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We’re continuing our series on freelancing with kids here on lisatannerwriting.com. Today, I’m sharing my top tips for freelancing with toddlers.
Toddlers are actively learning their boundaries. They test everything, as they try to learn what is appropriate and what is not.
During the toddler years, parents really need to take a proactive stand and ensure they keep their little ones engaged. Otherwise, they will find ways of entertaining themselves. You just may not approve of what they pick!
Keeping track of an active toddler while you’re trying to write is a challenge I totally understand. I currently have a very active two year old boy, and an inquisitive little girl who’s just about one. Who walks way better than she should at this age.
Here are ten tips for freelancing with toddlers.
They’re tried and true, and have allowed me to grow my freelancing business–with toddlers around. Some of them do take time to get implemented, as you work on training your little one what you expect. Keep trying, and your results will be worth it in the end!
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1. Have Table Time
During our daily writing time, I usually have my toddlers strapped into booster seats at the table. A high chair would also work. I provide them with a couple of board books, and one other activity. It could be wooden alphabet blocks, a pile of shaving cream to write letters, or several toy trucks with index cards with letters on them to run over. Start off with just a few minutes.
Keep increasing the length of table time, until your toddler can sit and play for 30 minutes. Use a timer, and always let your little one down when the timer goes off. This will help them to learn that they aren’t stuck there forever. When they aren’t worrying about that, they free up their mind to play and have fun.
I teach my toddlers that we’re not at the table to play fetch during this time. If they drop a toy, they’re almost always without it until the timer goes off. They learn quickly to keep their toys on top of the table.
2. Use a Playpen or Crib
Similar to like I do with babies, you can use a playpen or crib for your toddler to play quietly in. With fun toys reserved just for quiet play time, you can teach your toddler to stay and play for thirty minutes. I prefer the playpen to the crib, because it’s portable and I can easily set it up within my line of sight.
These toys are perfect for a toddler during playpen time:
3. A Car Rug & Cars
Keep a car rug and several toy cars(ones that are large enough to not be choking hazards) in a plastic shoe box or other container, and bring it out only once a day. My boys and girls have all enjoyed racing cars over the roads of the rug.
4. Break Up Your Day
Even the best behaved toddler won’t move from sitting activity to sitting activity without throwing a fit. Break up your day with frequent breaks, as you play with your toddler and engage him or her in some movement.
I’ve found 30 minutes to be a good amount of time for toddlers to play on their own before they start looking for other forms of entertainment. After thirty minutes of writing (or doing other freelancing work), I have my toddlers help clean up, and then we do some gross motor activities. We practice jumping, throwing bags into bowls, or anything else I can think of to get some movement going.
5. Use Nap Time to Your Advantage
Young toddlers (12-16 months) benefit from two daily naps–one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Older toddlers (17 months +) typically take only one.
Work with your toddler to get him or her on a good sleep schedule. My toddlers don’t always nap as frequently, or for as long as I would like, but I make it a point to use their nap time to my advantage. I have all of my children have Quiet Time in the afternoon when the little ones are napping. This gives me a solid block of time to do my work that requires a lot of concentration.
6. Have Your Kids Play Together
Older children can play with toddlers, and keep them out of trouble. They can set up a train track, have a tea party with juice, or play with play dough together. Come up with a list of five or six activities your older children can do with your toddler, and have them play together every day. If you have more than one older child, have them rotate playing with the little ones.
7. Spend Time Playing Early in the Day
When you play with your little ones early each day, you remind them that they are special. You reassure them that they’re loved and that you enjoy being with them.
I learned this when my oldest was my only child and I was in college. If we headed to the park or played together early in the day, she was more mellow during the rest of the day. Pouring time into her early made it more possible for me to do my studying later while she played nearby.
This has continued to work with most of my children. It’s definitely something to try.
8. Take Unexpected Breaks When Needed to Care for Your Toddler
Diapers need changed. Food gets spilled. Life happens.
Take time as needed throughout the day to take care of your little ones, even it it’s not on the schedule you were shooting for. Don’t let these interruptions get you down–before you know it your rambunctious little toddler will be a teen with a different set of needs and you might miss these days.
9. Remember Your Why
I love being home with my kids! I’m writing to make a better life for them, so we can have Daddy home more, and so we can do more together. Whenever I’m struggling to stay on top of my workload, I take time to remember my why.
It’s worth it for me to invest in my writing career, and I have big plans for 2016. But, I can’t let my writing keep me from my primary role right now–the mother of these beautiful children.
10. Get Outside
If you have a fenced yard, or a safe place for your toddler to play outdoors, grab your laptop and settle on the ground or a table nearby. Be there if your toddler needs you, but let him spread his exploration wings of independence in a safe place.
This may not be an ideal work environment for really pumping out intense work, but much of what I do isn’t brain intensive. I can work on editing photos, brainstorm content ideas, or send those ever important pitches to try and secure new work.
I also notice an improvement in nap quality when I make it a point to let the little ones run around outside for a while–win win!
It’s definitely a challenge freelancing with a toddler–they don’t sleep as much as a baby, yet they aren’t as capable of entertaining themselves in appropriate ways as older children. I try to remember that my little ones need me a lot–I have to teach them about life, and that requires a lot of engagement.
I may not be growing my business as fast as I want to be, but I am raising kids. That’s important too!
What are your best tips for freelancing with toddlers?
Lisa Tanner is a former teacher turned homeschooling mom with 11 kids. She's also a successful freelance writer. Lisa enjoys helping other busy moms find time to start and grow a side hustle of their own.