ISO: Parenting Shortcuts

If you’re a parent, we need your help.

Here at the Lifestyle Headquarters we’re developing a book on parenting time-savers, money-savers, and sanity-savers. It’s from the authors of How to Have Your Second Child First and it’s aimed at parents of kids from birth to age four.

As a parent, it’s likely you have a whole lot of tricks up your sleeve to help you get through each day: small things that make a big difference. They may be new discoveries (if you put the Cheerios down low, your kid can now get them himself!) or things that have now become second nature in your house (naming each of her teeth helps keep her interested in brushing them). Either way, it’s time to pass them on to other parents! Submit your best tips. We’ll pick 25 lucky winners to win a free copy of How to Have Your Second Child First. We’ll announce the winners on June 15.

Do it today while it’s fresh in your sleep-deprived mind!

Jodi Warshaw
Executive Editor

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  • Cecelia April 27, 2010 at 4:45 pm

    I’m not a parent, but I do volunteer with children, and here is one thing that has been a lifesaver for me (as well as various kids): CRAYONS. You should always carry a pack. ESL students, children going through a difficult time at home, frustrated children, or simply bored out of their minds–colors, pens, and crayons provide an emotional release and/or a way to communicate. Perfect toys, quite cheap for the time/entertainment value, and you can carry them around in your purse (and for dads, you can carry a four-pack in your wallet. 🙂


  • Amy Kopperude April 27, 2010 at 4:45 pm

    When I was working full time and my husband was traveling, getting two kids out the door in the morning was a real challenge. So after baths at night, I would dress them in their clothes for the next day. When they got up, they only needed to eat breakfast and brush their hair and teeth in order to be ready. This also meant a LOT less whining about having to get dressed. It was already taken care of! And honestly, who cares about a few clothing wrinkles when we’re talking about a parent’s sanity, right?


  • Nicole : Three By Sea April 27, 2010 at 6:46 pm

    We (I) sing the ABC song twice in a row when brushing my two-year-old’s teeth. It keeps him occupied, gets the ABCs brewing in his brain, and is the perfect length of time to hit all of his teeth really well!
    I also keep Tic Tacs in my purse for bribery emergencies. One little 1 1/2 calorie mint is like a magic pill to improve moods and provide distractions when needed. My son thinks they’re special treats.(Make sure your child is ok eating something this small before giving them to him/her.)


  • janet April 27, 2010 at 6:47 pm

    I hate doing laundry and it made me crazy how my kids seemed to think there was no correlation between clean and dirty clothes. So when each of my children turned 10, they got their own laundry basket (there were other gifts in it) and a lesson in how to do their own laundry. I just made sure they each had enough underwear so that I didn’t freak out how infrequently they were doing their wash. I let go and haven’t done laundry since. It also fun to see the older kids tell the younger kids as they approached their 10th birthday, “Get excited; you’re getting your own laundry basket.”


  • Lucy Lean April 27, 2010 at 8:08 pm

    Teach your baby to suck through a straw and you’ll never be caught short without a sippy cup in a restaurant and introduce your child to sushi at an early age – my kids can’t get enough of avocado rolls, miso soup and popping open edamame beans – and that’s before they move on to the yellowtail sashimi!


  • Lara Starr April 27, 2010 at 8:27 pm

    1) Repeat the same 5 lunches every week. Monday is bagel day, Tuesday is PB&J day, etc. And def. make lunch while you’re making dinner the night before.

    2) If your kids are misbehaving, talk in an exaggerated French accent. It’ll annoy the cr*p out of them and they’ll soon fall in line.

    3) Buy two lunchboxes in August. They’re hard to find mid-year and when they’ll probably need to be replaced.


  • Kim April 27, 2010 at 8:55 pm

    Sometimes, I feel like my whole life is made up of shortcuts to give me more time to just have fun!

    1. I keep a little “emergency” kit in both of our cars (and sometimes in the backpack) full of: change of clothes, towel (HOW do toddlers find places to get wet?), band-aids, hand sanitizer, snacks and wipes). All of this to keep me from worrying about pulling that stuff together every time we’re out.

    2. We like to cook meals from scratch as much as possible, but when we can’t (or when someone’s belly won’t wait) I keep lots things to be able to throw something together quickly w/o it being a whole microwave meal deal. Noodles (all kids: buckwheat soba, rice sticks, penne, alphabets, etc.), frozen turkey meatballs and spinach. I also make extra of anything he likes that is great for next day (i.e. chicken breast … turns to chicken salad next day). These things can all be tossed together really easily in a pinch!

    3. If we are out of coloring books, I hand him whiteboard markers to draw on our windows. Easily erasable off more surfaces than you would think. We keep the non-toxic kind around (Crayola makes them).

    4. When he was a baby, I used those crib sheet savers laid on the changing pad. Much easier to grab these and toss in the wash than take off the whole changing pad cover and cheaper than buying a bunch of covers.


  • Debbie Chamlati April 28, 2010 at 6:10 am

    First of all I try to think what he is thinking. I understand even though we are both human, we are not the same and we see life in a complete different perspective.
    One of the things I understand is that when they hit someone or say hurtful things they then feel ashamed to say I’m sorry even if they understand they did something wrong. So if I ask him to say “sorry” and he doesn’t want, I give him the option to “write” a letter or film a mini video on my cellphone saying “I’m sorry, I understand it was wrong to hit you and I love you.” He “signs” it with his name and a kiss and he feels very proud of himself. He then gives it to that “sad person” he had offended and everybody feels very happy afterwards. He learned the lesson and learned too how to say I’m sorry with love and without making the issue much bigger.


