Summer break. It’s a time for carefree days, lazy mornings, and swimming in the pool, right? That’s not always possible when you’re juggling work deadlines with rambunctious children.

When parents are working from home, the joy of sunshine can be overshadowed by the stress of keeping their children entertained while maintaining productivity. The good news is that with a little planning, some creative solutions, and a bit of flexibility, you can thrive during this (potentially messy) time of year.

Setting the Stage for Success: Preparation is Key

Getting a jump on summer planning can go a long way. So, for a smooth sailing season, here are some tips:

  • Family meeting. Kicking off the summer with a family meeting is a good idea. Explain your work schedule and the importance of staying focused during those times.
  • Have a summer routine. Kids crave predictability. As such, create a clear schedule outlining work hours, playtime, and family time. Remember to schedule meals, breaks, and outdoor play, too. You should also post it visually on a whiteboard or fridge and adhere to it as much as possible. If your children are older, consider creating and sharing a family calendar through a calendar app.
  • Carve out your workspace. Maintaining boundaries and staying focused is easier when you have your own workspace, even just a corner. To create a positive atmosphere, decorate it with motivational quotes or photos of loved ones.
  • Communicate with your employer. Don’t be afraid to be upfront about your situation. Adapt your schedule to accommodate flexible work arrangements, such as adjusting your start time or condensing your work week. If you communicate openly, you are more likely to manage your workload.
  • Prepare activities in advance. Put together a treasure trove of age-appropriate activities, such as coloring books, puzzles, science experiments, and craft supplies. Keep them handy for when you need a focused work sprint.
  • The joy of saying “yes” (sometimes). There will be times when “work” has to take a backseat. In case of important calls or deadlines, offer alternative activities for the kids. For example, coloring books or quiet toys could be used to set up a “work alongside me” station.

Keeping the Little Ones Occupied: Activities and Alternatives

  • The art of independence. To encourage independent play, offer age-appropriate activities such as puzzles, crafts, or educational games. Rotate toys weekly to keep them fresh.
  • Embrace the great outdoors. Organize outdoor activities such as bike rides, nature walks, or park visits. Both you and your kids can benefit from fresh air and exercise.
  • Plan for a rainy day. Plan ahead in case of rain or times when independent play won’t work. Ensure you have plenty of activity books, board games, and educational apps.
  • Schedule playdates. Schedule playdates with friends’ or neighbors’ kids for social interaction and entertainment.
  • Consider camps and care. Consider summer camps, childcare services, or babysitting arrangements for a few days a week. Doing this allows you to devote more time to your work while providing your children with enriching experiences. My mom never hesitated to ship us off to weekly overnight camps or summer day camps at the YMCA.
  • Educational entertainment. Several educational apps, websites, and online courses are available for kids, like ABCmouse or Khan Academy Kids. Take advantage of these options to keep their minds engaged while you work.

Mastering the Juggle: Strategies for a Productive Summer

  • The early bird gets the worm. Make the most of quiet mornings before the children wake up. For instance, tackle your most critical tasks during this golden time.
  • Tap into the power of the Pomodoro Technique. Using the Pomodoro Technique, you can divide your work into manageable chunks. After 25 minutes of work, take a short break. As a result, you can maintain focus and prevent burnout.
  • Embrace the “Power Hour.” Ask your partner, a friend, or a family member to watch your kids for an hour so you can work uninterrupted on a complex project.
  • Be a multitasking master (the good kind). You can combine specific low-energy tasks. For example, listen to conference calls while folding laundry or answer emails during lunchtime.
  • Think outside the box. If you are in the same boat as your colleagues, consider working in a co-working space that has childcare options or look into nanny shares. You can also spend some time at the library every week during the summer. Your kids can choose books, read, play, and participate in fun library activities while you work.
  • Don’t be afraid to outsource. Can you save time by ordering groceries online or using a meal delivery service? Explore barter arrangements with neighbors or delegate chores to older siblings.

Managing Interruptions: Graceful Deflection Techniques

Regardless of how meticulously you plan, interruptions are inevitable. Here are some tips to handle them with grace:

  • Create a “do not disturb” signal. This could be a closed door, a sign, or traffic light you get from Amazon. If your kids see this signal, explain to them that you are busy and cannot be interrupted unless there is an emergency.
  • The “yes, but” technique. Establish boundaries while acknowledging their needs. For example, “Yes, I’d love to play with you, but I need to finish this call first.”
  • “Quiet time” activities bucket. Whenever kids need attention, prepare a bucket filled with engaging activities. Rotate the contents regularly to keep them fresh.
  • Quick breaks for emergencies. Take a quick break if there are any genuine emergencies. When your children need you, this shows them that you are available.

