Mama’s Big Book of Little Lifesavers

Like most moms, I am constantly polling other parents for their tricks. At the park, at the library, at other people’s houses, I always want to know what they might’ve figured out that I haven’t. Wouldn’t it be great to have all that intel pooled into one handy book? Well, here it is.

Mama’s Big Book of Little Lifesavers is filled with many tips from my own experience, but oodles more from others across the country. I had the benefit of learning so many new things while putting it together—some of them surprising. Who would’ve thought of using a long-handled fishing net to hand snacks and toys back to the third row of the minivan, for example? Or using over-the-door shoe caddies for toy storage? Or carrying tape for commando childproofing on the go? The ideas are simple but genius. And they may just save you a little time, money, or sanity tomorrow.

Last week, I tried out a new tip from the book. On the plane for spring break, I surprised my five and three year old by pulling out a slew of gift-wrapped items from my travel bag. These were just regular things I was bringing anyway: crayons, workbooks, snacks, even their own water bottles, made newly exciting with (old, recycled) wrap. As promised by a mom back east, my kids were entertained while they unwrapped the goods and then happily played for ages with the crumpled paper and tape, re-wrapping everything they could get their hands on—even the tray table. The only drawback? They complained when everything wasn’t wrapped for the trip home! (Whoops.)

What’s your best lifesaver for navigating daily life with kids? Let us know in the comments below and win a free signed copy of the book! We’ll pick one winner at random on Wednesday, May 4th—just in time for Mother’s Day!

Kerry Colburn is also the co-author of How to Have Your Second Child First.



  • hmo April 28, 2011 at 10:54 am

    "Seed" the car, the stroller and your purse with a few diapers, a small pack of wipes, a shirt and a toy. That way, you are always prepared for that emergency that happens at the worst time!


  • guinevere April 28, 2011 at 12:28 pm

    I got this tip from my sister: My 13 month old never wants to sit in his highchair for meals anymore, so I have to constantly keep him busy to get any decent amount of food into him. He is fascinated with things that open and shut at the moment, so I've started saving the plastic containers that blueberries come in and letting him play with one during dinner. He loves putting his food in, closing the lid and opening it again. Because it's clear plastic, he also gets a kick out of seeing the food inside, from all angles. Whatever works, right?


  • Sara W. April 28, 2011 at 12:40 pm

    Consider investing in a bag by Petunia Picklebottom. They have bags with built in changing pads. The boxy holds bottles, snacks, clothes, toys, diaper essentials and more. I wear mine on my shoulder or as a backpack. I can also clip it onto a stroller using the stroller clips. They offer some styles in a great, sturdy, wipeable fabric in pretty fabrics. My bag has really helped me on daily outings and vacations.


  • Michael April 28, 2011 at 4:44 pm

    Whisper instead of speak to get a little one’s attention.


  • puppyloveprincess April 29, 2011 at 8:03 am

    Pretty much all preschools signal transition periods with a sing-along song, and you can do this at home, too, especially when it comes to picking up toys. Ask your child's teacher what song they sing in class, or make up your own. Here's what we use: "Come on everybody and let's clean up, come on everybody and let's clean up, come on everybody and let's clean up. Let's clean up together!" It sounds goofy, but the kids love it, and they start working together like little elves. Using a song somehow makes cleaning up feel more like a game; it's a very Mary Poppinsy technique.


  • Maddi April 30, 2011 at 4:22 pm

    My boy (2 years old) didn't allow me brush his teeth until I started telling him that he had little mickey mice in his mouth: for some reason he finds it hilarious and lets me do whatever it takes to get them out. 🙂


  • lynneGB May 1, 2011 at 6:27 pm

    Always have fun, utilize every teaching moment (which is every moment) and go with the flow. Keeping a few animal crackers in your bathroom never hurt, either.


  • Eliza May 2, 2011 at 4:19 pm

    Turning a mundane task into a race against time works wonders in getting my boys motivated to tackle their less desirable chores (as long as they're not racing against each other, that is). They're always excited to hear their time. The fact that they have no sense of time yet works to my advantage as it allows me to focus on completing my own tasks rather than watching the second hand tick-tick-tick away.


