‘Snow problem, unless you’re stuck with the kids!

Beautiful (and entertaining) as the snow is, I’m sure many of you will have shared that sinking feeling that school closure can bring. Especially when you have an important meeting scheduled or a deadline to make. So, with a third day of being at home with the kids on the cards, here’s some ideas which might help. Would love to hear yours too.


1) Arrange a play date! This is the time to call in favours, particularly if you have something really important that you have to get done. It’s not the time to try to remember whether it their turn or your turn to have the kids over. Call neighbours, family and school Mums (or Dads) and explain your dilemma. The best people to ask are obviously those who are also stuck at home with bored children. 9 times out of 10 they will have been in similar situations to you and will also be aware that two (or more) children keeping each other occupied are much easier to look after than one bored child.

If you are fresh our of favours to call in, begging is always an option :). Personally, I wouldn’t suggest resorting to having other people’s kids over when you’re working. Unless the kids are much older (10+) it’s just too hazardous!

2) If it looks like you will be stuck with the little darlings all day, accept the fact that you’re unlikely to be able to be as productive as you would be normally. Once you’ve accepted that, take a hard look at your calendar and your to-do list and decide what can be moved or cancelled and what really needs doing today. The younger the kids, the less work you’re likely to get done. Be realistic, or possibly a little pessimistic :). That way you may end up pleasantly surprised by the amount you’ve achieved at the end of the day.

3) Be flexible. If you can, choose tasks which are easy to pick up and put down easily, rather than ones which you need to concentrate on for any length of time. Triaging and responding to a backlog of email is less of a problem to interrupt than writing a report, for example.

4) For those one or two must-do things, choose a failsafe way to keep the kids occupied. If they are old enough, a little bargaining might be in order. Swap an hour’s uninterrupted work or conf call time with a trip to the cafe for lunch, for example. If they are younger, it might be time to put on a favourite film or hire/download one they’ve been wanting to see. Popcorn or another treat might make it more of an event.

5) Be prepared to spend time with them. It’s easy to feel the children’s distractions are preventing you from working, when in actual fact there are many times in a normal work environment where you’d be distracted just as much. Think about the number of times your plans have been hijacked by an unexpected meeting, conversation or request from the boss. With my kids I’ve found that giving them a short amount of undivided attention can result in several times that in quiet time for you to get on with your work. So, sitting down and building Lego spaceships with them for 20 minutes can lead to an hours peace while they build the mother of all Star Wars vehicles. Of course, at the moment you can also replace Lego with snow :):).

If you are organised, you could build up a bank of these ideas which you can dip into on emergency days. There are many web sites with ideas for kids activities, many of which they can complete unsupervised, once you have helped them set up. Office Online has some kids craft ideas too.

Here’s some things that have kept my two boys occupied on work from home days and might work for Primary school age kids:

  • Writing list of Xmas presents and then making thank you cards. For some reason this went much better unsupervised than ever did when I tried to do it with them! If they’re old enough, this is a good way to practise their computer skills. If you have Microsoft Office 2007 they should find it easy to create some satisfying results. Take a look at some demos here.
  • Put up and take down Christmas decorations
  • Make the biggest/most fierce possible monster/robot/fort using whatever construction toy or materials is to hand. Prize for most inventive.
  • Hide and seek
  • Build a den
  • Invent your own board game (using paper & pens, found objects, Lego whatever)
  • Make pet rocks (find stones in the garden and then clean and paint them. This takes ages and they are often very proud of the result)
  • Indoor/outdoor picnics (prepare picnic/packed lunch food at the beginning of the day and then get them to make a camp or picnic spot and set out the food. Set a time for lunch if they can tell the time, so you go and join them to eat it at that time).