Parenting Hacks: From Jelly Beans to Family Sleepovers

We’ve all got ’em. Those little tricks up our sleeves to get ourselves and kids through the day, to GSD*.

Here are a few of my best tactics.
  1. Jelly bean currency. I keep a bag of Jelly Belly’s (Kid Flavors!) in my car. When I forget to bring a snack to afternoon pick-up, I dole out a few jelly beans for good behavior, or I tell them if they are good the WHOLE WAY, they earn three at the end of the trip. I learned from my mom, a teacher, that kids will do anything for a single little morsel. And three jelly beans won’t ruin dinner. Thanks for the peaceful ride home, jelly beans.
  2. Use a timer. I recently visited my younger daughter’s teacher for guidance on three-year old behavior. She reminded me of a hack I’d sort of forgotten: set a timer. For anything. I use my iPhone timer to move our morning routine along, to leave the house on time (my Achilles heel), and to finish dinner if the girls want to watch a show. Related hack: When you have a few moments alone, like after the kids are in bed, set another timer for you. Leave your devices and lists in the other room. Sit on the couch and do nothing for five minutes. Don’t get up until that timer rings! It feels good.

    This device is your new best friend.
    This device is your new best friend.
  3. Have a sleepover together. A few weeks ago, Dave’s schedule prevented him from spending much time with Edie, our older daughter. He missed her, and she was sad at bedtime. I asked if she wanted to have a sleepover with her Dad. We put fresh sheets on her trundle bed, and she was so excited to wake up with him in her room. It may not be active time together, but sometimes hanging out by proxy is good enough. And  slight breaks from the routine are exciting.
  4. Swap in fun produce. Left to their own devices, our girls would exist on chicken nuggets, mac and cheese, and cereal. I try to hide veggies in their diet: purple broccoli or potatoes, ants on a log (or fire ants on a log – that’s with dried cranberries), and creamed corn baked into in corn muffins. Last Christmas, we made ‘Grinch Grapes’ – fruit cut up to be more festive. They nailed those little kebabs like they were going out of style.

    Put fruit on a toothpick, with a hat, and watch it fly off the plate.
    Put fruit on a toothpick, with a hat, and watch it fly off the plate.
  5. Host a play date. At age 6, hosting your kids’ friends for a few hours is a great strategy to GSD. They amuse themselves, the younger sibling tends to hang around them out of curiosity, and once in a while they pop in for a snack. No babysitting fees required. Win-win.
  6. Make stuff accessible. With a baby on the way, my M.O. is to help my girls be as self-sufficient as possible. I’m unloading the small tasks to them now. This means making sure they can reach their cups, bowls, utensils, and napkins. Keeping step stools around so my little one can turn on a light or bathroom faucet. They make their own beds, clear their dishes, and soon I’ll leave breakfast items out so they manage that with minimal supervision.

Necessity is the mother of invention. What are some of your favorite parenting hacks?

*GSD: Get shit done!

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