As a mom, I’m happy to peruse any article that promises to save me time and make my family’s life safer, easier, and cleaner by simply, say, upcycling a pool noodle. The problem with a lot of so-called hacks is that they’re totally impractical and, in some cases, give me a severe case of anxiety. Ideal parenting hacks should be easy to execute, with gratifying results. Bonus points if your kids can participate in the making of them (hello, family craft project.)
Maybe I’m a total nervous Nellie (okay, I know I am) but when I’m told that an egg container makes a great paint palette for children, I can’t help but wonder… what about salmonella? Some quick research reveals that I’m not just dreaming up disaster scenarios… it turns out egg containers aren’t so great for upcycling after all. Similarly, I’m not going to put a pool noodle in my baby’s crib. I’m just not.
The perfect parenting hack tackles a problem (Booo, my child has a splinter, or Our home is a disaster) or a situation (We’re going to dinner for Nana’s birthday and I would really like to keep the kids occupied at the table) in a more efficient way. It might be something that has me doing a little head-slapping and “Why didn’t I think of that?” but the bottom line is, hacks are meant to make life easier. Here are 37 parenting hacks that do exactly that.
1Monster Art Supply Containers
Kids have an abundance of colored pencils, crayons, and markers to store. Upcycling bottles into fun monster containers, like these from P&G Everyday, to hold all their coloring tools is a great project with aesthetically pleasing results and (one hopes) a tidier art space.
2Coloring Book Rack
Another way to store markers, along with coloring and activity books, is a simple dish drying rack ($13.35, Amazon.com). Real Simple suggests stacking books and paper in the slats meant for dishes, and sticking pens, crayons, and other drawing utensils in the cup meant for utensils.
The love of tiny Matchbox cars is an intense one, and FrugalFun4Boys has a great DIY toy parking garage that’s ideal for boys and girls who adore cars. If you want to skip the DIY part, buy a premade garage ($33) from Mom, Where’s My Car?
4Board Game Organizer
Instead of stacking your board game boxes into a precarious, wobbling tower that could collapse any minute (kind of like Jenga but not fun at all), try stacking them in a shoe organizer ($17, Amazon.com).
5Legos On the Go
An empty wipe box is a natural for storing things, but what about turning it into an adorable little Lego kit? K.V. Barn designed one using a plastic Ikea box, but a wipe box is cheaper, more accessible, and perfect for bringing to a restaurant when you want to keep your kids occupied.
6The Busy Wallet
I’m going to make a wild guess here and say that, perchance, your children love going through your wallet. Prepping a busy wallet, like the one on The Bigger Picture, is a great way to keep your kids occupied without the risk of them turning your hard-earned cash into confetti.
7The Treasure Chest
Similar to the busy wallet, this is one of my own original ideas for keeping the kids busy on an outing. Take a small box or container, and fill it with tiny artifacts around the house or – if you really want to get serious – some small inexpensive toys. All this stuff becomes way more entrancing to your children when whipped out in surprise treasure box form.
8Faux Smart Phone
If you’re resigned to passing over a small electronic device to your child so you can savor that glass of wine and adult conversation over dinner at an actual restaurant, at least don’t make it your own iPhone. PopSugar suggests letting them get spaghetti sauce on their very own iPod, which you made using your old, discarded iPhone.
9Inflatable Pool Playpen
10Foil Tray Art Container
When it comes to playing with beans, colored macaroni, or any other potentially messy artistic endeavor (i.e., all of them), a foil tray ($8 for 10, Amazon.com) is your friend. When the project is over, you can dispense with cleanup and simply toss the whole tray.
11Shower Caddy Car Organizer
Shower caddies are a useful as an organizer, especially on a family road trip. You can use one as a cute basket to hold food and drinks like they did on Lookie What I Did, and suction cup another to the window for art supplies and various important stuff à la We Have Aars.
12Broken Crayon Fixer
So that box of 64 sparkling crayons has been transformed by your children into a mess of seemingly useless, broken nubs? This genius ice cube tray hack from the Chaos and the Clutter turns those nubs into new, multicolored crayons in minutes. (Just be sure to follow the instructions carefully.)
13Toilet Paper Marker
Kids love pulling on toilet paper; they can go through an entire roll in minutes. Don’t bother asking why. Instead, make this toilet paper sign like the Virtuous Wife, which marks the acceptable amount of toilet paper to use.
14Creaky Floor Repair
A fire engine roaring past your window may not wake up your sleeping babe, but one wrong move on the creaky hardwood floor will. Ours is not to reason why. Instead, just take PopSugar’s advice and sprinkle baby powder on the creaky parts. Then sit back and wait for the neighbor’s dog to bark your child into wakefulness.
