There are times when it is necessary for you to work from home with a toddler. You might be a stay at home mum trying to run a small business, or a working parent who has had to adapt to working at home for the first time and just don’t know how to go about it!
This blog post is packed full of ideas for toddler activities that are easy to set up, simple to play and can be played independently for the most part, so that you can get some work done with minimal interruption and hopefully keep your little one happy too! It is your go to guide on how to keep a 2 year old busy while working from home!
This is of course the aim and ideal, but the reality of working remotely with a toddler is not easy. So don’t be too hard on yourself, if an activity doesn’t work, move on and try another. Trial and error is the key to finding a routine of play that will work for you both. So if you’re struggling to work from home with toddler, know that you are not alone, and I am here to help!
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Tips for Working from Home with Toddlers
Toddlers are full of energy, they may only nap very briefly and can be a handful at the best of times. Learning how to get work done with a toddler therefore is a challenge – but with the right tools, and a plan, you can really make it work for both of you! So let’s take a look at how you can be working from home without childcare successfully, and how to get work done with a toddler!
Keep your Schedule Simple!
This will all depend on the kind of work you do from home, and how flexible your work allows you to be. But where possible keep your routine and schedule as simple as possible. Toddlers thrive on routine and predictability so making that a priority will make it easier for both of you.
If you work part time, or different hours, try and stick to the same routine whether you are working or not, this way your little one will know what to expect when.
For example, if you want your toddler to be able to play independently for short periods of time, then this needs to be something you build into every day life so they can learn how to do so. It is important for toddlers to learn how to play independently, it encourages creativity and imagination as well as developing important thinking skills. So don’t feel bad for leaving them to it for a bit, it’s a great skill for them to learn!
Stick to easy Toddler Activities
I’m sure you’ve seen lots of pretty toddler activities over on Pinterest and wondered how on earth these toddler activities are doable for working moms. But it’s just shiny object syndrome – toddlers do not need fancy play activities, in fact you probably already know this – how many times have you found your child mesmerized by something they found on the floor, or dropping something from a height over and over? (whilst simultaneously driving you mad!)
There are plenty of toddler activities for working moms that can be done almost independently and just require you to pop something in a tray, or place your child in front of the object you hope that they’ll engage with!
Household items will become your best friend in learning how to entertain toddler while you work!
Avoid Messy Play Unless you can Contain It or Eat it!
I love messy play and I’m a real advocate for it, but it’s not something I would recommend for a parent trying to work at home unless you are very relaxed about the mess or you can contain your child in some way – in a ball-pool pit or something similar! Learning how to work from home with a toddler is all about knowing your limits!
There are however some advantages to messy play that is edible, especially if your trying to work out how to keep a 2 year old busy while working from home!
Many toddlers will do anything for food (my son never stopped eating at that age!) and so combining it with play can be a real winner of an activity! And we’ll look at some examples in just a moment of how to do this.
Rotate Toys To Reduce Overwhelm
Toddlers can easily be overwhelmed if they have too many toys to choose from. Toy rotation is a great way to stop this from happening by switching up the toys that they have access too (and it also makes tidy up so much quicker and easier!
This might be especially helpful in encouraging young children to find new interests which may occupy them for longer (the ultimate goal for toddler activities while working from home)
How to Entertain your Toddler while you Work
Okay, so we’ve covered the basics, but you’re really here because you want to know exactly how to keep a 2 year old busy while working from home and so it’s time to dive into the play activities that are going to help you figure how to get work done with a toddler in toe!
Create Inviting Sensory Play In Just Minutes
Sensory Play Activities are great for toddlers as they start exploring more, and the great things about them is they often don’t take much to set up as it is very much a freestyle play activity! You never know, sensory play may be the secret to how to get work done with a toddler for you!
These are super easy to put together, and if you want to be extra sure that there’s no leakage then tape the bag down to a tray or board!
Team Cartwright have a really fun Monster Sensory bag over on the blog that little ones will love!