Prioritizing You and Your Family: Maintaining Balance

  • Schedule fun activities. You can plan outings to the park, library visits, or pool days. You’ll create lasting memories and remember why you work hard for your family.
  • Embrace imperfections. Don’t worry about cleaning your house perfectly or cooking a gourmet meal every night. It’s a time for flexibility and making do.
  • Practice self-care. Maintain your well-being, and don’t neglect it. Schedule some time for yourself, whether you want to exercise, enjoy a hobby, or just unwind with a good book. Having a relaxed and rested parent makes them more patient and productive.
  • Communicate with your partner. It’s true. Teamwork makes the dream work. As such, divide and conquer household duties and spend some quality couple time, even just to sneak a cup of coffee in the morning.
  • Celebrate small wins. Don’t forget to acknowledge your small and big achievements. A pat on the back is in order for you, as you’re navigating a unique challenge.

Bonus Tips and Hacks for Working Parents

  • Noise-canceling Headphones. When you need to tune out background noise and concentrate, these can be a lifesaver.
  • Be tech-savvy. Find apps that offer white noise or calming music to drown out background noise. Additionally, use automation to handle recurring and tedious workflows.
  • The magic of rewards. Create a reward system to encourage your children’s good behavior at work. It can be as simple as earning screen time or eating ice cream after dinner.
  • Just say “No.” During this busy season, politely decline additional work or social commitments. Instead, put your well-being first and focus on what really matters.

Remember, You’re Not Alone: Building Your Summer Support System

  • Make connections with other work-from-home parents. Local meetups, online forums, or social media groups can provide invaluable support and camaraderie. Feel free to share tips, vent frustrations, and celebrate successes with others who know what you’re going through.
  • Lean on your village. If you need help, don’t be afraid to ask family and friends. It might be fun for Grandma to watch the kids for an afternoon, or a neighbor might be happy to trade babysitting shifts.

Conclusion: A Summer to Remember

Working from home when kids are on summer break can be rewarding. With clear expectations, helpful strategies, and prioritizing self-care, you can cultivate a productive, connected, and memorable summer.

In the end, embrace the flexibility, embrace the chaos, and enjoy your extra time with your family. After all, we shouldn’t take these fleeting summer days for granted.


How can I create a workspace that keeps my kids out (or at least understanding when I’m busy)?

You may want to consider setting up a dedicated work area in a separate room with a door that can be closed. If not, use visual cues like a “work in progress” sign or colored lamp to indicate busy times. If your workplace is filled with very young children, set up a play area with quiet toys.

How can I establish a routine that keeps everyone on track?

  • Family schedule. Create a visual schedule that includes activities for the kids, breaks, meals, and work hours.
  • Predictability is key. Children thrive on routine. To avoid meltdowns, follow the schedule as closely as possible.
  • Schedule breaks with the kids. For connection and to burn off energy, spend time playing with the kids during your breaks.

What can I do to maximize my productivity during the day?

  • Plan your workload. When the kids are napping or otherwise occupied, schedule time-consuming tasks.
  • Embrace screen time. You can buy yourself focused work time by strategically using educational shows or games.
  • Lower expectations. Don’t overestimate your abilities. If necessary, you can adjust deadlines or delegate tasks.
  • Communicate with your employer. In case of a flexible work arrangement, inform your manager about your situation.

My kids need entertainment, but I can’t always stop working. What are some ideas?

  • Quiet time routine. Your child can gradually be introduced to independent play periods. Initially, start with short bursts and gradually increase the duration.
  • Plan engaging activities. Keep age-appropriate crafts, puzzles, and games on hand for small group or independent play.
  • Screen time. Schedule screen time strategically throughout the day to give yourself focused work time.

How can I stay sane and avoid burnout?

  • Prioritize ruthlessly. Determine the most important tasks for each day and complete them first.
  • Self-care is essential. Make sure you schedule a time to exercise or meditate that will help you de-stress.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You may be able to enlist the help of your partner for childcare and housework if you have a partner.
  • Let go of some things. You might have to put off household chores or errands. It’s also okay to simplify meals or ask friends or family for assistance.
  • Embrace the mess. Keep your housework to a minimum. Regarding productivity, a clean house isn’t as important as a productive work session.

Image Credit: Dominika Roseclay; Pexels