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We’re continuing the Freelancing with Kids series here on the blog. Today’s post focuses on 3-4 year olds. If you’ve missed any of my earlier posts, you can click to read about freelancing with babies and freelancing with toddlers.
Preschoolers. They desperately want to be independent, but still need much guidance.
I’ve found that once I get my preschoolers engaged with a project, they’re more than happy to work on it for quite a while. That means with just a bit of planning, it’s definitely possible to have productive freelancing time WITH preschoolers in the house (affiliate links are below).
Here Are My Top 12 Tips for Freelancing with Preschoolers
1. Get a Big Box of Crayons and a Stack of Paper
Young children often enjoy coloring. Invest a couple of dollars in a big box of crayons, and a ream of paper. Allow your child to draw, make books, and doodle to her heart’s content.
Set up guidelines to help keep paper from overrunning your house. My kids can only keep as much artwork as fits in a certain drawer. If their drawer becomes full, we go through it, take pictures of favorites and toss a lot.
2. Teach Scissor Skills and Print Cutouts
Cutouts have bought me hours of time over the years of parenting preschoolers! I print sets of their favorite characters (Pokemon, Mario, Doc McStuffins, etc.) from free coloring sites online. Then, I turn them loose with crayons and blunt scissors.
The motivation to not chop off an arm or head helps them learn scissor skills quickly. Once they have it down, just print out a new set for them before you start freelancing. They’ll color, cut, and play while you work.
You can read more about how I do this in this post.
3. Freeze Some Toys
Gather some small toys (plastic works best!) and place them in small plastic containers the night before. Add enough water to completely cover the toy, and stick each container in the freezer.
The next day, when you’re ready to work, sit your preschoolers at the table with a frozen toy, a small hammer, a butter knife, and maybe a rock or two.
Oh–don’t forget the towel underneath to catch the melting ice.
Your child’s goal?
To free the toy.
It’ll buy you some time for working!
More details about this can be found here.
4. Give Them a Box
Put all your Amazon Prime delivery boxes to work, and get yourself some freelancing time. Set your preschooler up with the box (Bigger is better!) and some craft supplies. Ask them to create a boat. Or a starship. Maybe a car. Or anything you can imagine.
Stickers make this project even more fun!
5. Give Them a Puzzle
Puzzles are a fun activity for preschoolers. Since all children are different, you’ll have to pick a puzzle that meets your child’s level.
Some of mine have needed simple wooden puzzles with handles for grabbing, and others could complete 25-50 piece puzzles at this age. The floor puzzles are also fun!
If your little one needs a bigger challenge, dump two puzzles at the same time. He’ll have to sort the pieces first, and then put them together.
6. Put Them to Work
Preschoolers love useful work! Set them up with a bucket of water and a sponge, and have them wash the walls or the floor. Supply plenty of towels so they can dry up as they go.
They can also sort silverware, sort laundry, or fold and organize towels.
Find small jobs around the house, teach them how to do it properly, and you can work while they work.
7. Send Them on a Scavenger Hunt
Create a picture based scavenger hunt, and send your little one to search high and low. Here are some ideas for things that are easy to draw (or find free clip art):
- Butter knife
- Water bottle
- Toy Car
After they’ve found an object, they can put it in a pile. When everything is found, you can check off their list and reward them with a small prize or piece of candy.
My Dad bought us one of these hover balls recently. The little kids love it! It’s basically half a soccer ball, designed to glide on the floor and be used indoors.
You can set up a goal for them between two chairs, and let them practice kicking while you tackle your to-do list.
9. Play with Them Throughout the Day
Take time throughout the day to play with your preschooler! Bring out the toy cars and drive around. Read a book and snuggle.
You’ll keep your mind fresher by breaking up your focus as well. I try to work for 30-45 minutes, followed by a fun 15 minute break for everyone.
10. Have Quiet Time
Most preschoolers don’t need (or refuse to take) naps. To ensure that you still have a chunk of time to work in the afternoon, implement quiet time.
Your child can play quietly in his or her room, or read books, but they must stay in their area until quiet time is over.
Our quiet time has been anywhere from 1-2 hours, depending on the year. I prefer 2 hours!
11. Teach Your Child to Cook
I don’t mean turn them free in the kitchen with knives and ovens, but I do think most three and four year olds are capable of creating a simple snack or meal. That’ll free up some of your time.
Here’s what I let my littles tackle in the kitchen:
- Peanut butter and Jelly sandwich
- Quesadilla (Melted in the microwave)
- Cheese stick and crackers (Mine love arranging the crackers on the plate!)
- Passing out premade cookies or muffins
- Pouring water and getting ice
- Trail mix (by mixing together nuts, M&Ms, seeds, coconut, raisins, etc.)
They are so proud to bring their snack out for the family. It’s a huge confident booster.
Of course, only do what you’re comfortable with, and remember that every child is different. Some of mine weren’t ready at 3 or 4, so we saved this task until they were older.
12. Get a Subscription to Highlights High Five
My mother-in-law bought a High Five subscription for my preschoolers, a Highlights Hello subscription for my littles, and a normal Highlights subscription for my oldest (Thanks Linda!).
The kids love sitting down and looking through their magazine. The High Five is perfect for preschoolers. There’s a simple Hidden Pictures section that is my kids’ favorite!
Actually, any mail is a good way to keep them busy for a while. Give your preschoolers junk mail and a pen. They’ll fill out those forms for you!
What’s Your Favorite Way to Keep Preschoolers Engaged While You Freelance?
I’d love for you to share your favorite tips for freelancing with preschoolers. We can all learn from each other!
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.