Parenting is a full-time job, there’s no doubt about that! And independent play may become your greatest ally.
Nonetheless, working from home while parenting is a very common situation in modern families where parents stay at home while juggling time and attention between children or toddler and getting work done.
The big benefit of being a work-at-home parent is that you’re able to spend time with your child because work schedules are more flexible and there’s no commute, you’ll be there to watch your little one grow every day! However, the challenge lies in managing your time and attention in such a way that you can be productive at work and spend quality time with your children while fulfilling their needs.
There are many great online articles on how work-at-home-moms can increase their productivity, but let’s remember that the goal is to also really be there for your child.
Given that children don’t naturally function on set schedules (imagine that!), it’s paramount for a work-at-home mom to organize and balance her work schedule. Naptime is a great moment to advance on tasks for which you’ll need full focus and silence; so preparing beforehand all the things you’ll need to take advantage of nap time gives you a head start once the child falls asleep so you can finish at least some work tasks on the day and be ready to set work aside once the child wakes-up.
Another advantageous option for work-at-home moms is to encourage independent play.
It’s an ideal strategy because independent play is essential for any child’s development. It is part of what the kid’s body and mind need. And it’s a win-win situation because as the child is busy focused on activities that promote her or his own development, mom has more time when she can focus on work and occasionally seize the opportunity to join in and spend some quality time playing with her little one.
So what is independent play and how can parents encourage it?
Our rockers and climbers are designed exactly for this purpose: toddlers and older children can play on them freely in ways their bodies and minds need to further develop, plus they get to burn all their playful energy. All this can be done indoors, in a safe environment where parents can keep an eye on them while allowing them to play independently.
Another type of independent play that promotes development is usually referred to as imaginative play.
Children will make up narratives while playing with their toys, a simple cloth becomes a cape and suddenly your child is a wizard turning his little teddy into a dragon and your house plant into a fairy, while the couch is a castle they have to protect.
Open-ended toys are great at promoting imaginative play because they are easily molded into all sorts of different uses by the child’s imagination, and that’s the main developmental point of imaginative play: it’s the child who has to actively come up with ways to use the toy. Imaginative play is essential for cognitive development, children exercise their use of concrete and abstract concepts in ways they find interesting, relating them in all sorts of manners.
Safety & order
Having a safe play space for your child also has the benefit of showing boundaries: “this space is for playing, this space is for eating, this space is for working,” etc. Yet children feel included in their home-dynamics: when they feel like playing, they know where to go and soon enough start doing it on their own. They will almost always welcome a parent to join in but they realize they are perfectly fine playing by themselves and/or with siblings.
Finally, we’d like to emphasize the benefits of playing for parents as well. A mom or dad that sees their child’s developmental needs well met playing at home will feel more relaxed and happier to spend time playing with their child without thinking about any unfinished work. To have your mind split and constantly mixing thoughts from work to childcare is extremely energy-consuming! You’ll end up feeling that you did a lot but accomplished very little. That’s the main feeling parents need to avoid.
Relax & enjoy
Playing is a great way to relieve stress for both kids and adults. Mark some time slots in your day after some work where you can join your child in their play time. It will help you refresh your mind and recharge your mood. If you find yourself in need of some help, it’s okay, you can hire a babysitter for a couple of hours so you can focus properly on work during that time and then have your mind free to be with your child and enjoy playing together.
Work is important, but so is your child and they are aware of when you are paying attention and when you are multitasking. Introducing and promoting independent play in your family is a benefit for everyone and it will improve your ability to work better. So accept that invitation for imaginary tea with your kid and the stuffed animals for a little while every day, it’s a playful invitation for you too.
We made a little video with along with this post’s photo series, it’s on our YouTube channel right here.