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The Tyrannical Toddler

11 Tips for toddler care while working at home

Cute smiling toddler sitting on the trunk of a tree
Tips for toddler distraction when working at home

Toddlers are so cute! They are so fun! But when you are trying to work, they can come undone! Look at this face. How could this precious angel have a meltdown just due to lack of attention? Easy. She's a toddler. Toddlers love attention. They are learning their social skills, how things work, the sound of speech, how to react, and just what's what and who's who about EVERYTHING and they don't like to share because they are at the "mine" stage. This includes their people and their people's attention. They like for everyone in a room to pay attention to them or what they are engaged in. So how does a parent/grandparent/caregiver who works from home AND takes care of a toddler survive? I believe it's a work in progress as to effective strategies, but here are some toddler care tips that work for me:

1. Food. Eating is fun and can be exciting and take a lot of concentration for little ones. Just using a spoon uses up quite a bit of their hand-eye-mouth-coordination. Noodles can be quite fun, as are mashed potatoes, rice, bits of soft fruit. If you don't mind food becoming an art project (literally playing with their food) and you have a good protector on your floor to make clean up easy, food can provide 30 minutes of fun and distraction for them, give or take.

2. Baths. Water is SOOOO much fun to toddlers! There are toys and bath soap foam, soap crayons and even soap finger paints. The fun can go on as long as you are willing to sit there with your laptop and let them splash and play till the water gets too cold or their little fingers and toes get all wrinkly. Plus you'll have the cleanest kid around! Don't have a laptop? Use this time to clean the bathroom :). Multi-tasking at it's finest.

3. Taboo items. Toddlers love what they are not supposed to have. Actually this can apply to any age group. Of course this requires actually paying attention if the taboo object is a choking hazard. Handing a toddler clothespins or the kitchen timer can keep them very entertained for quite a while because they know this is a special allowance and they are somehow getting away with it. Again, this applies to almost all age groups, but really helps to buy some time to get your work done with these little ones.

4. Books. All books can be very exciting, but usually require someone to read them. However, once you have read a book to them about 10+ times they will sometimes just peruse it by themselves. Also, books that have hidden compartments that little hands can open or make work, like the "Curdoroy" books, and "The Jolly Postman", can keep a little angel entertained for 5-15 minutes before they need you to read to them again. You will need to be more efficient and work faster for this strategy to work, but that's just one more skill you will develop with this sink or swim technique :).

5. Outside time. If you can work from a laptop outside on a nice day, then the distraction time can be endless. Depending on the safety of your yard, things to play in it, and your toddlers dexterity, there are many things to distract them; sticks, slugs, snails, ants, bark, trees, wind, sun, plants (unless they are poisonous) and animals nearby or living with you. If you have a small backyard, a cement backyard or just a little deck sandboxes are AMAZING! A little sand, a few plastic toys and you're golden. Add a bucket of water to make a REALLY good mess and you have just doubled your distraction time. If you have a yard, grass is another huge interest to toddlers. Plucking it, for some reason, is a lot of fun. And if you are too busy to remove the dandelions from your yard and they have turned to magical fluff, you have an entire new treasure! You can show your toddler how to try to blow them into floating fairies to create yearlong fun whenever you are outside, with or without your assistance.

6. Edible play dough: Rainy days can be harder because toddlers really like the outside, but they also really love to squish things and edible play dough can be squished AND eaten so it's the best of both worlds. Just search on your internet for recipes and find the one that works best for you. I found one that took 1 cup of dry milk, 1 cup of peanut butter (make sure your child is not allergic to peanuts before trying this recipe) and 1 tablespoon of honey. It may require some tweaking to make it the perfect texture. I used more honey than the recipe called for to make it more squishy. Also, toddlers love to help, especially with cooking, so you can set the bowl on the kitchen floor and help them add in and stir or squish these ingredients together for extra fun!

7. Grandparents. I cannot say enough about the value of grandparents for grand babies. They are amazing if they are willing and able to care for toddlers. Grandparents are usually more patient, less busy and more experienced than parents and all those skills can be such a wonderful gift for the toddler and a blessing for the grandparents. Try not to wear them out though as toddlers can have so much energy and older people may have very little energy. One more nice attribute is that older people often take naps, so sometimes nap time can be shared with both the toddler and the grandparent. It's a win-win.

8. Kind friends. Enlist people you trust, who actually like children and enjoy playing with them, to come help you out, especially if you have deadlines. It helps develop the child's social circle and skills while learning new ways to play, eat and explore from someone not inside your family. This can help prepare them for all the diversity out there and different ways people communicate and live.

9. Set up a "Mini Office": Do you have an old laptop or child's tablet? You can create a small office inside your office with a small chair, desk, paper and pencil or crayons so that your little one can "work" while you work. There are fun learning programs available like Daniel Tiger on and Little Baby Bum, Dave and Eva and Baby Shark on YouTube. I'm sure there are more but these are ones we use and she seems to love.

10. Interactive toys: Toys like those designed by "Melissa and Doug" that have doors that can open, magnetic animals that can be removed, or make sounds when touched can be lots of fun and distracting for toddlers. Especially if you are close enough that they feel safe and secure to play by themselves. Taking the time to teach them to play with figurines also creates more time for you while they practice self play and show you the world through their eyes.

11. Kids TV. I know this sounds terrible, especially in a time of so much discussion about kids and too much TV, but I'm not endorsing using TV as a babysitter, just as a way to distract a toddler so you can earn enough money to feed them and shelter them. Personal interaction is always best, but not always practical or possible. Educational TV for babies and toddlers exist and are pretty good. BabyFirst, PBS for kids, Disney Junior and Nick Jr. all have some pretty cute, sweet shows focusing on child development, social skills and kindness.

There are more ways to distract little ones, but these toddler care tips work best for me and I hope they work for you as well. Please feel free to drop us a line and share ways you have found that work for you.

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