In this blog I'm tackling the tricky task of how to get stuff done with a toddler under foot. Whether your desperate for five minutes of peace to enjoy a hot cup of tea, have a looming work deadline, or just need to get the housework done, I'm sharing my top tips to help you get more stuff done with your toddler around and enjoy this special time together.
I love the toddler stage. They're just so adorably cute and full of life. But for all that cuteness, they're also hard work. And I don't mean that in a bad way, but the reality is, toddlers need a lot of help and supervision.
Whether it's housework, paid work, a hobby or just running errands, having kids doesn't mean the work stops, in fact in most cases, a mum's to-do list only grows.
I love being at home with my kids every day but it could also feel frustrating when I want to do something like work on my blog without distraction.
As a busy mum of two, who's husband works away, it was imperative that I figured out how to get stuff done with my little ones around.
When I wrote the first draft of this blog I clocked over 2000 words. But since I figure you're already pretty strapped for time, I've cut it right back and will share some of my other best time-saving mum hacks in a future post. For now, here are my top tips for getting things done, when your toddler is at home with you.
I would like to preface this advice with by saying that I am not one of those people who is super easy going, or able focus on more than one task at a time. I find noise distracting and I like to put 100 percent of my focus into what I'm doing. So when I became a mum, I really struggled with getting anything done once my babies were walking and talking. I wanted my kids at home with me, but I also wanted down time to recuperate, and work on my own goals.
My kids are now 3 and 6, so I have had lots of practice since then, and continue to use these strategies to this day. I hope you find them helpful too!
My top tips to get stuff done with a toddler
Adjust your mindset
It took me a few years and two kids to realise that I needed to adjust my mindset and expectations. My mother-in-law constantly reminds me not to worry about my to-do list as much when the kids are around.
They are little for such a short time, and I choose to have them home with me, so I might as well enjoy it.
It's better to pick just one or two priority tasks for the day to focus on and then anything else you achieve can feel like a bonus, rather than feeling frustrated when your list is unfinished at the end of the day.
Pin it for later
Don't sweat the small stuff
If you have something important to do, but not much time to do it in, don't worry about the little things like what your toddler is wearing, if they're making a mess and taking out all their toys at once or how much of their lunch they did or didn't eat. As long as they're clothed, offered healthy food to eat and are happily entertained, that's all that matters. You can always clean up the mess together later on.
And if you're trying to make time to work on a personal goal then give yourself permission to let some of the household things slide from time to time. Eat simple eggs and toast for dinner and increase your tolerance for untidiness. You can't do it all yourself, so pick what's important right now and let the rest go. You deserve time to do the things you want to do too.
Spend more time at home
With my first child I was much more inclined to take her out each day to various activities like swimming lessons, toddler time at the library, dancing, play dates and the list goes on.
I came to realise that running all over town to activities was a big time consumer. It's fun to go out for the occasional change of scene, but it's equally great to spend time at home getting household jobs done together.
Now I just pick one activity for each of the kids per week, and limit play dates to once or twice a week, freeing up more time at home.
Encourage your toddler to help
"Me help mummy!"... Oh my gosh don't toddlers just love to help!
It's easy to dismiss little ones as not being of much help, but there are so many things they can do when you invest a little time teaching them, and there is usually no lack of enthusiasm.
Sure, the jobs don't get done as quickly as they used to, but I see it as an investment in the future when my kids will capable of doing those tasks on their own.
Don't feel guilty about spending your time doing household chores with your kids instead of playing with toys. Not only will you be getting stuff done, but you're kiddo will be entertained and learning new skills at the same time.
We like to encourage our toddler to help with cooking and meal prep, as well as the laundry and simple tasks like transporting things around the house, unloading the groceries into the pantry, and tending to our chickens.
You may like to invest in a couple of tools to make this process easier, such as a learning tower (or even a simple step stool) and child safe utensils such as the KiddiKutter. Even if your child isn't cutting perfect slices of cucumber for the salad, he will be busily occupied with the task while you prepare the rest of the dinner.
Use nap times wisely
The great thing about toddlers is that most of them will still be having a daytime nap and this is precious time to get stuff done. Treat it like gold, and use it only for things you cannot get done with your child around, for example; self care, projects and paid work (not just watching M rated shows on Netflix).
If you want to use naps or other quiet times more efficiently, it's important to have a clear direction of what you need to achieve. This starts with planning ahead and setting goals. Pick one or two essential tasks and stick to the plan. Resist the temptation to do anything too easy or mindless like hanging up laundry or scrolling Instagram.
My toddler doesn't nap anymore, so I insist on a 'rest time' which is usually a movie or quiet time in his room while I work on my blog. This is a great way to introduce the concept of boundaries, though you can still expect the odd interruption or too.
Burning the midnight oil
Many mums, myself included, get stuff done at night when the kids are in bed. But this strategy comes with a word of warning. In my experience, there is a strong correlation between my lack of sleep and the quality my work, my mood, and ability to stick to healthy habits, and not in a good way.
Of course night time is a great time to get stuff done, but don't make it a regular occurrence because you may just burn out. Sleep is so important, so use it as a last resort, and make sure it's not at the expense of your health and wellbeing.
Using screen time to get stuff done with a toddler
Screen time can be a total life saver when it comes to entertaining your toddler while you get some work done.
The Department of Health recommends children aged 2 to 5 years should watch less than 1 hour of screen time per day, and I agree that too much screen time could be harmful to their development.
The moral of the story: use your screen time strategically. For me this means not giving my toddler screen time unless I am using it to get something done, and I get every thing I need organised, before screen time starts, to make the most of it.
I also prefer to stick to longer passive formats such as shows the ABC kids app or G rated movies on Netflix, rather than YouTube or gaming. I know everyone has different opinions on this topic, and that's totally fine. You are the best person who knows what's right for your family.
So whether you're desperate for five minutes of peace to enjoy a hot cup of tea, have a looming work deadline, or just need to get the housework done, I hope these tips will help you get more stuff done with your toddler and enjoy this special time together.
Thanks for following along.
Join our simple living community! Subscribe to our newsletter and never miss a post.