There are endless ways to engage in sensory play, but when it comes to getting work done with a toddler at home you might want to stick to mostly dry stuff, and save the wet and particularly messy for another time!
Coloured Pasta is a great sensory experience for little ones and can be great for colour recognition if you are able to give them occasional prompts!
To make coloured pasta like this, just add a little paint to a freezer bag with a drop of water, add pasta and shake. Leave out on kitchen towel to dry (food colouring works too but it does not come out as bright)
Like I mentioned earlier, food and play can often be a great combination! And this is all about how to get work done with a toddler, so use it to your advantage!
If you have the space to do so (or can work outside), then yoghurt painting is really fun – simply use food colouring to colour some baby yoghurt and hand them a brush and some paper and away they go!
For a slightly less messy option, you could try set up a tray of melon balls which are lovely and cool to the touch, and are safe to eat (always supervise children with food and small objects obviously)
You could add tubes for them to roll the melon balls through or cups for them to scoop them up in.
Yes it’s wet, but it doesn’t matter too much as it doesn’t stain or make a mess really and can be a great toddler activity!
All you need is a washing up bowl and a big towel to cover the area underneath.
Make a pouring station with jugs and funnels – or just spoons and plastic cups – whatever you’ve got in the kitchen!
(If you have a toddler who is likely to just tip the bowl – you could either fill a very large tub that they won’t be able to tip – or move the activity outside)
Fill the tub with rubber ducks or fish toys – or whatever bath toys you have!
This is probably one of my favourite toddler activities, because it is so versatile! And it’s a great activity for your little one to do alongside you at the table.
Playdough mats area great way to engage little ones in play and prompt them – you can see our whole range of Playdough Mats and Activities here
If your toddler is at the put-everything-in-their-mouth stage then have a go at making an edible playdough – there are loads of ideas for this over on Kids Activity Blog
Mini Sensory Trays – Small World
These mini play trays might be perfect for your toddler – they are contained in a small tray but have lots of sensory elements as well as small world play. You can find out all the information by going to the post below:
Set Up A Construction Zone For Your Little Builder
Construction toys have been around for a very long time, and for good reason – they are a great way to get creative and help little ones develop problem solving skills, all through play! Here are some different ways that you could invite your toddler to construct:
Duplo (or any other similar types of building blocks) are a great versatile toy.
They can be used for building towers, and then count how many bricks high that tower is. You can encourage your little one to make something using just one colour to help with colour recognition. We added Duplo to a water tray to mix things up and it was a lot of fun!
If you’re looking for some different ways to play with Duplo then why not try my Duplo 30 Day Challenge which has everything you need to make Duplo last an entire month!
Stickle Bricks Joinery
If you’ve never played with Stickle Bricks like these then you need to get your hands on some!
The great things about stickle bricks (or I’ve heard them referred to as hedgehog blocks) is that they are easier for little hands to push together, making them a great independent toy. Even for younger toddlers they can simply be stacked.
Depending on the age of your child will depend on how you set up this activity. If your toddler cannot put the train track together themselves, then either create a simple circle track that they could have a go at copying – or set up a fun track for them all over the living room floor that will keep them occupied for a short while (or maybe longer!)
It might be that your child will want to have a go at making a bridge themselves or make a wavy line with the tracks. If you want to set them a ‘challenge’, then place something in the middle – a toy house or any toy really, and see if they can build a track around it!
We only discovered Magnetic tiles in recent years, and I wish I’d known about them when my children were toddlers! They are a great investment and can grow with your child.
You can build simple shapes on the floor, stack them, make mazes, pop them on a lightbox and admire the pretty colours – there are so many great ways to play with magnetic tiles, and you can see our other ideas here.
Have Sticky Activities For Your Toddler To Get Stuck Into
Sticky things are just one of those fascinating things for little people! I mean what’s more fun?!
It doesn’t get much simpler than a sheet of stickers to occupy a toddler! A top tip here is (if you can spare the time) pre peel the edges of the stickers so that your little one doesn’t have to ask your for help on every other sticker!
