Parenting Hacks: Simplify Your Life, and Keep Your Sanity


parenting hacksI love a good life hack. My eyes light up and I get that little flutter in my belly, and my heartbeat quickens. It’s like a simultaneous quick shot of dopamine and adrenaline for me. Why? Who knows, I think it’s genetic. I especially love anything that will make life a little easier in the long run.

Now that I’m a mom, hacks get my blood pumping even more so than before. The word “hack”, in this article, refers to solving problems with creative, clever, and time-saving solutions. If you’re old like me, the term “MacGuyver-ing” comes to mind.

Who doesn’t love hacking parenting, right? Is it even possible? Yes, I believe it is. While parenting is the toughest job on the planet (and one I wouldn’t trade for the world), there are workarounds and shortcuts that some resourceful people have come up with over the years to make things a teensy bit easier. And in the “parent-verse”, a teensy bit easier = BIG deal.

And who better to ask about parenting hacks, then, well, parents? So, I crowd-sourced it out to social media platforms, my closest family and friends, neighborhood mommas, as well as general Google searching. There’s a plethora of information on the subject rolling around the good old “interwebs,” but look no further. I’ve compiled a decent top 20 . . .

Top 20 Parenting Hacks

1. Shower Caddy Organizer

Is your car always a hot mess? My kid isn’t two yet and the backseat looks like a snack and toy explosion, always. My husband, who loves a good hack maybe more than I do, dropped this gem on me the other night: suction a shower caddy to the car window where your car seat is. You can put all toys, pencils/markers, books, etc. in it for easy access for the kiddos all while keeping the car seat/back seat clutter to a minimum.

2. Portable Diaper Kit

I feel like it’s a parent’s rite of passage to forget the diaper bag only to desperately need it as your infant proceeds to have a “level 4 blow-out” in the car as you are pulling up to the grocery store. One option is to have your husband run into the grocery store and buy wipes and diapers while you try to soothe your screaming baby . . . not that I’m speaking from experience or anything. The other option, thanks to a very clever momma and fellow Charleston Moms Contributor, is to keep a small go-bag tucked in the backseat/trunk for just such emergencies. It can be as simple as a small plastic zipper bag with diapering essentials: a few diapers, wipes, hand sanitizer, diaper rash cream, etc. This also works great for just throwing in your purse for quick errands/trips/outings and you don’t want to haul the giant bag around.

3. Changing the Changing Game

I, ashamedly, admit I didn’t know about this trick until my son was well past the newborn stage and I REALLY wish I had. Did you know the shoulder slits on a onesie have another purpose, other than to help with making room for giant baby heads? They are meant to take the onesie off from the shoulders down, in the instances where there is a blowout that has achieved “poomageddon” level and gone straight up the back. Doing so keeps said poo off the neck/head/face. My kid had some epic blowouts, and as soon as we realized this trick, total game changer.

4. Diaper Fold-Over Trick

Continuing the diapering and massive blowout theme, fold the top back part of the diaper down, and inwards towards the back. This will, in theory, prevent some of the poomageddon from defying the laws of gravity (and logic) and traveling up the baby’s back. Another genius one from my husband, and one we both wish we knew way before. It worked well for us before our little dude started solids!

5. Red Light at Night

Baby sleep training is such a tough undertaking. We’ve been lucky in that department, and I’m so grateful. We’ve had some extremely rough, late, and sleepless nights when he’s been sick and I just can’t imagine that being the norm, as it is for so many parents. My heart truly goes out to you if your little one struggles with consistent sleep schedules. However, here’s a little trick another mom suggested to help kiddos stay asleep, especially as infants. Use a red lightbulb in the nursery for a nightlight. It provides ambient light for sleep and doesn’t mess with circadian rhythm or melatonin production. There are a ton of options on the market now, which is great!

6. Fine Motor Skills + Play = Win

The toddler years are some of the most important in a child’s life, especially developmentally. An easy (and inexpensive) idea for helping facilitate motor skills is to grab a colander and some pipe cleaners and let toddlers work on pushing the pipe cleaners through the colander holes to facilitate play and fine motor development. A bonus for parents is a few minutes of quiet time. My dude is loving the challenges! It keeps him busy for a whole five minutes!

7. Upcycle Food Boxes

We go through a lot of snacks in our house. My recycling bins are always full. One savvy momma suggested saving the cereal/rice/cracker/oatmeal, etc. boxes. Pour in any safe household item to make them feel full (dry rice, etc.), tape them up, and use them for playing house or just playing in general.

8. Upcycle Cardboard Boxes

I’m nearly 1000% positive I’m the only parent who’s ever said, “I think my kid likes the box the toy comes in more than the toy.” Just kidding; every parent since the dawn of time has said that. He hasn’t quite adopted the “if I fits, I sits” mantra yet, but he loves to play with the empty boxes and packing paper. So what better way to make good use of those leftover boxes than to tape them back up to use as an inexpensive option for big building blocks? You can add the leftover packing paper or old newspaper for some additional heft. Also, your materials for making a super cool play fort go up exponentially. You’re welcome.

