Tips for Limiting your Child's "Plugged In" Time while you Work at Home

By Jessica Streit

As a work-at-home mom, you have to juggle a lot of tasks. 

There’s everything you have to do as a mom, like getting the kids to school, fixing lunches, grocery shopping, and planning dinner. And there’s everything you have to do for work; answering emails, making a few phone calls to clients and so much more. Many of those things need to be done with as little distraction as possible.

Often times, when you have a deadline or must make an important call and kids are around, the easiest thing to do is offer them time with their electronics. If you are anything like me, a few minutes can easily turn into an hour or more. Before you know it, your kids have been plugged in more than not. 

Getting them unplugged and occupied doesn’t have to take a lot of effort or work on your part. Here are 4 tips to help you balance plugged-in time while still working from home.

Schedule your day. Create a plan for when you will work and when you will play. Alternate the two so that you are offering your child some attention on a regular basis. Inside this schedule, include the time when it is ok for electronics. This might be when you plan to make a few phone calls or that time after school when you are trying to get dinner on the table.

By scheduling the plugged-in time, children know when they can and can not use them. It also provides a boundary for you. Sometimes, parents need the boundaries as much as kids do. If time with electronics is not on the schedule, then you can not play with them. If you stick to those boundaries, it really can be that simple.

Create a special “fun” box. This is a box of fun toys for the times when kids are just super bored. It’s the times when no matter what suggestions you make, they can not find something to do. This box of fun (also called a busy box) can contain new toys that your child has never seen before. Craft items that they do not play with regularly. This is a great place to keep the toys they get when you buy kids meals at restaurants. In my house a box would have supplies for making dioramas, magazines to make collages with or any cheap toys I may have picked up along the way.

Use electronics as a reward only. One way to limit time children are engaged in electronics is to tell them there is absolutely no screen time unless they earn it. You can set it up anyway you want but two possibilities are for every minute they read, they can have a minute of screen time. Or you may want to make it one minute of screen time for every minute they are active.

Be sure to limit the amount of rewards they can earn in one day though. The recommended amount of screen time from The American Academy of Pediatrics suggest 1-2 hours per day total. This includes all forms of video games, computers and television.

Take breaks to play together. Break up your day into chunks that rotate work time and play time. Offer your child a reward for playing on their own while you work. Suggest that they play in their room for an hour while you finish a few tasks and when you are finished, you’ll be happy to play with them. The motivation behind “mom time” will keep them occupied without needing to resort to electronics.

Being a work at home mom is no easy task. Balancing the roles of mom and employee can make the day stressful. There are days when the stress can be high and electronics are the only way to get through those days. When you use these tips to keep your kids’ usage to a minimum, you can feel better about those days when they only way you are going to survive is if they are plugged in more than they aren’t.
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.

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