All you need is a sticker, some paper and away you go!
If you want something ready made, then I would highly recommend these sticker pads from Melissa and Doug for little ones, this ‘Make-a-meal’ set has some pretty big stickers in it!
Window Gel Stickers
I was reminded of how fun these last Christmas when we purchased a snowman set for the windows in the children’s bedrooms. They are usually pretty cheap to pick up and can keep little ones entertained peeling and re-sticking them to the window or any smooth surface, you could try them on the fridge, a plastic door, radiator, or even a wipe-able white board!
Contact Paper Crafts
One way to save a lot of mess and make a craft easier for toddlers is to use contact paper. It doesn’t have to be fancy, we made this using a simple cardboard frame and applied the contact paper on the back ready to make a magnificent piece of art work!
You can stick anything you like on this, we used wool, ribbon (left over from a birthday cake!), and foam shapes.
You could add pom poms, cotton wool balls (maybe make a sheep outline for them to fill in). You could take it outside and stick leaves and twigs onto it!
Just like all the other sticky activities, this one is great for little hands. Self-adhesive Velcro dots can be bought for just a couple of pounds and make for a really simple but easy to make activity.
Why not cut out some cardboard shapes, and then draw around them, back both the outline and the actual shape with velcro, and let your toddler have a go at matching up the shapes.
Laura over at Lalymom has gathered together a whole list of activities using velcro just for toddlers – you can check out those ideas here.
Working remotely with a toddler is hard, if you’re struggling to work from home with toddler, know that you can only do your best, and that’s enough!
It’s amazing how much more inviting an activity on the fridge can be for a 2 year old! If you are able to work from the kitchen table, then why not give one of these activities a go and see if you can keep your toddler busy while working from home!
It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, if you’ve got a collection of fridge magnets (check for small parts!) then you could just have them play with them on the fridge.
If you would like to incorporate a little learning into the activity, then why not use alphabet or number magnets and see if they can find all the number 4s, or find particular letters. We love these wooden magnet tiles by Melissa & Doug on Amazon.
If you want somethign a little more structured, then why not give these cardboard tubes a go on the fridge – we had so much fun with the pom poms rolling through the cardboard tubes!
Create A Miniature Library For Your Mini Reader
Try and set up a small area for reading (again nothing fancy just some cushions on the floor will suffice!) with some picture books – and use board books if your little one has a tendency to rip pages as this isn’t the time to be worrying about what’s happening to all their lovely books!
A great way to encourage children to engage with stories, is through story baskets – a handful of items that go with the story in some way – for example for the book dear zoo you might get out some cuddly toy animals, or for the tiger who came to tea, get out a plastic tea set. You can see lots more ideas based on well known stories here:
You may want to try audio books as an alternative (this will depend on how much you need to concentrate and whether you can listen to the gingerbread man whilst working!!
You can get your first month free with this Audible Trial 🙂
And if you are a Prime member you will get 2 free audiobooks in your trial!
Working Remotely With A Toddler Outside
One of the best ideas for how to entertain toddler while you work, is to take them outside!
A change of scenery and some fresh air can do wonders for you both – so if you are able to work outside (even if wrapped up in a few layers!) then have a go at these toddler activities that will hopefully keep them busy while you work!
Try some bubbles – they are captivating for children and adults too (so try not to get too distracted!)
I learnt a few years ago of a brilliant hack to stop the bubble mixture ending up in a puddle on the floor (because let’s face it if you don’t hold the mixture, it’s one bubble blown and the mixtures gone!)
The big bubble wands are probably the best for little hands as they don’t need to blow they can just spin around whilst holding the wand – but to stop spillage, use tap (duct tape works best) to attach the tube of mixture to the wall so that it can’t go anywhere!
