I got a lot of good feedback on my last post about baby stuff, so I thought I’d try to do a few follow-up posts on general parenting tips that we’ve picked up or developed in our 2 glorious years with offspring.
Now that I’m a parent, I like reading parenting magazines that give me advice on how to handle the two little tornadoes of energy that are under my care. One of my favorite columns to read is called “It Worked For Me” in Parent’s Magazine. People basically just write in to tell about little tips and tricks that they use with their kids. Some of the ideas are really amazing–simple little things that make life so much easier.
Mostly out of desperation, Jon and I have developed our own little repertoire of “It Worked For Me” solutions to our every day problems. Here are a few:
- Water Stopper
David loves using the water dispenser in our fridge. The problem is that he usually likes using it as a means to create his own slip-n-slide on our kitchen floor. Or to give the dog a shower. Or just to see how much water will come out before an adult notices his exploits. You get the idea.
Jon, being the clever engineer that he is, came up with a simple solution to our water dispenser woes. Now we just keep a clean, dry sponge wedged between the back of the dispenser and the push-lever. With a little effort, an adult can still press the lever against the sponge and get water out. No matter how hard he tries, though, David can’t get the lever to push in enough to release the water. I don’t know how long this will continue to work for us, but hopefully by the time David develops the strength to push in the lever all the way he’ll also understand the word “no” and all of it’s consequences a bit better!
- Easier Pancakes
We like having a lazy family breakfast most Saturday mornings, so that usually means we’re making pancakes. In order to get the pancakes from griddle to plate as quickly as possible we do a couple of things. First, we mix the batter in an 8-cup pyrex measuring cup. It’s easy to pour the pancakes with the pour spout and it means we only have 1 dish to clean at the end of the day. Then, we like to make “pancake sticks” for David (another idea of Jon’s). That way when the pancake is ready to be cut up into little pieces for David we can just snip, snip, snip down the “stick” with our kitchen shears and it’s ready to go. Sometimes we also like to make fun shapes out of the pancake batter for David. To do this, we use a squeeze bottle to just squirt the shapes out onto the griddle (we’ve even used a clean, empty ketchup container as the squeeze bottle and it worked just fine).
- Video Stories
Jon has the type of job that, at certain times, requires him to spend a lot of time away from our family. He has to pull some late nights and do some traveling. We always have story time before naptime and bedtime where Jon and I read to the boys. I like the boys to be able to have Jon read them their stories even when he’s away, so before he left for his last work trip we recorded him reading several of David’s favorite stories using my iPhone. I transferred the videos to my computer, and also kept them on my phone for on-the-go viewing. Now we can watch Daddy reading stories no matter where he is in the world. Plus, the stories are a great distraction while we’re driving or waiting for our food to arrive at a restaurant. Just flip on my phone, start the video, and we have a happy toddler!
- Gift Closet
I have a lot of friends and family members with kids now. It seems like every other weekend we have a birthday party, baby shower, or holiday to celebrate that requires some sort of gift. Since it takes a long time to go out shopping for each individual gift, and because all of those lovely gifts can start to put a dent in your wallet, I’ve started my own little “gift closet”. It’s not actually a closet, it’s just the top shelf in my own bedroom closet, but saying I have a “gift shelf” just doesn’t have the same ring as the “gift closet”. Anyway, I digress. The gift closet is just a place where I put gifts as I find them. I like to shop online deal sites like Zulily, Kids Woot!, Plum District, Mamasource and Totsy. You can get all kinds of things on the deal sites: clothes (for both baby and mom), toys, shoes, nursery accessories, strollers, even baby food and diapers. When a really good deal comes up (like when free shipping is being offered or there are deep discounts on my favorite items), I’ll buy one or two items to add to my gift closet. I also shop stores like Target during their clearance times (typically January and July) when they’re trying to off-load all of their seasonal toys and clothes for up to 75% off. At any given time I have between 5-10 items in my gift closet that would be suitable gifts for babies or young children. Then, when those baby showers and birthday party invites start arriving I know that I can just “shop” in my gift closet. I save myself a trip to the store and I’ve already saved time and money (now that I have 2 kids to tote along with me everywhere I go, I avoid physical stores like the plague. I hate going into stores. But that’s for another post.).
- Monthly Baby Photos
One of my favorite things that we did with each of our boys was our monthly photo. Starting at birth, we take a photo of each boy each month until their first birthday. For David, we did all of our photos with a sock monkey. It was incredible to see how he went from a tiny infant smaller than the monkey to a big boy who could hold the monkey up for the photo on his first birthday! Jacob’s photos are a bit different. We’re posing him on top of a large paper calendar each month and circling his monthly “birthdays” on the calendar.
We have a lot of fun going back through the photos to see how our babies have grown. For David’s photos, I plan on continuing to take a photo of him with the sock monkey each year until he moves out on his own or until he is big enough to fight me off when I thrust the stuffed animal at him for yet another photo session. For Jacob’s calendar photos, I may have him continue holding the calendar for important events as he gets older (birthdays, first days of school, etc.).
- Custom Books
I get lots of coupon codes for custom photo books from companies like Shutterly and Mixbook. I love making photo books to document family events, but lately I’ve also been making my own picture books for the boys. I just use our photos and I write a story to place in the text box on each page. The last two books I made were “David’s Busy Day” (based on one of David’s favorite picture books, “Lulu’s Busy Day”) and “My Funny Family’s Feelings” (each page is a different family member expressing some feeling–i.e. excited, surprised, sad, etc.). I can usually get a custom hard-cover picture book shipped to my door for about $10. These are some of David’s absolute favorite books because, like all of us, he’s a bit narcissistic and loves seeing himself.
- Clothing boxes
I keep large plastic bins in my kids’ closets. I have one bin per size (newborn, 3 month, 6 month…and on up to 3T). Whenever they grow out of a piece of clothing, I put it straight into the appropriate bin. Whenever we receive clothing that is not a size the kids are currently wearing I put that right into the size-bin as well. That way, whenever I need clothes for the next size up I just grab the bin and unload it into the kids’ drawers. Yay for hand-me-downs!
- Toddler Thank-Yous
David is only 2, so he’s not quite at the age where he can write his own thank-you notes. I happened to have some of his modernistic crayon drawings and finger paintings lying around, so I decided to turn them into thank-yous. I just wrote a note on top of the artwork with a Sharpie marker and David scribbled his “name” at the bottom. So much more personal than a store-bought card, and a good use for the countless creations David generates.
Parents are ever-resourceful, and I’d love to hear some of your favorite tips and tricks. Feel free to leave a comment with your clever ideas!