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By Kristin Hackler
Snow days, teacher work days, federal holidays, half days… sometimes it seems like there are more one-off days off than there are days in the school year. And most of the time, you’re stuck trying to figure out how you’re going to balance working on snow days and keep an eye on the little ones at the same time. I mean, there are only so many sick days you can take before it starts cutting into vacation time and I don’t know about you, but I hang on to those slowly building vacation hours like a hoarder hangs on to stacks of old newspapers.
But how do you manage having your kids at the office?
If you’re lucky, some bosses will let you work from home for the day without cutting into your time off, but more often than not, you have to find a way to work at the office and entertain your bored brood at the same time. Depending on the space you have to work with and the degree of privacy it affords you, here are some ideas for keeping your little ones engaged when you have no choice but to hang out together at the office:
Office safety check
You may be ready for your kids to come to the office, but is your office ready for your kids? Your fellow officemates may be aware that your little ones will be spending some time around the workplace for the day, but that doesn’t mean they’ve taken any precautionary measures; especially if they don’t have kids themselves. Before your little ones are on the loose, be sure to run through some of the following safety measures:
- Discuss with your kids where they are and are not allowed to go in the office.
- Take them around and introduce them to your co-workers. This is not only polite, but it also gives your officemates an additional heads up that the kids will be around. Some may even volunteer to keep an eye on them for awhile.
- Secure any hazardous objects as best as possible. Let them know that important equipment such as copy and fax machines are entirely off limits, as are supply closets unless they have specific permission. Water coolers can be another issue. If your little ones are prone to playing with colorful, intriguing handles, consider keeping an additional hot water tap for the water cooler on hand. When the kids come for a long visit, replace the cold water tap (with the rest of the office’s permission, of course) with the hot water one, which comes equipped with a child safety lock. They’re easy to switch out and will help prevent any unexpected office floods.
Create an emergency entertainment kit
Keeping an emergency entertainment kit somewhere in the office can help save a lot of trouble when your kids start looking for something to do. It doesn’t have to be a toy chest full of activities, but keeping some of the following items on hand can help allay boredom for at least a little bit:
- Coloring books and crayons
- Paper or lengths of butcher paper
- Safety scissors
- White glue and simple decorations such as glitter, etc.
- Board games
- Craft kits such as French knitting spools, bracelet looms, Play-Doh, button art, etc.
- An e-reader or educational electronic tablet
- Notebooks, pens and pencils
Get creative with your space
If you have a little extra space in your office, help your kids create a nook that’s all their own. If you can, keep some cushions, blankets and other soft materials from home that they can use to create a cozy space to relax in. If you’re really crunched on space, however, consider finding out if there’s an unused corner of the office where they can set up home base.
Momma’s Little Helper
Even entertainment kits get boring after a while, so if your kids are up for it, you can designate them as Junior Office Helpers for the day. If there are some simple office tasks they can help you with, such as dropping off papers or picking up items from the front desk, they can lend a hand. Or you can simply give them old papers to “file” or “staple” or “organize” for you while you work. It might not last long, but it will make them feel important that you included them in your work.
Take more breaks
Most importantly, however, make sure you take as many breaks as possible to spend time with them. While your kids hopefully understand that you have to concentrate on work, if you spend too much time focused on your job and not on them, they’ll likely become increasingly irritable and bored with their self-guided activities. On days when your little ones are with you at the office, take at least 10 minutes an hour and play a short game, read with them or go for a walk outside. The little extra attention will go miles in keeping them calm until it’s finally time to go home.
It’s not every day that your kids need to spend some time with you at the office and hopefully they only have to stay there a short time. But for those days when you know you’ll have your little ones around a bit, it’s best to be prepared and be ready to provide them with time and entertainment to the best of your abilities as Super Mom.
Kristin Hackler is a work-from-home mom who writes for eBay — where you can find lots of options for your home office (check out the water dispenser selection here). Kristin lives in Charleston, South Carolina, with her husband and son.