You have your workday perfectly arranged. But then, your babysitter calls in sick. AND right when you’re setting up for a Zoom conference with a prospective client you’ve been chasing for months.
Without preparation, this could mean disaster. But with a little creativity and foresight you can engage your toddler during the call. You won’t be left having to apologise for piercing screams in the background or a full 2-year-old’s meltdown.
Let me take you through 8 ways that have helped me entertain a toddler during a Zoom call.
Tip #1: Set up a play area in your office
Sometimes our tiny explorers just want to be around us. This seems to be especially true when Mum has a work call!
For some toddlers, hearing you speak to someone else can spark an instant need for your attention. Parallel play can be a great way to entertain a toddler during a Zoom call.
Set up a play area next to you with some activity kits or their favourite books. This play area can be near you, but just out of camera-shot.
Stock up on some good audiobooks for Zoom-heavy days. Get your toddler a kid-friendly headset that matches your own to make it special. And set them up with a bunch of favourite-themed audiobooks.
My son loves books, especially stories about animals. So, audiobooks are my go-to whenever I have an important work call.
When the call is over, I get to hear all about the amazing animals and stories he just heard. It’s so much fun and a great way to work peacefully. And your child feels like they have your attention, so it’s a win-win situation!
If you’re new to the mumpreneur life, it’s easy to think sharing the office with your little one isn’t possible. But there’s plenty of other mums working from home with a toddler who use this strategy.
Tip #2: Create an entertainment box to use during the Zoom call
This one needs some prep, and you can even involve your toddler with it.
Create a personalised, cool activity box filled with fun things that your child can play, build and create with independently.
You can include everything from Magnatiles and Lego to GoldieBlox. Essentially, you’re filling it with toys, tasks and materials that will challenge your little one.
You can even set them up with a tough building project and reward them later if they manage to achieve it.
Tip #3: Keep art & craft projects ready
A bit of colourful mess never hurt anyone, right?…!
Art and craft projects are a great way to entertain toddlers during a Zoom call. Try reusable colouring books that they can multi-colour, wipe and get creative with. Other options are kits that encourage them to make cards, animals, or model machines like cars and aeroplanes.
Children love being encouraged to do things on their own. Craft projects, especially if they involve vibrant colours and a good selection of paper and materials, are a really engaging way to keep them occupied. It’s a tried and tested solution to entertain kids while working from home.
Tip #4: Have post-Zoom play time with your toddler
A Mum’s life is too often plagued by guilt. Not spending enough time with her children is one of the biggest worries for a working Mum. Here’s where planning things ahead can help.
Plan explicitly for some play-time with your toddler after your Zoom calls. This way you won’t feel guilty and your toddler won’t feel left out. Sit down with them in advance and explain that you need to attend this important work meeting. As a reward afterwards you are going to have some fun play time together.
If you can get your toddler to understand the situation, it can really help you avoid mid-call meltdowns. There is nothing like a quiet toddler while on Zoom calls!
Tip #5: Use screen time to quiet your toddler during the Zoom call
Parents have different views about children using electronic devices. If you are a Mum who is okay with limited screen time, you might want to save it for those important Zoom calls.
There is plenty of good quality content and educational games available for kids of all ages. You can check them out in advance, and it can be a great way to keep your child entertained during an important work call.
It is true, though – sometimes even Dinosaur Train on continuous play can’t help you if your toddler wants your attention, and yours only!
Tip #6: Plan for safe outside time while you are busy on your call
Want a quiet toddler while on Zoom call? There is nothing like outside time, if you have an outside space where your child can safely play unsupervised.
A work call can be a perfect excuse for some fresh air and creative time for the kids. Plan for time in an outside playhouse or on a trampoline, or chalking pictures on the backyard concrete.
Especially toddler boys will love this opportunity to get rid of some energy and move their busy little bodies and minds.
Tip #7: Have pre-prepared snacks ready to go at short notice
Snacks can be a go-to solution for a lot of things in a Mum’s life. But for now, let’s focus on Zoom calls.
Keep some of their favourite nibbles ready in a snack box for those times when you have an impromptu call. You can even create a cosy little nook close by you with some of their favourite books or toys and their snacks.
This way kids can play and eat in their own little space and you get the quiet time you need.
Tip #8: Let your toddler join in for a moment and set expectations with your zoom participants
Set expectations with your colleagues and others on a call before your meeting begins in earnest. This is a great way to avoid too much embarrassment about child-related moments later on. Just let them know to be ready and to ignore any curious and possibly noisily demanding kids in the background.
Oh, and do try to set up your camera so you don’t have to worry about your toddler photobombing your Zoom meeting! (One academic dad neglected to do any of the above in a major interview with a national broadcaster, with hilarious consequences…)
Depending on the type and formality of a meeting, you might even consider letting your toddler join you for a moment before the serious conversation starts. This allows your little one to say hello and satisfy their curiosity.
Once they see how boring a bunch of adults talking can be, there’s a good chance they will wander off by themselves in search of something more entertaining!
So, which tips will you choose to entertain your toddler during a Zoom call?
I agree, it’s not an easy task to have a quiet toddler during a Zoom call. But do try these tips and pick what works best for your youngster. Then you can really have it all: a quiet mind, a contented child and a peaceful, productive meeting.
Anna Roland is a work from home mumpreneur. She has a passion for helping other mums thrive with their gorgeous, energetic and -shall we say- determined toddlers via her leading toddler advice site. She loves having fun with her two kids and husband and spending as much time as possible at the beach.