What Do to with My 4 Year Old While I Am Working at Home?

Updated on June 09, 2011
V.K. asks from Roseville, CA
15 answers

I have been doing some work from home for a little while, helping out with my husbands business doing all the paperwork etc. Anyway, my 4 year old daughter is nearly out of preschool for the summer and will only be going part time throughout the summer so she will be here some days while I am working during the week. I am looking for some ideas of how I can keep her occupied while I am working without using the TV.

I do not have any other help here with her so it's just me and her during the day. She's 4 and doesn't always play good all by herself. She does not have any computer or gaming systems. She likes watching TV but want to limit that.


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answers from Seattle on

You should set her up a small table and chair in the same room that you are working and give her crayons, paper, color books etc. So that she feels like she is going to "work" too just like Mommy is. Then she might feel better about playing if she can see you.

If she gets bored then she can read books, or watch just a little tv and whatever else she enjoys doing.

You can also both take a break and go outside for a little while to get some fresh air, would be good for you both.

4 moms found this helpful

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answers from Boston on

I would strongly recommend hiring a mother's helper to keep her busy. If you live in a neighborhood with a playground and other kids, you can have your mother's helper bring her to the park, supervise her playing outside with other kids, or at home, play games with her, etc. You should be able to get a young high school or mature middle school student who would work for short money so that she (or he) could get some experience before moving up to actual baby-sitting.

I have worked at home 3x per week (plus 2 in the office) for 5 years and it's just not fair to the younger kids to not have someone there to tend to them while you're trying to work. Without someone to play with her or take her places, she will be either bored to death and up your butt all day or watching TV. There is only so long that a child can stay occupied with coloring, doing puzzles, play-doh, moon sand, crafts projects, video games, etc. and none of those are a real replacement for actual childcare.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

If it's nice out and you have a yard take your work outside and set her up with a sandbox and a mini pool. That's what I do when I have to study with my three year old around.

What works for a limited time period on bad weather days is setting her up with play-dough or some other craft at the same table I am working at. She will play by herself better if I keep her company.

Other than that... get as much as possible done when she's out of the house.
Good luck!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Milwaukee on

Find a young girl in the neighborhood who will babysit for a couple bucks each time.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

Play doh...simple arts and crafts she can do safely. Give her a desk near you so she can be close. Tell her she needs to do her job while mommy does hers...Let her job be making things for loved ones....when she gets bored with that, have books around. I had a Barbie head that I would spend hours styling...it is something fun she can do quietly and they are pretty inexpensive

I work from home and my kids need to be entertained too..they get rowdy if they have nothing to do. I do have the neighbor kiddo on my side and he will take the boys outside once he gets home from school. This summer I am gonna offer to pay him. so I have a few hours in the morning to work more diligently.So, maybe finding someone to take her to the park or just hangout around the house would be nice for both of you.

You two will work out a routine that is good for you. IF anything just keep her near ya...that way she wont feel like work is more important..and it will teach her that hard works is important in life! this could be a good learning thing for her:)

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Topeka on

I work from home as well and have a 3 year old that is always with me and a 6 year old that is off of school now that its summer. Obviously when my older one is home that helps but during the school year here are some things I do. Sorry if they are duplicates:
She has a fisher price laptop that she uses to be like Mommy. She has a table she likes to sit up by my desk too. Then she can color & talk to me & we can interact. We do have a second computer in the home so she is able to play pbskids.org games. She loves them! Playdough is good and we are also fans of paper dolls & painting. Good luck! Sometimes it gets hard!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

You got some great suggestions here! Play doh is great, works best if you have alot of the tools to do things with it so it is not boring. And get her one of the easels with chalk on one side and a board on the other. Get a big roll of butcher type paper and cut off large pieces at a time and put it on one side. You can have her color with markers or crayons (paint in my experience is not something to have the kids do when you are busy doing something else...LOL). I would suggest keeping her occupied for a short time doing things but don't expect too long...maybe another mom in your area who can take her for playdates and you can trade off? I agree don't let tv be the babysitter. TV is fine but not for hours.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

My son is 4.
But he is also very independent and self-reliant.

He likes:
1) Moon Sand
2) Play Doh
3) Playing on the iPad
4) educational videos
5) playing with his cars and Dinosaurs etc.
6) coloring
7) playing in the sprinklers
8) playing with me.

Working at home with a young child, you WILL have to play with them...and toggle between work and them. In spurts.
So, an idea is:
Tell her ahead of time "Sweetheart, Mommy has to work for about 1/2 hour. Then we will do something."
Then, put out some things she can do. Tell her she can play with that. While Mommy works.

