Today’s Hint: Create a Toddler Office

Sometimes it just happens: You need to work while you’re the one watching your toddler.

So, to help you deal with such situations, today’s hint is an activity that can entertain your tot long enough for you to get at least a bit of work done.

The trick: create “a toddler office” next to your workstation. As toddlers like nothing better than imitating their parents, they’ll very likely enjoy playing work at their very own work area, which you can easily make with items you have around the house.

In fact, this is just what I did earlier this week when we had a bit of a childcare crisis.

When I work from my home, I typically work sitting on a stool at our kitchen-island table. While my daughter would love nothing more than sitting on my lap and playing work with my iPhone while I type away, that position isn’t conducive to me getting anything done (I know this first hand).

So earlier this week, I put her in her booster chair next to me in the kitchen and positioned a stool seat so it served as her “desk.”

Then, I gathered her play Minnie Mouse laptop, a few of her fake phones, one of my real phones (I admit it), a couple of my old assignment notebooks (yes, she plays with these), an old Sharp Wizard device, and one of her Fisher-Price tea set tea cups,  and I arranged the items on her “desk.” I told my daughter the cup was her coffee and that this was her workstation to “do work with mommy.”

To my surprise, the toddler office kept my little one occupied for a good 20 minutes or so, forever in toddler time. So, I’ve added it to my list of go-to toddler activities to whip out when I need some productive mommy time.

Like this trick but don’t have all the office-friendly gear I do? There are other free props you could add to a homemade toddler “office,” such as junk mail. Muffin Tin Mom, meanwhile, shares how she created a similar play office with an old keyboard, an old phone, and a printed image of a computer screen (brilliant, in my opinion), among other “office equipment” she put on an old storage bin that served as the desk.

Elsewhere, over at Yahoo Voices, Lisa Riggs explains how to make a semi-permanent office of sorts out of cardboard boxes (think boxes as the desk and computer) and over at Parenthood 360, Kristen M. Anderson suggests setting up “a mini office for your toddler” complete with crayons and scrap pieces paper, to keep your little one occupied while you work. I especially love her tip to “only suggest this activity when you’re working so your child perceives it as special.”

You also could create a standing-desk on a bottom shelf in your living room or kitchen (Jennifer Latch of Our Urban Playground offers some inspiration for transforming bottom shelves into playzones over at Rookie Moms, and you can find more kitchen-play area ideas in this hint).

To be sure, this toddler-office technique will likely only allow for short 20-minute or so bursts of mommy or daddy work, but when you’re trying to mix work and toddlers, a short burst is better than nothing.

What are your tricks for getting work done while you’re the one watching your active child?

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