10 ways to keep kids engaged while you work from home

High angle portrait of young woman working at la aptop with two kids painting beside her at a table.

When the pandemic hit, and school and office safety restrictions were put in place, many people were suddenly faced with a concept they were relatively unfamiliar with — working from home. While some may enjoy the flexibility their new work routine provides, others can find the home environment overwhelming when trying to focus on the job that pays.

For parents, this new balance between working and parenting — often at the same time — can prove difficult but it also comes with its perks. Alex Dyer, CEO and founder of Tutor House says he’s enjoyed the benefits of being home with his family. “You get to spend more time with them, be there in times of need — like if they’re ill — and you worry less about them because you’re physically with them. And this time is flexible, which suits young children, because they have changing needs.”

Still, parents and children face frustration and confusion as they adjust to a new normal for their daily routine. They also must manage the uncertainty of schools being open or closed for in-person learning due to changing safety requirements. Parents often find themselves both working and teaching from home.

To provide resources for families managing this ongoing challenge, we sought the guidance of teachers to help parents who are juggling their children’s school needs with their own work needs.

Read on for 10 teacher-approved tips to keep kids engaged, while parents are working from home. (Also note that while most of Adobe’s Education Exchange is geared towards teachers, there are resources on the young learners’ section of Adobe’s Distance Learning Hub, meant to help parents of school aged children find creative activities and lessons.)

Create art projects

Art projects can be tailored according to a child’s age and may be best suited for those at an age to play independently. “Coloring or drawing is fun and an activity they can do independently, which most children enjoy, especially younger ones. Older children love building stuff…like model airplanes or rockets, or making beaded bracelets,” suggests Dyer.

During quarantine, TIME for Kids and Adobe launched an 8-part art class video series on the Adobe Distance Learning Hub, ‘Draw with Drew (and Rosie!)’ with the objective of bringing free, inclusive art instruction to kids adjusting to distance learning.

While TIME for Kids Creative Director Drew creates elaborate drawings with Adobe Fresco and Adobe Photoshop using his tablet, his 10-year-old co-host Rosie mimics him using pen and paper, crayons and pencils.

Children can also use Adobe Spark to create a digital art portfolio to showcase their drawings and illustrations and share with friends and family.

Write letters

Though it may seem outdated, research shows that writing letters by hand gives children a great way to practice their handwriting. For older kids (ages 13 and up), writing letters can create connections between friends and family that go beyond texting or email. Teachers recommend older children write digital letters. Consider helping teen use Adobe Spark’s letter templates to inspire these conversations.

For younger children, writing letters by hand can be a great way to break through the feeling of isolation that being shut away from friends and family can present. If your children are missing out on social interactions due to the pandemic, encourage them to maintain relationships through letter writing, and it’s also great practice for handwriting skills and self-expression.

Perform science experiments

DIY science experiments are a great way to encourage kids to be creative, learn and have some fun. While DIY experiments like making volcanoes are easy to set into motion, they do require a significant amount of attention and are best suited for children who are older and more aware of safety measures.

“One of my top tips would be to make sure that digital and craft activities can be completed without much or with no parental supervision, said Rachel Mills, educator and founder of Buttercup Learning. “You can then get on with your work. Make sure to have all materials available at the beginning of the day, create a space where messes can be made, but those messes can be contained and easily cleaned up.”


Exercise is a great way to burn off excess energy, get children moving, and even reset moods and attitudes when boredom starts to sink in. Streaming a family-friendly workout via Youtube, for example, can be beneficial and educational. A quick search will turn up movement classes as well yoga and even guided meditation classes for the whole family.

Play educational games

Educational gaming platforms that improve word ability, math skills and motor skills for younger children can be a great way to keep children of all ages engaged. Using gaming in children’s education can have many benefits, including instilling motivation and increasing cognition. The best part about educational games now being available online is that it requires little set up and no mess at the end. Still, these aren’t games where parents can leave their child in front of a computer unattended for a few hours. Educational gaming often requires parental attention to really help children understand and benefit from those games.

Listen to audiobooks

If you are struggling to get your child to read while they are away from their physical classroom, audiobooks are a great alternative. They are available for a range of ages and can keep even young children entertained with their fun storytelling. Services like Epic! audiobooks or Scribd are paid subscriptions (although some have a free trial) but they also provide access to a wide range of audiobooks. Did you know that most local libraries have free audiobooks? Check out Overdrive, which provides audiobooks, as well as ebooks and magazines, through local and school libraries.

Create videos and animations

These days, children are the earliest adopters when it comes to new technology, and as the world grows increasingly digital, kids are picking up new skills at a rapid pace. Helping your child gain confidence by creating a youtube channel can teach them about lighting, editing, sound, and all other video editing fundamentals. It can also help boost their public speaking ability and social skills,

Apps like Adobe Character Animator can keep older students engaged when they create animated puppets. The technology, which requires a computer and webcam, teaches digital art and graphic design skills. It can also teach storytelling.

Develop a talent for digital photography

If you are into art and photography yourself, you can take a break from work and keep children entertained at the same time. Using your digital camera or smartphone and a laptop, teach your children the basics of what makes a good photo, such as lighting. You may want to set up an account on Adobe Creative Cloud. While it may take a while to become an expert, today’s Photoshop can do amazing things with just a few clicks. Once your kids are editing images, they will be busy for a long time.

Cook and bake a day’s meal

Anything food related is a fun activity and learning experience that allows kids to practice math concepts, build language skills, build confidence, and create healthy eating habits. Parents can take a work break and bring the children in to create a family meal, snack or treat. Teach children to follow a recipe, and taste as they go. Writing and drawing recipes into a cookbook or art project is a great way to save favorite recipes to make again and again. Given the care that needs to be taken around kitchen tools, you may want to adapt for younger children with easy recipes and less gadgets.

Garden and yard work!

Gardening is a simple activity with big rewards. It encourages children to water plants, remove weeds, and care for their living space. This gives them a sense of purpose and responsibility and allows them to explore the outdoors. Dyer says that his young son really enjoys being in the garden even when he is not being guided. “He loves bugs and worms, so it’s great for him to be outside as much as we can, even in the rain. I tend not to ask him to do anything, just let him get on with it. He has his own little spade, shovel and bucket, with the only rule being he has to put them back on the hooks,” he shares. Of course, as with any outdoor activity this still requires a parental presence and may not be suitable for very young children who risk getting hurt.

Although today’s work and school environment can be challenging, parents can get their work done and kids can remain educationally engaged, focused and happy — all from home. Making household activities, learning opportunities and adding a few other digital education ideas to the mix, you may find things you and your child — or teenager — can do together, long after you have returned to the office, and they are back to school.