Working from home can be a balancing act between your business and personal life — especially if you’ve got kids. If your children are toddlers, then you must depend on partners, family, or childcare providers to keep them away from your Zoom sessions. If they are school age, you may have some time for yourself and your job during school hours — until the school day is done.
Below are some toys, videos, and ideas that some of our staffers with kids have come up with to help keep things a little saner while you’re finishing up your work day.
Keep the kids busy
Esther Cohen, associate director of audience development for The Verge, says, “I got one of these rotating desk organizer things and filled it up with crayons, markers, colored pencils, scissors, glue, etc. I also got two trays, one for white paper / construction paper and one to put things in once completed. I stuck it all on the empty dining room table. The kids would come home, shower, and — without me nudging them — gravitate toward it because it is laid out for them and so easy. That usually keeps them busy for an hour.”
For ages three and up
Emma Merlis, senior director of newsroom analytics for Vox Media, has been thinking about investing in a Toniebox. This display-free audio player will tell stories and sing songs to your kids when they place one of dozens of different figures — cartoon characters, fairy-tale princesses, favorite protagonists from books — on top of the child-sized speaker. It’s a good idea for keeping your child busy without also keeping them glued to a screen.
For ages four to 10
Jory Ruscio, who was an engineering manager at Vox and is now senior data platform engineer at Better, said, “We’re a big fan of Osmo games for preschool-plus. Playing Osmo is a much-loved activity for my three kids. The physical pieces allow for a much more interactive and tactile experience. The games are entertaining and educational. From exploring physics and coding to making pizzas and calculating change, the kids are occupied for hours.
On-screen education and entertainment
For ages two to eight
Abigail Aronofsky, who is the executive director of corporate marketing at Vox Media, reported two years ago that they “got on board the ABCmouse train” for their five-year-old, and it was surprisingly great. “The graphics are very 2002, but it kept her entertained for about an hour a day.”
For preschool-aged children and up
When one parent at Vox Media lauded the Disney Plus show Bluey, several others chimed in to offer their plaudits. This show is about a family of dogs who live in Australia: a mother, a father, a four-year-old, and a six-year-old. According to Nathan Edwards, senior reviews editor at The Verge, one reason the show is so popular is that kids love it and it’s fun for parents as well. “Bluey is currently our No. 1 solution,” adds Christopher Grant, group publisher of The Verge and Polygon. “Bless you, Bluey.”
Another parental favorite (suggested by Nikolas Wise, Vox Media engineering manager) is Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, a modern offshoot of the venerable Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. The animated series centers around Daniel Tiger, who lives in the Neighborhood of Make Believe along with his parents, his friends, and their parents and uses Strategy Songs — little ditties that explore various feelings and experiences — to help children learn and develop.
For ages six through 12
Dan Seifert, deputy editor of reviews for The Verge, reports, “On paper, there are a lot of things that make the Kids Edition Fire tablets attractive to parents. They all come with a bulky rubber case that makes it easy to hold and hard to break. Should your kid break it, Amazon provides two years of worry-free protection. And each Kids Edition tablet comes with a subscription to Amazon’s Kids Plus service, which lets parents control what content is available on it and set time limits for how long kids can use the tablet each day.”
“In practice, the tablets are objectively terrible. The interface is confusing, the performance is slow and laggy, and the battery life leaves a lot to be desired. Those things all matter to me, a professional product reviewer, but for my children, the Fire tablets we got them a couple of holidays back are their favorite toys. They use them to play games, watch SpongeBob SquarePants, and maybe occasionally read a book.”
For the adults
Rug pads to keep the neighbors happy
Amelia Holowaty Krales, senior photo editor at The Verge, suggested that (at least for her) it might be a good idea to order “the thickest rug pads available so my downstairs neighbors don’t murder me because the children are doing laps.” I have a good friend who is in just that position, and while he loves the kids upstairs, he does sometimes wish they’d run their laps a little later in the morning.
Time management tools
Brooke Lipner, VP of client services at Vox Media, would very much appreciate “calendar management to handle everything life throws at you — school stuff, work stuff, sports stuff, family stuff, sleep stuff.” Unfortunately, while no one organizer works for everyone, we can at least provide some help with The Verge’s favorite tools to stay organized.
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