Kids need a head's up about what is going on and what is coming up.
So that they know, it is not endless.
Work in spurts.
If you think that you will be working hours on end... any child will get bored/restless/be not to keen on that.
So you will need to work, then do something with her, go back to work, then do something with her, then go back to work, then do something with her etc.

That is what I do. I work at home too. Not in a major way, but its my own "hobby" type work.
But, my son is good about it. Because, we have a ROUTINE about it.
He goes to Preschool too, part-time. But when he is home, he knows we have this routine. He knows "Mommy works at home.... " type thing.
I explain to him.
He always has things to do. And I also go back and forth between that and spending time with him. And taking him OUT too, for a designated time period. We also have lunch together. We chat and eat and he likes that.
I also give him his own "work" to do. Kid type stuff. Paper, pen, a workbook etc.

Your time of working, will need to be in chunks. Not it being continuous.
Because, we have a 4 year old child at home, too.
So, I know that in my head. My "work" will not be continuous. And will be prone to interruption. It can't be helped.

Have a routine.
Tell your child about the day and what is going on.
Have things for her to do.
Let her know what you are doing, and for how long.
Organize your day, as such.
Then what you will do with her.

That is what I do.
It works for me and my son.

My son, also naps everyday as well, in the afternoons, for about 2 hours.

If your work is continuous and you can't get away... then get a Helper, to come and help mind your daughter. And extra pair of hands and another person, will help.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Pocatello on

You have some great suggestions here, but I have to add taht outside play time is really important to your child, she shouldbe outside palying at the park or rideing her trike or whatever for at least an hour a day. Perhaps you could hire a young babysitter to walk her to a nearby park to paly for an hour or have another mom with a child the same age come pick her up for some outside time a couple of days a week. Of course you can take a break from work and do it yourself, but it may be helpful to call in some favors or pay someone to help you out a little bit!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

try going through Michael's or another craft store together and let your daughter pick out some new stuff she would like to try. we go every once in a while, and come home with beads, stickers, new craft items etc. also you could get the preschool books at target. my daughter loves practicing her letters and numbers.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

My husband works from home...our three yr old son has his "laptop". Just one of the those Fisher Price computers that helps him with counting, alphabet...he also uses his leapster, his Leapster Tag Jr.

If I come home early or am home he says "MOM, dad and I are working shhhh"...or "Just a minute I'm on the phone"....

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chico on

I got my 4 year old son the Scholastic Pre-K Reading and Math Workbook (got it at Barnes and Noble) and let me tell you, it's amazing. My son WANTS to sit still for up to 1.5 hours and work in his workbook. I couldn't believe it - last night he worked in it INSTEAD of Dora, which is his favorite show. You might want to give it a try.

My thoughts on you actually getting much work at home while your daughter is home are that it isn't likely to happen. I've got the kind of job where I can work at home and it turns into nothing but an exercise in frustration. Then again, I have 2 and 4 year old boys and things can get out of control really quickly. What I do is put them in preschool for 3 full days a week and "power work." You might find that it's easier to do something like this than try to get any real work done with her at home.



answers from San Francisco on

I also work from home with a 4YO. We have a craft basket filled with stuff and she draws pictures and makes things while I work. She usually makes herself a little place on the floor next to me. On nice days I will move my work to the kitchen so I can watch her play in the sandbox outside. This is one thing outside that she actually enjoys doing by herself.
Enjoy your summer!



answers from Sacramento on

I too have a 4 yr old son and when I am home doing my work I usually have him either color or play in the backyard while I do my paperwork in the living room. I give him a bit of leeway and then see just how much I have to watch over him. Mind you - my son has a lot of medical needs and I deem him a "special-needs" child with everything we have to deal with but he is also a child who just needs to experience. I have not had any problems with him doing this as yet and I enjoy looking up and watching him outside either playing with his toys in the grass or on the deck and knowing he can do it so long as he knows someone is around. The other thing I do is tell him as soon as I get through this pile of papers or that one file, I will break and do something with him for a bit. That makes him feel like he means something to me and he likes that too. Whatever your daughter will handle is basically what she and you can give to eachother's comfort level. Trust her to understand what you need but you have to give her back the trust by following through with what you say you will do.
Good luck!



answers from Sacramento on

Have a variety of activities ready because four year olds often need to change what they are doing. One type of toy I haven't seen mentioned here is any type of construction toys. These will usually keep any four year old, boy or girl, occupied for a significant amount of a day. We keep Duplo blocks, Lincoln Logs, Waffle Blocks and several other types of construction toys on hand. Sometimes the children like to mix and match as they build with them. You'll likely need to assign a certain area for the building. Otherwise you may find your house filled with her creations!
Also, I would suggest that you talk with her preschool teachers and find out what seems to hold her interest most during the day there. You might get some really good insights into your daughter's preferences that way.

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