  • @grannysue1996 May 3, 2011 at 11:04 am

    When traveling by car on a long trip, always carry a hand puppet. If a toddler gets fussy they can be amused by the passenger with a little puppet show. This worked great for us on a car trip years ago (before they had portable DVD players) when traveling from PA to Florida with our 11 month old grandson. He loved it!


  • mirabelle May 3, 2011 at 12:15 pm

    My cat! My daughter smiles and coos every time he walks in the room – no more screaming at all!


  • Laila May 3, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    Once little ones go to nursery and start school you get an amazing amount of pictures and art. To be truthful it is jut too much to keep and I filter it out quite often. Then every 6 months I pick a couple of dozen I think are really great (or get the kids to choose theirs) and then take to my local printer/copy shop. For a few pounds/dollars they ring bind it with a clear cover. My sons now have their own books of artistic flair to show family and friends.
    They get a huge sense of satisfaction from this.


  • Diane May 4, 2011 at 1:37 pm

    My son (age 3) decided he no longer wanted to bathe…was anti-bath or shower. He has lots of tub toys and even bath crayons, but they weren't enough motivation. I told him he could have as much shaving cream as he wanted to play with in the tub…that worked! So now we keep a can of cheap, foamy shaving cream by the tub along with his various cups and buckets. He loves to scoop it up and paint the tub walls with it. Clean up is a breeze and he hasn't grown tired of it yet.


  • Jody Haller May 4, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    My husband and I are trying to do more playful parenting. Our kids are so much more responsive and happy if we are all laughing. It is easy to get frustrated when kids are not listening. Suddenly, though, when you start putting on a skit in the kitchen pretending like you can't hear anything, the mood just lightens and we avoid a lot of confrontation. You have to get creative sometimes, especially when you are tired and cranky, but it is worth it!


  • Erin May 4, 2011 at 1:46 pm

    Reusable hankies are the best solution I've found for toddlers with runny noses, they don't tear and they can be kept close by a play area for a quick nose wipe. No more snot glaze on the back of their hands, the furniture, or your clothes! (Plus then you only have one snot rag floating around the house instead of a million crumpled tissues, they launder nicely as well and are a "greener" solution.)


  • Megan May 4, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    I don't have kids yet, but someday! But this seems like just the book to get me started. 🙂


  • Jen May 4, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    Getting my two year old son out of the house and into the car can be a struggle! One day he randomly left one of his favorite stuffed animals in the car overnight. The next morning he couldn't WAIT to go out and recover his long lost friend (and run a few errands with mommy!) I've taken to sneaking out different friends to sit in his car seat at night. When morning comes and we get ready for the day, I'll casually ask where his missing friend is. It becomes such a fun game of rushing to get out to the car and find his stuffed pal casually waiting for him to climb in. =)


  • Lisa May 4, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    As a new mom, navigating the world of toddlerhood has been a real challenge. The word "no" flies out of mouth so many times a day, and I feel like I am at my wit's end. Then it hit me: instead of fighting my son on everything, I decided to allow him to "help". While more often than not, the results are not very helpful but at least I've stopped saying "no" all day long. I no have a laundry helper, a cooking helper and a vaccuuming helper.


  • anja May 4, 2011 at 1:59 pm

    Don't be afraid to let people know you love previously-loved things (clothes, furniture, etc), you will be amazed at what may come your way 🙂


  • Lissa Smith-Cote May 4, 2011 at 2:19 pm

    Letting my child "help" me, no matter how tentative and awkward it is……it will pay endless rewards as he gets older!!!!


  • tati May 4, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    When your older child masters going up and down the stairs in the house, teach him/her that there's always something that needs to go upstairs or something that needs to come down. Never waste a trip! LOL


  • Amy Dendy May 4, 2011 at 4:16 pm

    Have a well stocked tote bag for on the go with food,entertainment and clothing changes


  • Chronicle Books May 4, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    And our randomly selected winner is… Laila! Thanks to everyone for sharing your tips, and Happy Mother’s Day!

    P.S. Don’t forget to use promo code MOMSDAY on our website to enjoy 25% off + free shipping on your order through Sunday, May 8th.


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