15The Bib Hook
Keep your baby’s bib (or multiple ones – they do tend to get crusty) within reach but out of sight. Baby Kerf suggests applying a command hook on the back of their high chair. Genius, right?
If your baby enjoys a good pacifier, then you know all too well the conundrums that will ensue. To keep the paci from falling on the floor, Cynditha suggests using plastic sauce cups to tote and store baby’s pacifier.
17Quick Carpet Cleaner
So. The stomach bug. You may be saddened at how much puke can come out of one tiny being. When barf (or even just plain old spit-up) hits the carpet, follow Good Housekeeping’s tip. Sprinkle baking soda on the splatter, let sit, and then it’ll turn into much more manageable little crumbs that you can vacuum up.
The ever-useful baking soda can also remove pesky, painful splinters. Instead of having one parent hold down the splintered child while the other sweats over the wound with a magnifying glass and a pair of tweezers, try this easy trick from Nature Hacks that involves baking soda, water, and a band-aid.
Wondering whether your child took their daily dose this morning? Parent Hacks suggests using a sharpie to make a dose-tracker right there on the bottle.
20Vapor Rub and Socks Combo
If your child has a nighttime cough, Babble readers suggest rubbing their feet with vapor rub and then cover with thick socks. But remember, the standard vapor rub isn’t safe for children under two, so look for a baby-safe version that can be used on little ones who are over three months old.
21Simple Sand Remover
Summer, the beach, the bathtub filled with sand at the end of a happy beach day. One comes with the other, right? Nope. Not if you use this genius tip from Mum In the Madhouse. Just sprinkle baby powder on your kid’s damp, sandy feet (and your own) to get rid of the grit before bath time.
Once you put up a pegboard ($29 for two, Amazon.com) in the bathroom and get all those little rubber toys (and washcloths and toothbrushes and shampoo bottles) organized, you’ll wonder how you survived without one. c
23No Tear Visor
No tears? Ha, that’s a laugh as far as any mom is concerned. We all know that baby screams bloody murder if even a speck of fluid gets in their peepers. You can purchase the genius baby bath visor ($16, Amazon.com) or just upcycle a sun visor.
24Mold-Free Bath Toys
Rubber duckies make bath time fun. Until they accumulate tons of slimy mold, and mom has to use plastic gloves to toss you into the trash. While the mold isn’t considered dangerous, it’s really gross. So why not plug up the little hole at the bottom of the bath toy with glue, like on We Love Being Moms?
25Safer Bath Time
Elizabeth Street points out that sugru makes a great cover for your faucet, which little ones tend to bump their head on a lot. You could spend big bucks on those rubbery whale-shaped faucet covers, but they can get slimy and moldy. No one wants to deal with that.
26Maximize Microwave Space
Waiting to heat food is a buzzkill, but this super simple hack from Reddit user DaNReDaN will allow you to microwave two bowls at once.
27Easy Orange Slicer
Your children will love this peeling-made-easy hack from JewelPie that leaves oranges slices in an appetizing strip, ready to eat.
You want to send your child off with easy-to-eat apple slices, but then the slices might get all brown because of oxidation and science and stuff. This apple slicing hack from A Helicopter Mom is so simple and fun and effective.
Okay, we’re not talking about a noisy tattoo shop and a sweaty guy with a needle. Temporary tattoos for your kids from companies like SafetyTat are a way for parents to make sure their kids have phone numbers, allergies, or any other important information readily available on day trips or visits to, say, a crowded playground. Mommy Nearest suggests practicing caution when choosing what info to share.
30Phone Number Bracelet
An easy DIY phone number bracelet, from Real Moms of Vegas, involves good old-fashioned string and beads. It’s like a classic friendship bracelet, but with your contact information.
The inadvertent slip-and-slide while wearing slippers or socks is a common fall hazard for kids. But Maybe Matilda rectified the problem with a hot glue gun by simply applying little glue dots to the bottom of those slippery soles.
Images: Monkey Business/Fotolia; Courtesy of Luisa Colón (3); Amazon.com (5); Mom, Where's My Car?; Jonathan Stewart, Bozontee, Rachel_Pics, Kārlis Dambrāns, Austin Kirk,Abigail Batchelder, Mariela M., Marchnwe, George Redgrave, Ashley MacKinnon, Paul Friel, Dean Wissing/Flickr; We Have Aars; Chaos and the Clutter; The Virtuous Wife;Parent Hacks; Jewel Pie; A Helicopter Mom; SafetyTat; Real Moms of Vegas; Maybe Matilda