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In an effort to try and curb the spread of COVID-19, the government has had to close schools and many employers across the country have told employees to work from home for the foreseeable future. That leaves millions of students out of the classroom and parents to wonder how they’ll work from home with kids.

The situation is the same in the United States, my 7-year-old daughter’s school is one of the 64,000 public schools shutting its doors for several weeks due to coronavirus. I’ve been working from home with kids for a couple of years now, and before I called my house my office, my husband successfully did it for five years, too.

Balancing work and childcare isn’t always easy but don’t lose hope, because it can be done. You’ve got to manage expectations, keep everything moving, all while not losing your cool and staying on top of your workload. It’s not to say there won’t be some trying moments over the weeks to come, but there are ways you can make working from home with children easier.

1. Create a daily schedule to display in your home

Basildon Standard: Photo: KalamiticaPhoto: Kalamitica

Creating a schedule for your household can provide some stability and structure when you’re working from home with kids, and, most importantly, manage everyone’s expectations for a productive day. Looking for ways to save time during the day? Things like making lunches in the morning, before you get busy with work, can help free up time later in the afternoon for you to get more done.

Start planning your schedule at the time you wake up each day, blocking off time for meals, activities, and when you’ll be working and in meetings. Many kids thrive on a routine to help them know what’s up next on the agenda. And, hopefully, it will keep them from bombarding you with repeat questions of “Are you done working yet?” and “I’m bored. When can you play with me?”

Display your household’s hour-by-hour daily rundown on a large chalkboard in the kitchen, where everyone at home can see what comes next. In addition to your kids, the structure of having the day planned out may also give you some peace of mind during this stressful time. 

Get the Kalamitica Magnetic Chalkboard on Amazon for £17.60

Get Crayola White Chalk on Amazon for £3.40

2. Stock your pantry full of easy-to-eat snacks

Basildon Standard: Photo: iDesignPhoto: iDesign

By now, you’ve probably stockpiled a hearty supply of household essentials as part of your coronavirus prep. However, snacks are crucial to surviving working from home with children. If your kids are anything like mine, it seems like they never stop eating, and you don’t want anyone getting hangry in the middle of a work call. Pre-packaged snacks are an easy way for kids to grab a snack of their own when you’re on-the-job. I keep several acrylic storage bins on the bottom shelf of our pantry stocked with grab-and-go goodies.

Get the iDesign Plastic Storage Bin on Amazon for £14.99

Get Hippeas Organic Chickpea Puffs (pack of 24) on Amazon for £22

Get BEAR Mango Pure Fruit Yoyos (pack of 18) for £7.80

3. Make sure to have the best tablet for children on hand

Basildon Standard: Photo: Reviewed / Jackson RuckarPhoto: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

During these trying times, our usual screen time limits are going out the window. Everyone is sure to have different feelings about this topic, but I’m not above letting my 7-year-old play on her tablet for an extended period of time while I get some work done. However, I am making sure that she’s not rotting her brain, watching endless hours of YouTube videos.

If you’re looking for the best tablet for kids, we love the Amazon Fire Kids Edition because it’s easy to set up, simple to use, and comes with so many pre-installed apps and videos it would take some time for your child to grow tired of it.

Get the Fire HD 8 Kids Edition Tablet on Amazon for £129.99

4. The best headphones for kids so you can tune out the noise

Basildon Standard: Photo: Puro Sound LabsPhoto: Puro Sound Labs

Of course, if your child won’t leave your side while they’re playing on their tablet, make sure to have a pair of the best headphones for kids on hand to save your own sanity while you’re trying to work. The Puro Sound Labs Kids Headphones come with noise-cancellation to help reduce the urge to crank the volume to the absolute max.

Though volume-limiting headphones are critical for protecting your child's hearing, the recommended max of 85dB(a) simply isn't very loud. These headphones help solve that by further cutting down ambient noise for kids—and cuts the noise for you entirely as you work from home.

Get the Puro Sound Labs Volume Limited Kids’ Headphones for £79.99

5. A subscription to Disney+

Basildon Standard: Photo: LucasfilmPhoto: Lucasfilm

You may have seen the headlines that Disney released Frozen 2 on Disney+ ahead of schedule, knowing that many kids are home from school right now. If you don’t have Disney+ yet, there’s no time like the present to sign up for Disney’s streaming service so they can watch their favourite Disney movies like CocoFinding NemoToy Story 4, and more. Younger children can enjoy their favourite Disney Jr. shows like Mickey Mouse ClubhouseDoc McStuffinsPuppy Dog PalsPJ Masks, and more. Sometimes you just have to let them watch TV so you can get a few things done, and that’s more than OK.

