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94 Ways to Keep Kids Busy for the Work at Home Parent


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I’ve had a couple of readers bemoan the fact that summer break is coming soon. I must admit that though I love my children dearly, I’m not exactly jumping for joy that I will have 3 rambunctious, screaming kids + a friend posse running around my house for the next three months.

But regardless, I have run a home business 3 times now from when my first daughter was 5 months old to today, when she is almost 13 and can do a little babysitting herself.

So here’s the good news:

You CAN run a business from home no matter what age your children are.

The bad news?

The smaller your children are, the smaller your business To Do list should be.

Plain and simple, until your kids are 3-4 years old, don’t expect yourself to be super-mom. Kids this young just need too much attention and the business will have to fit in between nap times and play dates - oh, and get used to starting your most productive work at 10:00pm. ;)

Home Business Productivity Tips for All Ages

  1. Get the kids their own computer - when you can get a new CPU and monitor
    for less than $500 total, it’s hard to say no - plus, they will need it for school eventually, anyway!
  2. Have high speed internet access - so you waste no time when you actually can get work done.
  3. Own a laptop with wireless internet - so that you can move around the house or yard as needed.
  4. Get a Blackberry or PDA - so you can stay connected even when you’re at the zoo.
  5. Use a Chore Chart - give the kids some structure and responsibility during the day.
  6. Schedule play time just like you do your work time - I try to stay off the computer on Fridays to ensure we get to enjoy the summer months together.
  7. Use the Future Post option (for bloggers) - you can maintain a regular publishing schedule by future-dating your posts(when you’re likely writing in the middle of the night!!)
  8. *Find other parents in the neighborhood and swap play dates* - critical to the sanity of both of you!
  9. Make it easy for your kids to be independent - set up an area for them to do their own thing, and keep it well stocked with projects and games.
  10. Buy grab food or make healthy snack packages - that way they can feed themselves when they get hungry
  11. Set up a schedule for ordering out - both you and the kids can look forward to it!
  12. Segment and schedule your days - the younger the kids, the more you want to ‘chunk’ you days into activities, downtime, work time and TV time, but it’s a great productivity tool no matter what the ages of your children.
  13. Load up on popsicles - it always keeps them quiet for a few minutes for an important phone call and there are plenty of healthy kinds to choose from (or make your own).
  14. Get cheap movie rentals - most older titles can be rented for way less than new releases.
  15. Buy a pool pass - you won’t get anything done at the pool, but you’ll wear your kids out and they will nap longer! ;)

Summer Activities for Children Age 1-4

If your kids are in this age bracket - I feel for you! Really, I had a hard time getting anything done without a part time sitter or a “mother’s helper”. If you really want to have a successful home business and you have very little kids, I would really recommend you consider hiring some help.

But for the days that you have to work and the little ones are right there with you, here’s a few ideas:

  1. Buy age appropriate computer games - my kids started at the age of 2
  2. Set up easy to find bookmarks for kid-friendly sites - I have my kids’ sites set up with the rest of my shortcuts right on my FireFox toolbars:
    Customize your FireFox Toolbars
  3. Stock up on workbooks and coloring books, along with crayons, markers, stencils, etc. and plenty of plain paper
  4. Create an activity ’station’ where the kids can go to make a mess whenever they want
  5. Create a baby-proofed room and barricade yourselves in - baby plays while you answer emails!
  6. Rotate toys - kids get bored quickly, so once or twice a month, hide the old and bring in the new!
  7. Get a baby sling or baby backpack - my kids never made a peep when they could sit in their backpack and watch what mom or dad was doing