Alternatively you could invest in a bubble macine and just let the bubbles flow! You can a comparison of bubble machines here
Teddy Bear Play
Teddy Bear’s Picnics can be a lot of fun in the garden and are super easy to set up (and again it involves food!) – but why not take it further and try playing doctors with teddy bears, or teddy bear dress up! you can find all the details for more ideas on this here:
DIY Car Wash
A bucket of water, a sponge and a car is all you need to have a lot of fun at the car wash! You could even add some dirt to the car to begin with if it’s visibly dirty!
If you have time and want to set up something a little more involved, then here’s the DIY car wash we made that kept our kids occupied all day!
Playing with Chalk
Chalk is a cheap play activity that a lot of little ones love. You can choose to let them draw outside or you can create a more focused activity depending on how your little one plays at this point.
You can make a hopscotch for them, a chalk maze for their cars, or just some funny faces that they can spray away using a water bottle!
For lots more chalk play ideas check out this post for toddler chalk activities to try in the garden!
Toddler Friendly Scavenger Hunts
Scavenger hunts are often better suited to older children, but they can be a lot of fun for little ones too if you make it more accessible for them.
We have a Pirate Treasure Hunt Printable for free in the Blog here which can be made using simple pebbles and a permanent marker!
Introduce Imaginative Spaces that Are Engaging For Toddlers
When it comes to play, children have lots of fun getting imaginative – there’s a reason the cardboard box is a hit with little ones! These activities are about using what you have and maybe changing up the space a little bit!
A Good Old Cardboard Box
If you have a box big enough to fit your child into safely, then this is the perfect afternoon activity to keep your toddler quiet for a little bit! Provide them with some crayons and let them transform the box from the inside out, let them climb in and out, put it on their head and be just generally silly!
Along the same lines as the previous cardboard box, den building is the perfect way to create a new space for your toddler to explore!
I asked my Instagram followers to share their best Homemade dens with me and I put them altogether in this post:
You may need to build something for you, or see what kind of fort they can make with the sofa cushions, you may be pleasantly suprised!
Creating Play Spaces with Mats
To create a space in which to play cars you may choose to play on a road mat – if you don’t have a rug or toy mat then why not try a printable version that is ready to print and play straight away at a fraction of the cost!
Random Bath Times
Another great way to change things up is to have a bath at a completely different time of day, solely for the purpose of play! It doesn’t have to be fancy, just add some plastic toys – or even just some plastic jugs and funnels! (Obviously you would need to supervise this activity)
Burn Some Energy With These Energetic Activities For Toddlers
If you want to know how to keep a 2 year old busy while working from home, and get them moving around at the same time, then try some of these high energy activities!
Blow up a few balloons and let them toss them around and wear themselves out too – you might even get a nap afterwards if you’re very lucky!
You could extend the activity by having them chase the red balloons or ‘collecting’ all the balloons and putting them in a washing basket – anything that involves moving the balloons around really!
Whatever it is that your toddler loves, whether it be nursery rhymes, baby shark (dare I say it!), or the same music you like – try it and see if they have fun dancing to it!
You could introduce them to different types of music and see if they want to play along if you have any instruments they could use – simply give them a wooden spoon and some tins to have a go on!
How to get work done with a toddler at home?
So there you have it, a whole list of ideas for working remotely with a toddler and balancing it all!
It’s not easy and whatever you manage is enough, but I hope these ideas inspire you to think creatively and a little simpler.
You don’t need fancy set ups, just simple play – so remember these important tips for working form home with toddlers:
- Keep a simple and consistent schedule for you and your toddler
- Stick with easy to prep and easy to do toddler activities
- Know your limits – don’t force yourself into messy play if it’s going to stress you out!
- Rotate your toddler’s toys so they are not overwhelmed by too much choice, which will help them play a little more independently
- Try different types of play to see what works best:
- Sensory Play
- Construction Games
- Sticky Play
- Story Activities
- Playing Outside
- Imaginative Play
- Energetic Activities
Have fun trying out these activities – and remember, the fact that you are here looking tells me, you are doing enough 🙂
Louisa | Mum’s creative Cupboard x