Practical tips for keeping your little ones busy while you work // Florence SC Visual Artist

Let me just start this post by saying that working at home with my kids around is no doubt the hardest thing I have ever done. It is taxing in a way that I never imagined. The constant pulling of my attention from a place of creativity and productivity to suddenly switching gears to manage little people’s emotions is the most intense rollercoaster ride I have ever been on and it WIPES ME OUT.

if from the outside this ever appears to look “easy” in any way to you I want to clarify right here once and for all that it is NEVER easy. Beautiful? Absolutely. Fun? No doubt. A disaster at times? FOR SURE. Super rewarding? 100%. But easy? No. Not ever. Not even one day has it ever been “easy”.

Now that that’s out of the way let’s get to the meat of this post. Yesterday I shared some of the overarching principles that I use while working with my little ones around and today I am sharing some of the practice tools I use to keep them entertained when I HAVE to work while they are awake.

To clarify, 85% of my work is done either during their nap time or after they have gone to bed. It’s just a decision I made after some time of trying to paint while they were awake ( this is where most of the disasters came in) and seeing that it just wasn’t working. These kids need structure, and attention... and If I’m half paying attention all day and viewing them as if they are something keeping me away from the “important stuff” then it’s no wonder when they act out by making messes or fighting with each other. They just want my attention.

Once I finally got that through my thick skull everything changed. By giving them dedicated time and attention when they are awake, they are suddenly more willing to give me the time to focus on something else without causing a scene when I ask them to give me a few minutes to respond to a message, write an instagram caption or even this blog post. And I also have nap and bed time to pull out all the messy stuff and get to work without them leaving white handprints on the wall (if you know you know).


1. Magnatiles- My girls love these toys so much.  Nora got them for her third birthday I believe and we are STILL playin with them all the time.  This is an activity that doesn’t make a huge mess but keeps my girls entertained for far more than 5 minutes. 

2. kinetic sand- This is much messier than the previous toy but I also think the girls get way more enjoyment out of it.  I can set them up at their table with some kinetic sand and a few sand toys from our beach bag and they are honest to goodness entertained for HOURS.

3. calligraphy scroll- This is by far my favorite activity to give them when I am painting. Nora always asks to paint when she sees me painting so setting her up with one thing that gives her the opportunity to paint without getting paint all over the place is a win win in my book.  This little scroll is under $10 and SO MUCH FUN.  

These scrolls are what calligraphers use to practice without wasting tons of paper.  The water paints on back and dries back to white and both of my girls can share one scroll with plenty of room but when they are this cot effective its silly to not grab one for each kiddo!  This link is a two pack for around $7.

4. watercolor paint-  Every now and then when I am really feeling generous, super patient and Ok with an added mess to clean up at the end I will pull out their watercolor set and put them at their “desk” setup I mentioned in the last post. Most of the time I give them regular computer paper, or some scrap pieces of my watercolor paper to work on.  They love painting things and running to the fridge to put there art up for daddy to notice later.

5. piece of cardboard box/ water/ paintbrush- truly its that simple. If you’re looking for a way to entertain your little one today and you don’t have the things listed here this is all you need to get started.  I originally did this with Greer when it was us me and here one afternoon a few years ago and it was a hit.  Again, the water goes on dark so she feels like she’s painting something but I’m not getting a pigmented mess everywhere to wipe up later. Truly it’s genius, you’re welcome. 

Hopefully some of these practical tips will prove helpful for you as you seek to entertain them while you create.  At the end of the day just remember this- its all just a season.  You will get everything you need done eventually.  It just might not be on the timeline you could accommodate before little ones.  Give yourself grace and lean into the Lord in the hard parts. He’s never left me high and dry, not even once.

Leave a comment