Get Disney+ for £5.99 per month or £59.99 per year

6. Outdoor play toys to keep them busy

Basildon Standard: Photo: JojoinPhoto: Jojoin

Summer is coming—and if you some garden space to spare, ordering water play toys can buy you hours of time to get things done while your children frolic outdoors. Toys like inflatable kiddie pools, water slides, sprinkler pads, and bubble machines are big hits with my 7-year-old and 21-month-old children. It takes a few minutes to get everything set up, but it’s worth the effort so you can sit back and tackle your work to-do list while you sit outside and watch them play.

Get the Bestway Kids Paddling Pool for on Amazon for £8.47

Get the Jojoin Sprinkle and Splash Water Play Mat on Amazon for £24.99

Get the Bubble Mania Bubble Whale - Automatic Bubble Making Machine on Amazon for £16.99

7. Continue educational learning opportunities

Basildon Standard: Photo: LeapfrogPhoto: Leapfrog

Just because your children are out of school doesn’t mean they have to forgo continuing their education for the time being. The Department for Education has put together a list of online education resources for home education

For younger children, Look for an option like LeapFrog’s Holo Educational Book that can help little ones practise numbers, learn ABCs, play educational games, and more.

Get the LeapFrog 603903 Holo Educational Book on Amazon for £39.99

8. Arts and crafts that kids can do by themselves

Basildon Standard: Photo: PACONPhoto: PACON

I’ve seen lots of talk about doing arts and crafts with children during the coronavirus shutdown, but in reality that isn’t practical for many parents who’ve unexpectedly found themselves working from home. However, not all arts and crafts require parents to be hands-on at every step of the day. Toys like premade slime, Playdough sets, string art, and more are all arts and crafts that kids can do with little to no help from you. Additionally, construction paper, glue sticks, and child-friendly scissors are ideal for kids who want to make their own arts and crafts while giving Mom and Dad some time to catch up on emails and participate in conference calls.

Get Fluffy Putty on Amazon for £17.29

Get the Ravensburger Ravensburger String It: Panda and Fox Playset on Amazon for £14.89

Get Hasbro Playdoh tubs (pack of 24) on Amazon for £19.40

Get Pacon SunWorks Construction Paper on Amazon for £6.88

Get GIOTTO Bebe Sticks on Amazon for £3.60

Get Crayola Safety Scissors on Amazon for £5.11

9. Puzzles and board games that kids can play together

Basildon Standard: Photo: Melissa & DougPhoto: Melissa & Doug

Have more than one child at home while you’re trying to work? Puzzles and family board games are easy ways for your children to play together and remain occupied for a period of time while you get some work done.

Get the Petit Collage Enchanted Woodland Floor Puzzle on Amazon for £15.99

Get Don’t Step In It on Amazon for £24.45

Get Let's Go Fishing on Amazon for £19.93

10. Gather materials to make blanket forts

Basildon Standard: Photo: Getty / ArtfoliophotoPhoto: Getty / Artfoliophoto

Building a homemade fort is a right of passage during childhood and there’s no better time to encourage your children to create their own than when school is closed. Chances are, you’ve probably got some spare sheets and blankets stashed in your hallway cupboards. While your kids may need help gathering materials for the fort, they can likely take care of the building without any or much assistance from you. Items like large binder clips can help secure blankets to chairs, tables, and more to make the ultimate at-home fort, leaving you time to work while your kids play.

Don’t have fort-making materials on hand? Take a look around your home for any empty cardboard boxes (especially if you’ve had an influx of deliveries lately) that can be pieced together using packing tape. Throw a few pillows and blankets inside and you’ve got yourself a cardboard house that will occupy them all day long.

Get AmazonBasics Sheets on Amazon for £8.39

Get Coideal Large Binder Clips on Amazon for £7.99

Every household is different and the status of working from home and school closings will likely continue to change in the weeks to come. I can't promise you won't lose your cool or feel stressed out working from home with kids, but one thing I do each day that helps me prepare for the next day is clean my house after the kids go to bed. I spend about 15 minutes each night putting toys back where they belong, vacuuming, and doing the dishes. Since my home is my office, it helps to wake up to a clean and uncluttered space to start the day off on the right foot.

Aside from things you can purchase to buy you a few minutes of free time while you work, being flexible and patient with yourself, your family, and your virtual colleagues can go a long way in aiding your productivity (and sanity) when working from home with kids.

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