Six Ways to Stay Productive with Toddlers at Home

Ways to Stay Productive with Toddlers at Home

By: Jessica Larson,

Sometimes, it seems like kids have unlimited energy — especially toddlers. One study even found that the amount of energy a child has is comparable to what you’ll find in a well-trained adult endurance athlete.

So how do you keep up? Unless you want to start training for the next Ironman Triathlon, you’ll need some realistic strategies to stay productive at home while being the best parent possible for your toddler.

Fuel Your Body

Unpopular opinion: Coffee is not a meal. Seriously though, not fueling your body properly can affect your brain chemistry and your ability to focus.

But your body can trick you, too. 

Carbohydrates release serotonin, which can have a calming effect on your brain, while high-protein foods can make you more alert. Carbs can also provide energy, but too many refined carbs can lead to weight gain and crowd out other nutrients that are important to your diet. And remember: Carbs turn into sugar, which can be a problem for people with type 2 diabetes.

When it comes to protein, the source matters. Processed cheese is cheap, but there’s a reason for that: It contains less actual cheese and more additives, like oil and food coloring. Processed meats like deli meat, ham, and hot dogs contain nitrates that can increase your risk of cancer.

A healthy meal actually focuses more on veggies than either carbs or protein. You don’t have to get protein from red meat, either: It’s found in eggs, beans, nuts, and seeds, too. Fresh fruit (without added sugars) is a good way to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Stick to a Schedule

Routine is king for kids and adults alike. Having a basic idea of how each day should go can help everyone keep calm and carry on. 

Kids may argue and whine about doing what you say when you say, but they really do benefit from routine. Any parent who’s ever seen their child plop herself down in front of the TV when it’s time for her favorite show knows this.

So even if you’ve got your toddler’s favorite show on DVD or can stream it anytime, schedule it for a specific time of day. It will give her something to look forward to and provide the kind of structure she wants (even if she won’t admit it). Consistency and predictability help provide a sense of safety and stability for kids, and they will for you, too.

Just be sure not to overschedule. Trying to do too much can lead to burnout, which is bad enough when you’re working and even worse when you’re parenting. Remember: Nothing ever goes exactly as planned, so give yourself a cushion. 

Get Physically Active

No matter our age, we need to expend pent-up energy throughout the day. Furthermore, exercise also positively affects our mood and makes us more productive

Why not use your child’s need for activity as an excuse to get some exercise yourself? It doesn’t have to be structured to be beneficial. Set up a scavenger hunt, or play tag or kick a ball back and forth in the yard. Take a walk. If you have a dog, teach your child to throw a ball and your pet to fetch. Put on some music and dance together, or toss feathers up in the air and try to catch them with your child.

Fill your child’s bucket

When your toddler needs your attention, it’s tempting to finish what you’re working on before you address their needs. How many times per day do you say the words, “just a minute,” and how many times does a minute turn into more? 

Instead, try stopping and giving them your full attention right away. Chances are, it will fill their attention bucket and allow them to be independent for a longer period of time, allowing you to go back to your task. 

If your child wants to tell you a story or show you a drawing he’s made, sit down and listen. Be fully engaged. Remember: To him, that’s just as important as your work is to you. Set up specific times to do things together, such as crafts or games. It can be as simple as a family meal time or a bedtime story.

Go for a Drive

When all else fails, getting out of the house for a few minutes can be a good way to reset. Run an errand, grab a treat, or just ride around for a bit. 

You can even make it a special adventure for your child and play games along the way. Teach your child to be observant by looking for different, familiar objects like trees, dogs, fences, fire trucks, etc.

Just make sure you buckle everyone in! Child restraints saved the lives of 325 kids ages 4 and younger in 2017, according to recent seat belt statistics

Give Yourself Grace

It’s unlikely that you will ever be able to check off every item on your to-do list with toddlers under your feet. Accept that… and the fact that you will get frustrated and feel overwhelmed sometimes. It’s normal.

Self-care is a necessity, and it shouldn’t be considered indulgent. Rest when you’re tired. Take breaks when you need to. Give yourself time to wind down by reading a good book, meditating, or listening to some relaxing music.

Remember the joys that you take in being a parent and in doing the work you’ve chosen. You might even make a list of them as reminders to look at when things get challenging. Keep a scrapbook of your accomplishments and a photo album of your child’s growth. Put them side-by-side within easy reach in your home office.

Staying productive with a toddler in the house is a challenge, but it’s not impossible. With a little patience, some planning, and a lot of love, you’ll find the rewards are more than worth it.

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