making an appointment, sending an important email, or having a face to face conversation with a guest.
At times we can let our children mill about while we do this, but other times we need them quiet and occupied.
We need full concentration.
This is easier said than done. After the above incident I needed to pull out the stops when I had business to take care of. I could no longer just expect my kids to be quiet, I needed to set that situation up for success. Here is a smattering of situations in which we need to pay attention:
- important phone calls
- doctors’ visits or waiting rooms
- a household project
- short work from home bursts
- necessary household chores
There are others, but you get the idea. REAL LIFE must happen even though we have precious babies, toddlers and preschoolers. While we can set ourselves up for success by giving our kids things to occupy them, it’s also important to note these are also opportunities for children to learn self-control and the ability to wait. It’s hard, but it’s worth it.
15 Ways to Occupy Kids When You Need to Get Stuff Done
- Book Time | If your kids like books, this will be a snap. Ask each child to take a seat on the chair, couch, or their bed (wherever is convenient) with some books and to read them quietly. This is a great time to look at picture books as well. This also works as a good calm down trick.
- “Give mommy a minute” | Teach what it means if you need a minute to do something. Before it’s a necessity, explain you may go away for a few minutes to another room, but you’ll return. Use that helpful phrase regularly and they’ll catch on.
- Sitting still | Sitting quietly does not come naturally to children. When you think about it, have regular practice times at home where you require the kids to sit quietly in a chair or on the couch for a few minutes at a time. This self-control will come in handy later.
- Independent Play | If I know I need 30+ minutes to myself to concentrate, I will do it when my children are in independent play. This means they’re in a safe place on their own playing by themselves with age appropriate toys.
- “Shhhh” | Children 18 months and older will understand that “shhh” means they are not to talk. Explain that when you say “shhh” there is no talking until you give the signal. This applies for the phone, an in person convo, the drive through, doctor’s office, wherever.
- Creative Toys | Some toys encourage more focus than others. Break out the LEGO, Duplo, blocks, or Lincoln Logs. Whatever type of toy your children enjoy that captivate them for longer than a few minutes are a good way to keep them occupied and quiet.
- Screen time | Instead of turning on the TV when everyone starts acting naughty, use screen time purposefully, like when you need a few minutes silence.
- Backyard | If you have a fenced in yard or are far from roads, let them at it.
- Snacks | Giving kids a snack will help them focus on the task – eating – and help alleviate any blood sugar or hunger related meltdowns. With a fuller belly they can handle being made to wait.
- “After this we’ll…” | Much like adults, children need something to look forward to. If you need them to remain quiet for 30 minutes in a waiting room, give them incentive. Not a bribe, but incentive. “After this appointment we’ll go to the park” or “As soon as we’re done we’ll zip in the car and have a singing party!” Help take their focus off the wait and onto what’s next.
- Busy bags | Appointments and the like mean you don’t know exactly how long you’ll need to be out. By having a few busy bags you can whip out in a jam, the kids may not even mind the wait.
- Make it routine | If you need an hour a day to work, put it into your routine so your children know what to expect. You’ll be amazed how well children adapt to something they know is coming. We use printable routine cards to help us keep track of what happens when.
- Coloring | Older children might enjoy having a pocket coloring book and pens for public or their box of crayons and an art pad at home. My daughter will draw for hours if she’s in the mood, and this is a great activity for her when I need concentration.
- Set the timer | If your children feel like they never get enough of “you” they’ll hang on to your leg. If you set the timer for “them time” and then set the timer for “business time” this will help you make things happen. This may mean time for you to pay bills, make phone calls, or work at the computer. Kids do well when they know the beginning and ending so believe me that the timer is a mom’s best friend.
- Involve them | This seems counter-intuitive since you want to get it done alone, but if you’re able to teach your children how to help you (especially if it’ll pay dividends for years to come) involve them.
But back to my screaming phone call story…
I walked out of the room to some teary faced toddlers and preschoolers.
I got some good cuddles (which are good for their brains, FYI).
I told them, “Next time, we’ll do this better, okay?”
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