Working from Home and Keeping My 3 Year Old Busy

Updated on July 30, 2011
D.E. asks from Portland, OR
10 answers

Good Morning Friends -

I have a question for the parents our there who work from home while taking care of their kid(s) and household. I currently work from home part time 20 hours a week, which is about 4 hours a day depending on what I have going on. My work involves being on the phone most of the time and my prime time working hours are mostly during the day and some evenings. I have been doing this for 3 years now and until recently have only started having a hard time managing it all. My son turned 3 just recently and with the flip of a switch, working from home has gotten harder. I use to be able to get up early and get at least an hour or two in and then I would be able to work some more during his nap time. But lately all I can manage is to work during his nap time now. He's up anywhere between 6:30 and 7:30. I've tried letting him watch some of his shows (don't judge) while I manage to make some calls and get breakfast together, but even that has gotten hard. He's always by my side, which I don't mind and I can usually manage, but the moment I get on the phone he starts acting up in some sort of way. Sometimes explaining things to him is a challenge too because he is speech delayed and also has sensory problems. We don't have family in the area at all, it's pretty much just the three of us. So having someone to come over or taken him for a few hours during the day is not an option and I would feel bad just dropping him off at a friends house because he can be a handful sometimes. I expect things to get better in September when school starts and I'll have a few hours in the morning to work. But in the mean time, my question is, how do you manage working from home and your kids at the same time? What do you do to keep them occupied for even just a few minutes? Thank you for your help!!!

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answers from Boston on

I strongly suggest that you hire a mother's helper. Working from home with pre-schoolers doesn't absolve us of the need for childcare. You've been really lucky to get by without hiring anyone until now but if you need to continue to work during the day, you simply have to provide adequate childcare. It's not fair to your child or your employer to try to manage both at once. Middle school students around here get paid about $5 per hour for mother's helper care, so it shouldn't break the bank to get someone in for a few hours so that you can work and your son can have someone to watch him and play with him.

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answers from Sacramento on

I applaud you for getting this far without child care. I've worked from home for 10 years and my kids needed daycare and then school for me to get in my work hours. It was impossible to watch them appropriately and meet work obligations simultaneously.

If you can't find a mother's helper to come to your home (which would be surprising, since in the summer months there should be older students out there who would love the opportunity), consider looking for drop-in childcare. That way you can get in the solid work time that you need.

Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I have the same problem. We have a neighbor that watches kids. I send her over there for my work hours.

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answers from Portland on

Get a few toys, something to build with, maybe, that are only brought out during the phone call times. Make it a novelty and they will be more interesting. My kids really like the bristle style building toys and the ladder building toys.

I don't work from home, but I do something similar while traveling or going to the doctor's office, car repair place, etc. This helps keep them entertained for longer periods of time, since they are able to play with toys they don't normally see. I put them away when we are done and they don't come back out until it's time to travel or go to the doc., whatever.

Have a few different ones on hand that can be rotated. You might bring out the mega blocks for a day or two, only during phone call time. Put them away and the next time it might be Lincoln Logs for a day or two. If you have about 4 sets of these building toys, you might get enough rotation out of them.

Oh, a great game from my son's 3 yr old party that I came up with. I bought a soft tether ball (comes on a rope-didn't need the pole-$14) and rigged it to our deck railing from a window cleaning pole. We taped up cardboard shipping boxes and the kids love to build the tower and use the ball as a wrecking crane. For your son to be able to do this on his own nearby, use a small ball and tape a string to it, use cereal and snack boxes that are smaller. Kids love to build and knock down. Have fun!

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answers from Phoenix on

If you want to keep your job & do it effectively, I think it's time to get a nanny, sitter, helper, or take him to a daycare while you're working. What about a part time preschool? I think that it would more beneficial for you & him to do something like that Preschoolers are active, curious, get bored easily, move from activity to activity very quickly, among other things. He's not going to be able to entertain himself for four hours, it's just not going to happen.

I'm surprised you've been able to do it this long, without help, honestly.

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answers from Dallas on

I would recommend contacting your local college to see if they have any child development majors who would like to babysit. It's the only way to get anything done. They would be able to work - perhaps even get credit, and it may get you through till school starts for your little guy. Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

If you can, have a Helper at home.

A 3 year old, cannot self-entertain for 4 hours.
They don't even have fully developed impulse-control at this age, yet.

I work from home at times.
Then my son went to Preschool part-time and my eldest is in school.
So that makes it easier.

At this age, they need more... stimulation and learning.
IS he, getting any therapy/speech therapy for his Speech Delay and other things??? My son before he was 3 years old, got speech therapy. He had a speech delay too.

Just hire a Helper, for yourself with your son.

Interruptions never end, with kids. Especially at this age.
It just is.
And they get, bored.
And this age, they need a lot of activity... and nap.
It just is.


answers from Dallas on

hire a teenager to come in after school for a couple of hours to get your calls done then.



answers from Portland on

How is he with puzzles and fine-motor skills? I had the same challenge with my very active son when he was three and four and I also work at home. A friend sent us some mosaic tile sticker kits and he LOVED them. I had a good 10 - 30 min each time he worked on one. He was quiet and engaged. I also bought him lego kits that he could put together himself. I justified that by realizing that a babysitter would cost more than the set. He also loved doing puzzles.

It is a huge challenge and I wish I could help more. Even with my kids now 8 and 5, I find it difficult to work when they are up and around. I usually put in a few hours either early morning before they get up or after they go to bed. Makes for a tired, but sane mom. You might also look into having a high school student come over to play with him as a 'mother's helper'. Since you are home, it should be less expensive.



answers from Seattle on

I have a little neighbor girl who just turned 11 come over and play with my almost 3 year old for 3-4 hours. I pay her 3 dollars an hour. When school starts I am going to look for a mom with a 3 year old as well who can take care of my kiddo and he will also have a playmate.

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