I’m forever looking for clever ways to streamline my closet, declutter my junk drawer and organize the mail. As a mom, though, my favorite tips are those that are not only useful but also easy to incorporate into everyday child-rearing.
I’m not the only one looking for new ideas. Since 2005, Asha Dornfest, a Portland, Ore.-based writer and parent, has collected tips from moms and dads and posted them on her blog, Parent Hacks. Suggestions range from designating a “lunches only” shelf in the pantry (to keep kids from nabbing packaged snacks you’ve earmarked for their lunches) to bringing empty sippy cups you can fill with water before boarding a plane.
Dornfest has taken her blog a step further, writing a new book called “Parent Hacks: 134 Genius Shortcuts for Life with Kids.” Small enough to fit in a purse (or diaper bag), the book contains reader-generated ideas to help our days go a little more smoothly.
As Dornfest, who earlier co-wrote a book called Minimalist Parenting and co-hosts a podcast titled Edit Your Life, says in her introduction, “A parent hack is a creative, unexpected solution to a kid-related problem. It’s a clever work-around, an inspired shortcut, a duct-tape-and-chewing-gum-type move that changes the game.”
Illustrated with drawings by Craighton Berman, the book is divided into 11 chapters, covering topics such as pregnancy and postpartum, mealtime, and holidays. Some hacks that stand out:
Tip #49: Rinse baby’s hair with a watering can. Small plastic watering cans are sold in the toy section as part of kids’ gardening sets, but they’re useful in the bath as well. Use a watering can to gently rinse shampoo out of your baby’s hair.
Tip #63: Keep outfits rolled with a hair scrunchie so kids can more easily dress themselves. Roll clothing separates into color-coordinated outfits (socks and all) and loosely secure them with a thick ponytail scrunchie. Dresser drawers stay neat, clothing changes are a snap, and older kids take the lead in dressing themselves.
Tip #77: A suction-cup holder keeps sippy-cup valves safe. Sippy cup valves are easy to lose—or wash down the drain. Collect and dry them in a suction-cup sponge holder on the inside of the kitchen sink.
Tip #123: Cut cake with floss. If you’re cutting cake at a table full of excited children, skip the knife. Wrap a piece of unflavored dental floss around your fingers, lay the floss on top of the cake, then firmly and evenly press downward—cleaner, quicker, safer.
Interspersed with the numbered tips are additional suggestions, such as myriad uses of painter’s tape. I love the idea to use this handy item for labeling children’s thermoses, sealing paper-bag lunches, and repairing a broken diaper tab.
Every parent probably has invented his or her own tips for making life with kids more enjoyable, safer and productive. And the beauty is in sharing our ideas. While my daughter is past the little-kid stage, here are a few of my mom-inspired hacks:
- Tape a picture of your little one onto the shelf or wall directly in front of your washing machine. Even though you’re doing laundry for the third time this week, seeing a big happy smile (or better yet, a goofy face) will make this chore a little lighter.
- Short on cash but you want to surprise your toddler with a present? Hit a yard sale. Your tyke will never know the Hungry Hungry Hippo game once belonged to a neighbor. Just check to make sure all the pieces are there.
- If your kid doesn’t want to get dressed for preschool in the morning, let him sleep in his clothes. I haven’t done this, but a woman I know had very stressful mornings until she tried this strategy. What’s a few wrinkles on a shirt if it means getting to school on time?
- Keep track of library books by decorating two boxes (with your kiddo) and labeling them “to be read” (or “reread”) and “to be returned.”
- Are your kids uninspired by a big plastic bin overflowing with numerous and broken-in-half crayons? Purchase one box of crayons and — here is the important part — keep them in the box! Bringing out a box of crayons, popping open the lid and seeing 24 colors just waiting to be plucked from their spot — yep, that’ll work.
What’s your best parent-hack?
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