5 Ways to Keep a Toddler Busy When Working from Home

Working from home can be a great opportunity for moms. Having the opportunity to earn an income while also spending as much time as possible with your children is something millions of moms wish for.

Work at home moms have struggles as well. One of those is how to conduct business while little ones are running around, sometimes loudly.

  1. Create a busy box.
A busy box is a box (or bag, whatever you choose) full of special items that will entertain your child. There are a few key components of a busy box that you'll need to make it really effective. First, only bring it out when you really need it. Not every day, but maybe a couple times a week. Also, rotate the items periodically to keep it fresh and therefore, the most effective. Additionally, if you are going to be making phone calls, your busy box should not include items that make noise.

Items to include in your busy box will vary depending on what your child's interest levels are. A small family photo album is always fun and interesting for little ones. Make a small one just for your child. Add in some sparkle an interesting in the form of a “calm down bottle.Pinterest is full of examples to make one of these with a water bottle. Also add in stacking cups, a funny hat, a soft ball, anything that can be played with and trusted with less supervision.
  1. Bring out a big box.
Kids love boxes, of all sizes. If you spot any medium to large boxes or even better, an appliance box, save it for a special time like when you are trying to get some work done. Bring it out and watch your child find a hundred different ways to play with it. If your child is old enough to play with markers, then give him/her a few to decorate the box. If the box is big enough, cover it with a blanket and make a tent for even more fun. 
  1. Put your child to “work.”
Toddlers love to imitate mom. Now is the perfect time to use that to your advantage. Set your child up with a desk near yours with kid-friendly office supplies. Give him/her a toy laptop, a telephone, a stapler (without staples), a pad of paper, markers and anything else you have on hand. When it's time to work, you'll both be at your most productive.
  1. Bath is lots of fun!
Do you have some work on your laptop that really needs to get done? Well maybe it's time for your child to take a bath. Kids can spend loads of time in the tub. Give them some cups, a few sponges and a few inches of warm water and you'll buy yourself plenty of time to get work done. And moms, there's no rule that you have to quit when the water turns cold. If your child still wants to play, add some more warm water and keep it going!
  1. Make a sensory box.
This is an activity that I used as a preschool special education teacher. A sensory box contains items that create unique opportunities to feel different textures. Use an under-the-bed storage tube and fill it with something fun. For a toddler, I would use cotton balls, a spoon, a few cups, a small figurine or two and a small car. Other items to add to this box could be rice (this will make a big mess so be prepared), slime, beans, packing peanuts, a few blocks of ice with plastic toys frozen inside, or cornstarch and water.

One of the most important ways to keep your toddler occupied while you get some work done is to try to alternate your activities throughout the day. If you spend a half hour working, alternate it with a half hour of one-on-one play with your child. When you are preoccupied for too long, trouble is likely to follow.

What activities does your child play with while you are working?

Jessica Streit is an educator, freelance writer and single mom of 2 boys. Her writing can be found on a variety of topics including personal finance, education and parenting. She blogs about overcoming debt and living a royal life on a budget at The Debt Princess.


  1. I remember the days when I needed or wanted my kids to be busy for just a little while.

    I know this is not the best way but I would put on his favorite video. My son didn't always watch TV so when it was on he was in awe, lol. I would keep him busy for about an hour like that.

    I never did it but I know moms that trade babysitting. They would trade off an hour or two so work can get done. Or even sneak off to the grocery store for a "mini vacation" lol.

    I love how you put the box on your list. Isn't it the truth? There are times I think I should have just given my kids boxes for Christmas, lol.


  2. I am guilty of using videos, as well. I try to keep things educational, at least. My now 2-year-old likes Sesame Street and Calliou the best! And the boxes... such a cheap way to keep them busy! Thanks for your comment!

  3. It is amazing how much a box can do it's too funny! I also really liked your idea of letting your toddler imitate you doing work. I agree so much with your final point about mixing up the activities to avoid boredom. Even the best distractions for your toddler will be given up on if they are doing it for too long.

  4. Variety is key! Thanks so much for your comment, Janet!


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