The world has faced it, many families have faced it already. Once again, Hong Kong has moved school online. And now, since the summer holidays have been preponed, it is best to be prepared to work from home with kids. While it can seem that the COVID-19 pandemic has taken away a number of our favourite things, such as travelling, visiting our family, meeting friends, and trying outdoor activities, there are tons of things that you and your kids can enjoy at home even while you balance having to work at your home office. This is definitely a stressful time for everyone, so we have compiled a list of tips and tricks that will help you survive working from home with young children.

Set a routine for you and your kids

Research has found that routine can be beneficial for kids. But especially during unsettling times, having predictability can create a sense of security and comfort for the whole family. Schedule activities for the kids to do by themselves as well as with you, down to the hour or even half hour if you find that works better. Intentionally setting working/learning, exercise, and relaxation/leisure periods will free you up to do what you need to do while making sure the family’s days aren’t whiled away with chaos or wasted learning opportunities. Daily routines can be changed, and fun activities added if scheduled chores and homework are completed.

While a lot of the daytime scheduling can be dictated by online schooling/tutoring and homework, whole evenings and weekends can be fully planned. In particular, a bedtime routine, whether it includes story time, lullabies, teeth brushing, or even some hugs for intentional connection time, can create the perfect start for the next day. This also helps children, especially younger ones, to learn to tell the time, and can also be used as a reward mechanism.

Get into the outdoors

child playing with bubbles outside
Create a balance between outdoor time and safely social distancing at home (© Leo Rivas via Unsplash)

With our outdoor time being limited so extensively due to COVID in the last couple of years, it’s essential for your kids to still get time to be in nature. Experts say that regularly incorporating even 15 to 30 minutes of being in nature to your day can have a significant impact on physical and mental health. Thankfully, Hong Kong has tons of options and opportunities for you to safely do outdoor activities. Of course, the most popular activity is hiking, which gets your heart pumping, exploring, and you get a wonderful view at the end. These are a couple of our favourite family-friendly hikes. You can also engage in nature walks around your home, which allow you to explore Hong Kong’s biodiversity. Or you could learn new individual sports and skills such as cycling during break times, or kayaking when you have more time, like on the weekends. In short, making sure you get outside will do wonders for productivity while indoors.

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Make the most of indoor activities

While it can be easy for parents and children both to fall prey to the clutches of screens, there are a ton of different indoor activities that you can engage in that are educational, informative, and fun! Here are five ideas:

Baking/cooking: This is an easy one. We all have to eat, so you might as well involve your kids in it! Making kids feel like they’re contributing and easing your workload, even if it’s just helping to mix something or grab ingredients, is an opportunity for bonding and collaboration. There are tons of child-friendly videos and recipes across the Internet to help you with this process. You can even find cute aprons and chef hats for you little ones to feel more professional!

DIY projects: Find out what hands-on crafty activities your kids love, and you can make a project out of it! If your child loves creating jewellery or your teen is interested in sprucing up their room, there is something you can do. This is a good way to plan and organize something together, that they can then take responsibility for and even work on individually. You just need the Internet, some resources, and a dedicated mindset.

mom and daughter learning visual programming on tablet
Find STEM apps and activities to do together (© Robo Wunderkind via Unsplash)

STEAM/STEM activities: Science, technology, engineering, art, and maths are some of the most important subjects in your kid’s development, and while you may not have all the required equipment, that doesn’t have to stop you from planning activities that can help build these skills. This is a great way to keep the kids occupied for a significant period of time, that you can also feel comforted is stimulating their brains. You can order sets online or check out activities you can do with equipment you probably already have here.

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Board games: If you are looking something a bit less time-intensive, a board game is the way to go. Whether it’s during a lunch break or in the evening to wind down, it is a quick, fun way to get the family involved and excited while still engaging your child’s learning and interpersonal skills. Some classics include Monopoly and Uno, but games like Ticket to Ride, Disney Villainous, and Sushi Go are also great young child-friendly additions to your collection.

Play pretend: To create a semblance of normalcy for your child and prepare them for going back into the world after regular schedules resume, you can also play act some every day activities! One example is play shopping: just grab a bunch of clothes, bowls, books, etc. and get them interacting as if you’re at a shop. Just through this activity, you will be teaching them about the concept of money, purchasing power, and opportunity cost. Similarly, a restaurant pretence could teach them about table manners, how to order food, and interacting with workers. The world is your canvas with your imagination!

Schedule productive screen time

boy playing educational game on computer
Online activities can be fun and educational at the same time (© Kelly Sikkema via Unsplash)

In addition to school-assigned screen time, it’s important to have productive screen time preapproved for your child. While Dora the Explorer and Peppa Pig are great, they aren’t exactly learning-inducing or improving your child’s knowledge or well-being. We recommend more informative programmes such as dual language shows, thus improving language abilities, StorylineOnline, which is a children’s literacy website, and Numberblocks, a math-focused kids’ show on Netflix. TED-Ed and Crash Course Kids are also great resources for deep diving into a variety of subjects.

Set a screen time limit

With there being a ton of school screen time, as well as other useful learning resources that are also consumed through a screen, you want to ensure there is not an overload of screen time for your kids. In the routine you create, you could schedule in a set amount of screen-facing a day, deciding specifically what it could be used for. This could include, depending on your child’s age: gaming (across phone, laptop, Wii and other consoles), chatting or video calls with friends and family, Youtube, Instagram, or streaming kid’s movies and shows. For more variety, a VPN like NordVPN can help you unlock international catalogues. By changing your IP, you can easily access US Netflix, or other streaming platforms not available in Hong Kong. Screens before bedtime should be limited as the blue light can impact REM sleep.

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Reframe your expectations

parent working on laptop while carrying child
Being flexible about balancing family time and work tasks is key (© Helena Lopes via Unsplash)

These tips are not just for your kids, but also for you! It’s almost impossible to accomplish all that you normally can at your workplace, with all the distractions and caretaking requirements at home. So you need to start by reframing and reworking how you define success on a daily basis. First, you can think about how the number of hours you have worked does not equate to your achievements for the day. Instead, focus on the small wins, the tasks completed, the emails sent, the planning goals accomplished at meetings. This will help you as you complete the work day while raising your little ones.

Prioritise your work tasks

Similarly, if you are not pulled in all directions at all times, you are also able to focus sufficient time and energy on your children. So, it can be helpful to go through your to-do list and prioritise the most important tasks and de-prioritise the things that won’t be world-ending if they don’t get finished that day. This not only helps accomplish your key professional tasks, it also allows you to focus on your children when they inevitably want some attention. It also allows you to push back on your colleagues and set firm boundaries regarding family time.

Prepare for moments when you’re unavailable

However, there will always be uncontrollable times when work makes you unavailable to your children, and it’s best to be prepared! When dealing with crying, whining or tantrums, it’s easy to hand the kids a screen. But if you just prepare an emergency entertainment kit, it could make a big difference. These kits can include snacks, (perhaps favourites like chocolates and other treats they’re normally not allowed) and activities such as colouring, writing practice, or even a fun puzzle that quickly grabs and maintains their attention while you’re on a call. You know your child best, so you will know what will engage them.

Header image credits: Odua Images via Canva

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Born in New Delhi, brought up in Hong Kong, and having lived in New York, city life is in Kopal's blood. You can find her exploring her beloved city. Whether it's the latest sustainable fashion store, or the cutest new coffee shop, she loves finding the hidden secrets of Hong Kong. In her free time, Kopal is a active advocate for animal welfare and adoption, and she runs a Facebook and Instagram page, @adoptdontshop.hk.

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