Summer Activities for Children Age 4-7

  1. Keep the kids moving and active (in my house, I have a harder time keeping them still!!)
  2. Take trips to the Library - and do business research while you’re there!
  3. Download fun worksheets and sneak in some learning.
  4. Make or buy a flower press and let the kids weed the garden for you.
  5. Get a sandbox - just make sure you also get a lid so that it doesn’t turn into the neighborhood litter box!
  6. Order cheap craft project kits from Oriental Trading
  7. Teach your kids how to make a fortune teller.
  8. Buy a cheap digital camera for your budding photographer
    1. Let them create their own scrapbooks
    2. Teach them to create their own PowerPoint presentations
    3. Download a free screen saver maker and let them create their own slideshows
    4. Throw the images into Photoshop and create ink jet t-shirt transfers
  9. Keep on hand at ALL TIMES:
    1. Bubbles
    2. Sidewalk chalk
    3. Water balloons
    4. Board games (with all the pieces!!)
    5. Working sprinkler or kiddie pool (preferably both)
    6. Art supplies
  10. Bookmark these activity web sites:
    1. Printables4Kids
    2. StarFall Reading Games
    3. DLTK’s Summer Activities
    8. U.S. Fire Administration for Kids
    10. School Resources
    11. Internet4Classrooms
    12. CBC Kids
  11. Lest I miss stating the obvious:
    7. Yahoo! Kids
    9. FamilyFun Magazine online

Summer Activities for Children Age 8-13

  1. Get a metal detector and let the kids explore the yard
  2. Cut up some wrapping paper and let your kids loose on this Origami site
  3. Keep common ingredients in your pantry for kid friendly cooking projects
  4. Bite the bullet and get them their own phone in their room
  5. For the brave parents, let the kids do science projects
  6. Buy a cheap sewing machine and make kid’s sewing projects
  7. Turn your junk mail into a recycled pulpy mess and make paper
  8. Bookmark these sites
    1. SingShot - online Karaoke
    3. National Geographic Kids
    4. NASA Kids Activities
    5. DIY Network Kids Page
    6. The EPA (yes, the Environmental Protection Agency!) Kids Club
    7. Animal Planet
    8. Discovery Kids

Craft Project Resources for All Ages

  1. - extremely comprehensive list sorted by holiday, theme, materials, or topic
  2. - free crafts listing
  4. - Summer arts and crafts
  6. The Best Kids Book Site - also has a huge crafting section
  7. OneHourCraft - for older kids (and, erm, their moms!)

Craft Supplies

  1. Michaels | Store Locator
  2. Hobby Lobby | Store Locator
  3. JoAnn Fabrics & Crafts | Store Locator
  4. Flax Art & Design | Only one store location in SF

Find Local Family Activities

  1. - National US
  2. - UK
  3. Families with Purpose - National US
  4. GoCityKids - all major U.S. metropolitan areas
  5. Australia for Kids - For my friends down under ;)
  6. Scribbit on her hometown Anchorage, Alaska

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    On May 22nd, 2007 at 6:19 pm, Sue Olson said:

    Its amazing what we expect from ourselves until someone else gives us permission to think otherwise. I have a 2 yr old and a 5 month old and have to remind myself that my ‘TO DO LIST’ needs to be small when they’re with me BUT i still harbor quiet guilt that I’m not achieving enough…
    I heard a great idea to keep kids busy - let them paint the driveway with water. Its a lONG project since it keeps drying:)

    On May 22nd, 2007 at 6:23 pm, Aaron M. Potts said:

    Wendy - what an incredible resource! Thanks so much for putting it together.

    The kids that I have at home this summer are 13 and 17, so they are more independent, but the distraction is still there.

    We just had a family pow-wow last night to discuss it, and I think we set up some good best practices.

    One thing I would add to your list for people who have older children is the “closed door” rule. If the parent at home is behind a closed door in order to get some privacy, quite time, etc., no one comes through that door short of an emergency or an injury.

    It definitely helps minimize the interruptions!

    On May 22nd, 2007 at 7:31 pm, Randa Clay said:

    Great list Wendy! I’ll add one more site to the list for online resources: FreeStuff4Kids

    I have a son who is almost 2, and I’m definitely considering some helpers this summer!

    On May 22nd, 2007 at 7:58 pm, Leigh said:

    What a fantastic list Wendy, some really great ideas there and you even thought of us Aussies :)

    3mths on holidays, I do not envy you all one bit! Our longest school holiday here is about 6-7 weeks and that is certainly long enough for me LOL

    On May 22nd, 2007 at 8:32 pm, listr said:


    there is this page i found which tracks all the top blogs about personal development in just a single page
    you are on it too

    On May 22nd, 2007 at 8:52 pm, Char said:

    Wendy - this is such a great resource. Thank you for taking the time to pull it all together.