9. Sandbox Alternative

My hubs and I have been going back and forth about whether to get a sandbox for the backyard. That was until a friend suggested this idea: instead of a sandbox, get some inexpensive plastic bins, measuring cups, and spoons and fill it with rice/oatmeal/dry pasta. Easy clean up, you don’t have to worry about critters using it as a litter box, and it’s economical! Most, if not all, of the items can be sourced at local discount/dollar stores.

10. Let Them Eat Veggies!

Hear me out — peanut butter on raw vegetables. It sounds gross, maybe because it is to us adults. But if you’re struggling to get your kids to eat veggies, this may help encourage them! (This can be substituted for another nut/seed butter or hummus if there is an allergy.) A dear friend told me about this very recently. She swore by it when her kiddos were little, and it worked like a charm. There are so many ways to hide veggies in food, but maybe this little trick will get them more excited about seeing them in plain sight!

11. Keep the Sand on the Beach

Living very close to the beach has a lot of perks and benefits. Our buddy loves it, it’s a very easy and inexpensive form of entertainment, and it’s a big part of why we moved here. This hack is for all of us Charleston locals: use a twin or small fitted sheet and put beach bags, coolers, etc. at each corner to create a sand-free(ish) area for eating/drinking/snacking while at the beach. I’m very curious to see how this works this summer! Let me know if it works for you!

12. Bugs Be Gone

In this same vein, use a crib-sized fitted sheet to cover a portable crib while outside/at the beach to shield from bugs and sun. Being outside as your kiddos get older is crucial to their development, and to your sanity. However, bugs happen. My dude gets eaten alive by mosquitoes and gnats — I feel so terrible about it. I wish I would’ve thought of using the crib sheet on his outside pack-n-play. If you don’t have a specific tent or shelter for outside, give this a try!

13. Ouchy Soother

Since my kid takes after me in the grace department, we have lots of scrapes, bruises, and owies in our house. He’s still not a super proficient walker, either. For now, to help ease the pain and discomfort, Bored Panda suggests freezing large marshmallows, enough to fit in a pint-size baggie, to use as an alternative ice pack. It’s not as cold or hard as a typical ice pack, and a little more fun. And then maybe eat a couple of said frozen marshmallows because, why not! I won’t judge.

14. Keep the Monsters Away

Are your kiddos going through their “afraid-of-the-dark phase?” I totally remember being afraid of the dark as a kid, and sometimes still must close my closet door at night! There might be monsters in there, after all. If you find that nothing is helping, try reading with a flashlight in the dark before bedtime, as suggested by the very popular parenting site, Taking Cara Babies. Another fun and helpful trick to ease the childhood nyctophobia and make bath time extremely cool: crack some glow sticks, toss them in the tub, and turn out the lights for a tubby time disco party! (Or a lightsaber party, if you’re a nerd like me.)

15. Rubber Band Lock Stop

I feel like our house is well childproofed, except for our interior doors — I really do not like the doorknob safety covers. I find them to be completely “Toni-proof.” My dude can’t open doors yet, but it’s coming . . . he’s a very determined toddler. And there will come the point when he locks himself in the bathroom. In my research, I found this pretty crafty and simple tip! Use a rubber band as a lock stop on doors to prevent kiddos from locking themselves inside their rooms or bathroom.

16. Pool Noodle Doorstop

Here’s another easy peasy child-proofing trick: cut a pool noodle to fit on the side of the door to prevent slamming little hands, and as another option for preventing lockouts. My kiddo has shut his little fingers and hands so many times already that I’m going to implement this hack for the time being.

17. Diaper Change Distraction

Use an electric toothbrush to distract from screaming/kicking/thrashing during diaper changes. This idea came from Taking Cara Babies‘ Instagram feed, and one I can say has worked well for my extremely wiggly, and difficult to change, toddler. We bought a kid’s electric toothbrush as it’s not as intense as an adult toothbrush because it will inevitably end up in their mouth, like everything else.

18 & 19. Christmas Tree Barriers

If you celebrate Christmas and have a toddler, you very well know that toddlers and Christmas trees do not mix. This was the first year our dude was fully mobile and was like a moth to the flame as soon as we put the tree up. It was frustrating, to say the least. Like Gollum with the Ring, he only wanted the shiniest and most sparkly of our ornaments, of course. He’s got good taste. Try these ideas, from Taking Cara Babies, to keep tiny hands (and bodies) out of your Christmas tree: save a big box, put some books or something heavy inside, tape it up, wrap it like a present, and place it at the tree as a barrier. You could also put a pack-n-play as a barrier if you don’t want to take the extra time to wrap extra boxes. The other option, and why I combined two hacks into one, is you could put a toy version of a nativity set, books that make noise, or toy train sets at the base of the tree as a distraction. Bonus: with both tricks, it looks like you have presents and toys under the tree already. And because inevitably they’ll somehow still manage to get at the tree, put all your soft/unbreakable/shatterproof ornaments at the bottom.

20. Cozy + Warm Bath Time

Is your newborn/toddler cranky about bath time? Or, more so, about getting out of the bath? The wee little babies don’t always love the temperature transitions from a warm bath to cold air, and it can make them quite fussy. Try putting their towel in the dryer at bath time. Have a helper pull it out right before the bath is done and wrap that cranky baby up in a soothing warm towel! This is also super helpful during winter months!

Now that you have my hack list, I would love to hear yours! Comment below with your favorite tips/tricks/hacks that have made your parenting life a little easier!


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