All parents are going through some sort of challenge with their kids; picky eating, poor sleep habits, sibling rivalry, learning delays. Let’s face it, struggling (and joy!) is part of everyone’s parenting story, so we moms tend to find little ways here and there to make things a touch easier. Over the years I’ve come up with a personal arsenal of sanity-saving mom tricks and hacks. Here’s my top 10:
- Toasted Pancakes. Pancakes are a tradition in our house on the weekends. They fill up my little one’s bellies in the mornings, and I’m able to sneak extra protein into their diet by adding extra eggs to the batter. Between work and school, weekday mornings are just too busy to make a time consuming (and messy) breakfast. So, we started making a giant batch on the weekends. We store them in the fridge between small pieces of parchment so they don’t stick together. Then simply throw them in the toaster at breakfast and they are ready in snap.
- Tub Goggles. Do your little ones, like so many others out there, hate having their hair washed? Mine certainly do, but with the weekly school lice alerts I seem to get, this is not a battle they are going to win. One simple and fun solution I’ve come up with is to let them wear their swim goggles during bath or shower. The point of goggles is to keep water out of one’s eyes, so why limit it to the pool! To sweeten the deal, I picked up a couple of fun sets from this brand that they are always excited to wear.
- Hygiene Hijinks – Scented Facewipes + Tooth Timers. Hair isn’t the only act of hygiene that can be a regular battle with kids. Teeth brushing and face washing are daily rituals that can also present a challenge. Over the years I’ve found a couple of tricks. For face washing, I buy the delicious smelling Burt’s Bees Facial Cleansing Towelettes in Cucumber and Sage. My kids actual seem to enjoy using them, and I can give their face a quick sniff to make sure they actually washed! Tooth timers have also been a major help to ensure the pearly whites get an adequate amount attention. We got ours from our dentist, but you can also easily find them online. I’m happy to report that now my kids take on their 3-minutes of brushing as a personal challenge with the tooth timer, and no longer me.
- Easy Toy Wash: Is your playroom in need of a deep clean, or did one of your kids come home with a bug? Sounds like a good toy cleaning might be in order. Rather than taking on these items individually, hit up your trusty home appliances. I either load the dishwasher with toys, or I put these items in a mesh bag and run them through the washing machine with the santize cycle or very hot water. Your items will come out clean, sanitized, and good as new. It should be noted that wood, electronics, and other toys susceptible to warp will still need an old-fashioned wipe down. Note: there are myths out there that either hot heat dryers or freezers kill germs but after some research, it’s clear they don’t. Dryers help if an item has been washed first – the steam generated helps do germs in – but dryers alone aren’t enough. And freezers just put germs into hybernation.
- Manners Mantras: As discussed at length in this past post, when toddlerhood hits, so too does the teaching of manners. Employing manners rhymes and mantras makes lessons easy to remember for little ones, and feels more like fun than scolding. A couple favorites include “napkin in your lap, clap, clap, clap” and “we say ‘Thank you,’ we say ‘Please’ we don’t interrupt or Tease.”
- Pool Noodle “Bed Rail”: Do you have a child transitioning to a big girl/boy bed? Worrying about whether or not your wee one will stay in their bed isn’t the only cause of concern. If you have chosen a bed without a built-in railing, you’re probably nervous about those squirmy little buggers flopping themselves right out. A quick trip to the store to purchase a pool noodle is a cheep and easy solution. Simply slide it under their bed sheet at the open edge(s) of the bed to serve as an evening bumper.
- Phone Alarms are Mom’s Best Friend: When my kids were babies and toddlers, alarms helped me keep nap schedules, breast feeding times and a zillion other things straight. The labels for the alarms are a lifesaver during the hazy days of newborns. Now, I currently have one child in pre-school and another in elementary. This means drop-offs and pickups (not including extra-curriculars!) seem to be happening at all times. Since I neither want to be late for pickup or be on a mad hunt for my phone when it’s time to run out the door, setting phone alarms for my various carpooling adventures has been a savior.
- Packing Cubes: Vacationing with kids is no small feat, which is why putting in lots of preliminary organizational efforts is key. After hearing several of my mom friends sing the praises of packing cubes, I decided to give them a go and have never looked back. For those of you who haven’t discovered these organizational wonders, packing cubes are rectangular fabric (typically mesh) containers that keep clothes and other packed items organized throughout a trip. In the past I used Ziplock bags to itemize my kiddos outfits either by the day, or by item type (bottoms, tops, pjs, swim, etc.). Packing cubes, which are washable and come in a variety of sizes, are not only more user friendly, they help eliminate my use of yet another single-use plastic. Woo-hoo!
- Perfect (Boxed) Mac and Cheese: And now I’ll end with my most important mom hack, how to make perfect boxed Mac and Cheese 😉! I’m sure there are moms out there who have never resulted to a meal of boxed Mac and Cheese, but I have never met one. It’s easy, quick, filling, and children love it, which on occasion makes it a go-to grab. And while it seems impossible to screw up, I’ve seen the results of overly soupy noodles many a time. Let me fill you in on the fool-proof way to make it. Boil the noodles until done, then drain. Add butter, then cheese, and the milk LAST (not first as the instructions say). The butter keeps the noodles from sticking, and you can easily see how much liquid is needed for creamy perfection without overdoing it, because as we know, you can’t add more cheese. Butter, then cheese, then milk. Perfection.
- Fruit and Veggie Bowls: As discussed in this recent post about Making Meals the Whole Family Loves, a great way to get kids to fill up on healthy fruits and veggies is to simply place large bowls of both on the dinner table while the rest of the meal finishes cooking. Any pre-dinner hunger pains can be acquiesced with the most nutritious elements of the meal, which results in both the kids and the cook being less frazzled and grumpy.
They say necessity is the mother of invention, which may or may not be entirely true. What I do know is mothers are great inventors of easier ways to tackle the many feats that parenting necessitates. I hope my little go-to hacks can help you along the way.
Feature photo by Wip-Studio.