    When my kids were younger I had a younger teen as a mother’s helper three mornings a week. She took the kids outside to play on the swings, had picnics with them and basically kept them entertained while I did a few hours of work. I highly recommend it!

    On May 22nd, 2007 at 9:24 pm, Mia said:

    Hi I am Mia of What a brilliant website. I will definitely be a regular reader. Great post and tips. Keep up the good work. And cheers to us moms who are trying to make a living at home while keeping some sort of sanity.

    On May 22nd, 2007 at 9:24 pm, Web Design Minnesota said:

    You are a saint! Thanks so much for all of the resources and you are definitely right that the most productive working time is after 10 PM (note when I am writing this!). I have an 8 month old son and a 2 year old daughter so this will come in handy. Thanks again!

    On May 22nd, 2007 at 9:32 pm, Denise said:

    wooo that’s my kind of a list! With 4 ranging from 3-11 I need some ideas! Thanks!

    On May 22nd, 2007 at 10:58 pm, Easton Ellsworth said:

    Amazing list, Wendy! (which you linked to above) is our 2-year-old’s CrackBerry right now. Thanks for doing the legwork here - it will save this daddy-blogger a LOT of time!

    On May 23rd, 2007 at 12:07 am, Irene said:

    Nice tips. I am sure that it will take the childrens attention and leave parents free for business. Of course, we don’t want them to spend a lot of time on those gadgets.

    On May 23rd, 2007 at 8:08 am, Ben said:

    Thank for the posting this wonderful list. You’ve made some excellent points. My favorite is the item that mentions how work is mostly done after 10pm. That’s very true. I also find that I can sometimes start early (5am) and work until the young ones wake up (around 7:00am). I’m definitely going to consider this list when I organize my summer schedules.

    On May 23rd, 2007 at 8:08 am, Sherri Caldwell - The Rebel Housewife said:

    Wow, I am impressed, yet again! Thanks so much for so many fabulous tips! Perhaps we can all survive the long (HOT) summer ahead after all…I REX’d this article on (Digg for non-techies). Have a great summer — only 3 days of school left for us in Atlanta!

    On May 23rd, 2007 at 8:31 am, Danielle said:

    Great list of links! My kids love the Disney,, and links. Thanks a lot.

    On May 23rd, 2007 at 8:58 am, Michelle said:

    Last day of school is today.

    It’s going to be a long three months, thanks for some great suggestions and for the mention.

    On May 23rd, 2007 at 9:42 am, AgentSully said:

    what a great list. I actually put together a similar list recently too. We must be on the same wavelength. I have activity cards formatted for printing out on index cards to make a kind of Recipe Box for Parent-Child Activities. Here’s the link:

    On May 23rd, 2007 at 11:36 am, Craig said:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. My 3 girls thank you as well. This will be my first attempt working at home while the children are home on school break. Once I book a couple more engagements they will be spending more time with the Grandmother but until then I will be pulling double duty. I have been able to squeeze out two blog posts this morning but it hasn’t been easy :) This list will be printed out and be used immediately.

    Thank you again :)

    On May 23rd, 2007 at 11:36 am, Dan and Jennifer said:

    Great post Wendy, lots of useful resources.

    And very timely with summer vacation starting this week for some of our little ones. They’re 6 and 8 on our end.

    Have an awesome day!

    Dan & Jennifer

    On May 23rd, 2007 at 8:00 pm, Mary OConnor said:

    I’m the founder of a new website with downloadable mp3 stories for kids -! ( Yet another way for working moms (like me!) to keep their kids busy…entertained…and educated all at the same time!

    On May 23rd, 2007 at 9:18 pm, Marie said:

    Interesting list. I am not sure if computers work with every kid, especially if there is no fun games for them to play. But I think it will still turn out fine with the right games and guidance.

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