Everybody loves a good parenting hack. Let’s be real here, being a parent is one of the most rewarding jobs ever, but being a parent is also an incredibly hard job. But sometimes you just have to laugh, you know? You also have to do what you can to make things a little bit easier.
With a little creativity and a healthy sense of humor, you can come up with all sorts of tips and tricks to help you and your kids make it through the day, no matter what that day may bring. Take it from these parents who’ve come up with parenting hacks that are perhaps a little bit quirky, but are also totally genius.
Draw with chalk without getting down on the ground
Can’t (or don’t want to) get down on the ground — where you’ll undoubtedly become a chalky, multi-colored mess — to play with sidewalk chalk with your kids? Shauna Damman, mom and the co-founder of Walkie Chalk, created an awesome parenting hack.
"Just over two years ago (July 2015), I was recovering from my third C-section and couldn’t easily get down on the ground to use sidewalk chalk with my older two children," Damman told me. "They love making roads on the driveway to ride their bikes on. The kids had been playing with a broken rake handle the night before… I went in the garage, took a piece of chalk and zip-tied it to the broken rake handle. It cut my time of making roads, intersections and street signs in half."
Damman and her husband have since turned their hysterical parenting hack into a business, but you can totally hack this yourself. Anything that keeps you upright, chalk-free, and able to enjoy time with your kids is a win.
Make them something to squeeze
Little kids sometimes get fixated on things that their parents don’t like. And in some cases, it’s something that actually causes parents (or other people) physical discomfort.
Amanda Ponzar’s kindergarten-aged son liked to squeeze the skin under her arm — "It’s squishy/squeezy and he loves it," she said. "If I’m reading stories, he would just sit next to me and squeeze it. He did it with grandma and teachers too." In this family’s case, the perfect hack was to find another solution that fed that need.
"What we did was buy balloons and fill them with baking soda or flour to get something he could hold and squeeze that is the right consistency to keep my arm safe and provide comfort to him. He needs something squeeze-y."
Thinking a little bit outside of the box can lead to you coming up with something that’ll make both you and your kid happy.
Reward good behavior on a long flight
Long flights and little kids don’t really seem to mix, but it doesn’t have to be a total catastrophe. Stephanie Christie, a mom of three, came up with a game to play with her kids while they were traveling.
"For every compliment I received about how well behaved and wonderful my children were I would give them a dollar after we got off the plane," Christie said. "I sipped my Cabernet while listening to my children say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ for every napkin, can of of juice and snack. They told the flight attendant she did a great job on the safety demo. Carried on lengthy conversations with the elderly lady next to them and were lovely to each other. Best $12 ever spent."
Talk about a hack! And we bet the other passengers were pretty pleased too.
Keep your hands free
Waking up to tend to the baby in the middle of the night (especially those nights when it seems to happen over and over again) can be a daunting task. You’re exhausted, so you want to stay calm and quiet, plus you definitely don’t want to rile up the baby as the hope is that they’ll fall back to sleep ASAP.
Take a page out of Dorien van-Morin’s book from when her four kids were babies. "I always wore a miner’s headlamp (or camping light) when I was nursing my newborn in the middle of the night," she said. "It left my hands free to change and feed baby, but not wake them up completely." It’s a hack that also makes you look like you’re an explorer — and if this is your first baby, it might feel like that too.
Ration and rotate the toys so they’re always new
Kids’ toys seemingly multiply whenever you’re not looking. Keeping your kids excited about the toys they have might seem like a pipe dream, but it doesn’t have to be. According to Philadelphia mom-of-one Elmeka Henderson, if they’re still little babies, you can make do with fewer toys by rationing them.
"As a new parent, you buy all the latest educational and not-so-educational toys for your child. However when my son was an infant, he would become bored very quickly with his toys," Henderson said. "So I would place five toys in his play pen and rotate them out every so often. This way, it kept me from buying new ones when he stopped playing with them and his memory at that age wasn’t cluing in that this ‘new’ toy was one he played with just months before."
Use music to calm crying
If you’ve ever had a kid who just won’t stop crying in the car no matter what you do, you know how heartbreaking (and distracting) it can be. This dad of four discovered that finding just the right song can make all the difference. "We drive a lot with our four kids, and kids cry in the car a lot (and often)," Leo Biyevetskiy said.
"About seven years ago, when our second daughter Anya was just a few months old, she was crying, and nothing would help (milk, stopping and holding her in my arms, etc). So I randomly played a song in a car, and Anya stopped crying. Several repeated ‘incidents’ — I played the song and she would stop crying almost every time! Two more kids and seven years later, I’ve played this song 1000+ times, and my kids already know the lyrics, but it still helps every time."
He revealed that the magic song that worked on his kids was this one — but keep in mind that there’s no guarantee that you’ll see the same results. This trick requires some trial and error to find a song that works for your kiddo. And beware: Once you find the right song, you will listen to it so much, you will undoubtedly begin to hate it with a fiery passion.
Keep diapers on with backwards footed pajamas
What do you do when your little kid does something so gross you just can’t deal? How about when they do it more than once? According to Dylann Crush, a mom of three kids, her son used to pull off his clothes (and diaper) at nap time and the only solution was this hack.
"One of his favorite things to do was spread the contents of his diaper around his room — on the carpet, the walls, the window. You name it, he touched it," Crush said. "First we tried taping his diaper shut. That didn’t [faze] him. He still managed to work his way out of it. Finally we had to resort to putting him down for naps and to bed in a pair of footed pajamas with the feet cut out and turned around backwards so the zipper was in the back."
Use the fast food bag to your advantage
Kids love fast food. I think that’s a rule. If they can get it at a drive thru or it comes with a toy, they’re on board. But what do you do if they start to get picky to the point where that’s all they really want to eat?
Henderson said that while she tried her best to serve her son healthy food, occasionally, she’d swing through a drive thru to pick up dinner. As a result, she had a kid on her hands who wouldn’t eat things that weren’t fast food. It seemed specific to any food that came out of a fast food bag, however, so she used it to her advantage and devised a creative parenting hack to help address the problem.
"So what I did one day was cook dinner and place it in containers and put them in an old McDonald’s bag," she said. "I let him see me take it out the bag and put it on a plate and this kid ate it with no problem. Maybe one day he will catch on that McDonald’s doesn’t serve chicken and rice."
Put them in a uniform
If you’re a single parent and you’re out-numbered by your kids, as van-Morin was while traveling to Europe with all of her kids when they were under age 8, you definitely need to come up with some parenting hacks to help make your life a little bit easier.
"While traveling alone to Europe with four kids under the age of 8, I dressed the oldest three in their soccer uniforms! I also made them their own laminated ID badges and they wore those on lanyards," she said. "One side had the US address and phone numbers, the other side the European destination and grandparents’ phone numbers. I figured that if I ever lost one, I could just point to another kids and say ‘Looks like this but taller/shorter.’ " How hysterical is that? It makes sense — your family is all supposed to be on the same team. You’re just the creative coach.