How to entertain toddlers whilst you’re on a zoom call

How to Entertain Toddlers Whilst You’re on a Zoom Call

It’s a scene familiar to all parents of young children and toddlers during the lockdown. The child crashing the call just as you’re about to make that killer point, either overwhelming your colleagues with cuteness or throwing you off with an epic tantrum. Whether you’re on Zoom, Skype, or Teams, the child crashing your all-important meeting is a familiar scene. So how do you keep your toddler entertained during video calls?

Zoom call on laptop

First things first, you need to set your expectations. Lockdown has been challenging for us all, particularly young children who don’t understand why their routines have been upended. They’re used to having you there and present, not distracted for hours in front of a laptop screen. So it’s understandable their behavior may be a challenge and you need to adjust how you do things. As many of us will continue to work at home, the Zoom interruption is likely to always be a feature. So think about how you can work as a team with your co-parent, and if this isn’t possible, consider your schedule. Do you need to push back on calls? Or do you need to start the call with an expectation setting mention that your child may interrupt?

Ultimately, preparation is the factor for success. Once you’ve set expectations, you need to set up your workspace. Are you in an area where you’re comfortable? Also, make sure that you have enough space to notice any interruption in good time so you can take unnoticed action if need be. Point your camera away from any doors or entry points so you can hopefully hold off your toddler in advance. Corners could be a good place, although don’t be so pinned in that you can’t step away if you need to. As a parent, you always need to be prepared for some last-minute rescues if your little one gets themself into a precarious position!

Toddler watching parent work

If you’re accepting that an interruption is likely, you can then set up the area surrounding your workspace to ensure it’s more tempting than your call. Make it a haven of their favorite snacks, ideally where they can help themselves. This should buy you some time to hopefully encourage them away from your screen so you can maintain your professional facade.

Having space for a small play area can also be helpful. Setting up an interactive, fun area next to your workspace can allow them to be entertained, and if you engage with them while you’re on mute in a way that gives them enough attention to be happy, you may keep the calm for your call.

Examples of play areas can vary and will depend on your space (and your child’s demeanor). In warmer weather (and larger spaces), a small indoor paddling pool can provide an exciting experience for your child. It will require a higher degree of supervision and isn’t for a child who loves to jump and splash, but for the quieter, more curious toddler, you can set up a fishing game for them in the pool with nets that can keep them fascinated for a good while.

Sensory play is always fun for toddlers, and so long as you avoid shakers and loud crinkly surfaces, it can offer an engaging experience that really gets them thinking.

Arts and crafts are always popular, and setting up a station could be fun for the creative child. If you avoid paints (an invitation for spills and mess, not the best for a call!) and focus on crayons, chalks, and stickers, you can relax a little as they keep themselves entertained.

Books can be a great option too if your child is happy to sit and look through them on their own, and again if you make use of any time you can be on mute you can maintain a level of engagement that keeps them happy that they’re still getting attention from their parents.

Of course, screens are always useful as a last port of call. Making sure you have a tablet or TV nearby loaded with their favorite shows can buy you some time. If you mix up some more engaging activities with screen time on a busy day of calls means they are still getting a mixture of activities and, if chosen wisely, TV can be used as a tool for development of language and developing interest in the world.

Toddler looking at laptop

It may be that all of these aren’t what they want – they want a cuddle and some attention from their parents. This is where the expectation setting at the top may come in handy. If your colleagues are aware that you may have an interruption, they may not mind if your little co-worker pops in for a quick cuddle. These moments can be incredibly humanizing and so long as it’s not too derailing, it can offer a bit of light relief for the call – as well as giving your child the hug and attention they need. It also allows your child to have a slice of the working world, and you’re role modeling working for them in front of their eyes. If they look like they want to stay awhile, all is not lost – put yourself on mute and try and turn the experience into a game. Can your little one tell you the colors of your colleague’s shirts? Can they practice counting while with you? Anything to keep them focused and looking calm!

Of course, if all this fails, there’s always the camera off and mute buttons. In a world where the home and office are so inter-linked, these are tools that are more invaluable than ever! Don’t forget that you’re setting your little one a great example by working hard, and you’re witnessing amazing leaps in their development that would otherwise be missed by being in an office. So by taking a few measures in your home and preparing for any invasions, you’ll hopefully be well placed to relax a little more than usual on those Zoom calls with an entertained toddler by your side.

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