  • Deb W April 28, 2010 at 10:37 am

    I have a 7 month old who is having a blast learning how to eat.

    Mealtime is playtime for her, and at the end of the feast, we have a baby (and a highchair) coated in a sticky mixture of oatmeal, blueberries, almond butter, rice, breadcrumbs, cheese…(hm, sounds like a casserole recipe)…and here is our cleaning trick, which works best in a warm climate:

    1. carry baby, in her highchair, outside.
    2. fill large pitcher with warm water.
    3. pour over everything.
    4. as the baby has fun splashing in the warm water, all of the little bits wash away from the chair, the tray, and, of course, the babe.
    5. strip off the baby’s wet clothes, dry her and the highchair, and voila, clean baby, clean highchair, clean house!

    Now that I read back on that “tip” it seems a bit like an outtake from “Three Men and a Baby.” But it really works! 🙂


  • Kristen M. April 28, 2010 at 6:45 pm

    Don’t be afraid to walk out of any public place (including restaurants) without having finished what you went in for. It’s far less stressful than fighting an unhappy child in a public place! You can always go back to a store later or get your food put into a take-away container. Why torture a little one for not being on your schedule?


  • Dot April 30, 2010 at 11:04 am

    When I hang up my son’s clothes, I hang up the shirt, then I slide the beltloop of a pair of pants or shorts over the hanger part. He’s almost 5 now, and we’ve been doing this for several years. He’s been able to go get dressed by himself forever, and I think this helps! Plus it saves on drawer space, too!


  • Lisa April 30, 2010 at 11:39 am

    Carry food in your purse, always. Do it even if you have to stop carrying cute, stylish little purses, and bump up to the almost an overnight bag size. Your first line of defense should be something like crackers or raisins. If things get really out of hand, you can dole out M&Ms, one at a time.
    Having a snack for bored, hungry, tired kids will save you a lot of tears (theirs,) and frustration (yours,) when you’re waiting in line, or riding in the car.


  • Erin April 30, 2010 at 11:39 am

    There’s already so many great tips in here!

    I keep three laundry bins in my son’s room, one is for dirty clothes, one is for clothes he’s outgrown that I want to keep, and one is for clothes he’s outgrown that I want to donate or bring to the next kids’ clothing swap. After I wash and fold laundry I toss the outgrown clothes into their proper bins and once a month I put the clothes I’m keeping into storage and the ones I’m donating or swapping go to a thrift store or with me to the next clothing swap! It keeps his drawers from being too full of stuff he can’t wear!


  • Flora April 30, 2010 at 12:32 pm

    We have a “switch’ on my 6 year old’s back, so that if she’s being grotty and cranky, we say, oops, forgot to put the “Nice” switch on. Then we pretend to switch it and it works 90% of the time. Gives her a fresh start without her losing face, which is a big deal at this age.

    Am also using a lot of “magic spells” on my not quite 3 year old to get her to do things…”Abracadabra, abracadamas…hey presto, she puts on her pyjamas”


  • Erin April 30, 2010 at 9:49 pm

    Start reading to them from birth. Heck, read to the them in the womb too. Read to them everyday for at least 15 minutes and not always just at bedtime. Talk about books. It’s not about how many books you read but about how many conversations you’ve had about the book.


  • Eliza Bullock May 4, 2010 at 7:26 am

    To make our lives easier every day we enlist the help of our kids with our every day tasks. Clearing their place at the table, putting away their laundry (who cares if it gets rumpled in the process!), making their beds (their own special way), straightening up, even vacuuming! Every little bit helps and they love to do “grown-up” jobs. And if they can walk, they can help.


  • Eliza Bullock May 4, 2010 at 7:27 am

    Dare them not to do it and they’ll do it almost every time. “Don’t eat that broccoli! I’m saving it for me.” Down the hatch it goes.


  • Eliza Bullock May 4, 2010 at 7:29 am

    Acting like I don’t know how something is done is a good way to get my little guys to do almost anything. “Wait a minute. How do you brush your teeth again? Do you use a fork?” They’ll take you though the steps and laugh the whole way through.


  • Suzie A. May 5, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    When our little guy was 10 months old (and already moving from walking to running) we went on a road trip that ended up being ~1,600 miles. Unlike road trips in our kid-free days, we took away our normal focus on ‘GETTING THERE.’ We used Google Maps on our phones to find little parks in towns we drove through where we could run around and play on playgrounds. When driving through the national parks, we looked for little spots by the side of the road to stretch our legs and have something to eat. We ended up really enjoying our time together and experiencing the amazing scenery in a new way.

    Also, when we only had an hour and a half left before we got home (and just wanted to get home!), I insisted that we make one last stop at a playground so our guy could get out his energy before we got home and befriended the couch. He ended up going to bed very easily.

    A great idea I read by Julia Sweeney: she doesn’t allow her daughter to watch any TV during the week, but Friday night is a free-for-all (with parental guidance).


  • Laila Smith May 16, 2010 at 5:52 am

    My top tip for a completely stain free painting afternoon is to get a bucket, tupperware or similar and any sized paintbrush and head outside We live in apartment but have a balcony so we do it here. Fill container with water and let your little one loose on the wall or patio or path. They can paint pictures or just splodge areas and all you end up with is a happy child and a few clothes to dry! Perfect for when you just can’t face any more mess.


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