What do podcasts, a silicon muffin pan, and Sticky Tack have in common? -They’re all some of my favorite secret weapons in my parenting toolkit. Have you ever received an idea from another parent and instantly knew it was going to solve a problem in your own home? Something so simple and yet so genius you just sat there with your mouth hanging open, thinking, “why didn’t I think of that?” I know I have. Today I’m sharing some of my favorite little secrets to cut corners and make life simpler. We can’t run out the clock to get to naptime faster, but we can certainly get there a little easier.
1. Single Portion, Kid Friendly Food – I don’t know about anyone else’s kids, but it seems like when my kids get hungry they go from 0-60 in seconds flat. Mac N’ Cheese is a staple with our toddlers but when they’re starving I need something faster than the time it takes to boil water and cook pasta.
First things first: Get a silicone muffin pan. You’ll love it. Even I you’re not an avid baker, you’ll love how nicely these come clean when you use them with minimal scrubbing effort. Everything always comes out perfect, every time, no oil, and no grease necessary. My favorite part about a silicon muffin pan (drum roll, please) is that you can freeze ANYTHING in them. Which makes perfect toddler-size, pre-portioned, servings to keep in the freezer for fast meals. Instead of making one box of Mac N’ Cheese, I double it. Any leftovers I portion out into my silicon muffin pans and drop them into our deep chest freezer until they’re solid. When they’re frozen I pop each individual muffin out and toss them into a giant labeled freezer bag for super-fast kids’ meals.
Once I started doing this I discovered there was no end to making quick, EASIER, meals for my kids. Household favorites include homemade marinara, spaghetti & meatballs, chicken noodle soup, Orzo & veggies, even whipped sweet potatoes. Best of all: 60 seconds is all it takes to nuke most of these kid sized meals. This is a godsend to us in our home! Especially helpful if kiddos don’t like the same things or if they eat at different times.
2. Diaper Bag Toys – I have toys specifically for my diaper bag. Things my kids have never seen, until we (read: I) need them most. Think, a long wait at the doctor’s office, slow moving line at the post office, or fussy kiddos waiting on dinner in a restaurant. The toys are nothing extravagant, mostly all things from the Dollar Spot at Target or the $1 Store: sticker books, a little animal figurine, coloring books, etc. and I periodically rotate out new and old ones. When in a pinch, they’re awesome to have on hand. There is no telling the amount of quiet that a $0.50 jar of slime will produce upon being presented for the first time. At the end of our errand or dinner, the toys go back in my bag, and they’re mostly forgotten about until I need them again.
3. Layer Fitted Crib Sheets & Waterproof Mattress Pads – Fortunately I only had to call upon this a couple of times with my girls, but man, was it nice. When a middle of the night blowout or sick baby has an accident in the crib, rather than changing sheets sleepy-eyed and half awake, all that’s necessary is pulling off the first fitted sheet & waterproof mattress pad to reveal a fresh new sheet below it. (If only cleaning up the baby was that simple.
4. Toy Sanitizing – Need to give the toys a wash post-sickness or between teething kiddos? Forget hand washing things one-by-one. Throw teethers and plastic toys in the dishwasher for a speedy, high-temp sanitize & dry-sesh or toss them into a garment bag and put them in a hot cycle wash in your washing machine.
5. Bath Time Made Better– My girls are almost 2 & 3.5 now so they require much less assistance in the tub these days. Gone are the days of me kneeling over the edge to support them, but they are far from the ages where they’re out of the danger zone of drowning and not needing me there at all. So basically, after washing them, I found myself sitting on the floor next to the tub, watching them and waiting for them to play for an hour.
About six months ago I started saving my favorite podcasts to listen to while they’re in the bathtub. While they splash and play together, I sit on the floor directly right in front of the tub with a couple baskets of clothes, folding laundry and listening to whatever podcast I’ve been anxiously looking forward to hearing. This makes the dreaded task of folding clothes so much more enjoyable. Plus I’m giving them ample time to play. I don’t end up feeling like I’ve killed an hour sitting in the bathroom when I (literally) have loads to do. We all look forward to bath time now.
(Speaking of Podcasts: If you are not a podcast listener, you are majorly missing out. I listen to podcasts ALL.DAY.LONG. Podcasts make drives in the car, grocery shopping solo with earbuds in, getting dinner made, and even folding laundry so much more enjoyable.)
6. Repurposed Pool Noodles – A couple of pool noodles beneath the fitted sheet of your toddler’s bed, running from head to toe on each side of the bed, will serve as a barrier from rolling out of the bed when you’re transitioning to a toddler bed/big kid bed or after removing the rails on their bed. They’re high enough to not roll over and low enough that toddlers can still climb over to get in and out of bed.
7. Lazy Meal Prep – There are easily a million posts on meal planning & prepping so I won’t go into all that I do each week. But a couple of the big ones I do every week that make our lives much less hectic are these:
- I almost always grocery shop on Sundays. Before I leave I always take a few minutes to clean out the fridge & cupboards, pitching and consolidating anything taking up space. This helps so that when I come home with a bunch of stuff there’s plenty of room and nothing gets pushed to the back or forgotten.
- Sundays I try to cook a dinner that leaves us with plenty of leftovers, and we generally eat leftovers on Monday evening. I don’t know about anyone else, but Mondays always feel a little extra crazytown around here. Not having to think about dinner alleviates a bit of that stress.
- I cook up a bunch of grilled chicken (about 3 pounds) very early in the week. We don’t eat much red meat or lunch meat but we do use chicken on salads, to snack on, to throw into a dish to make a complete meal, etc. It’s a life saver.
- I wash and cut all the snack-able fruits and veggies. We consume a lot of berries so I wash them and put them in open containers or bowls in the fridge, right at eye level, for quick snacking. Grapes I wash and pull off the stems and put in a giant bowl in the fridge. They disappear very quickly this way.
- Additionally, in our fridge, way down low, we have a shelf on the door dedicated to the girls’ snacks. Anytime I open the fridge door and they’re hungry, they know the cheese sticks, apple sauce packets, sliced fruit, etc. is all easily available to them to help themselves to. So I take a minute to separate all the cheese sticks form one another, open up the boxes of applesauce and make everything easy for them to grab one.
8. Laundry. – Oh. My. Again, there is so much here to say but the biggest helper for me has been sorting all the laundry at the beginning of the week. Seems like a no-brainer right? Well it took another momma sharing this tidbit with me before I thought “Ah-ha! Makes perfect sense!”
Mondays are my laundry day. Now instead of only collecting enough clothing for my first load, I sort everything in all the hampers for the week ahead: whites, darks, delicates, sheets, towels, workout clothes, air dry items, heavy soiled items, etc. This makes it easier to quickly throw another load in when the washer is freed up, rather having to hunt for items every time I’m about to do a load all week long.- Definitely makes laundry *slightly* less annoying. And anything to help, right?
9. Sticky Tack (It’s for more than just Dorm Room Posters!) – I realize this is less of a mom hack and just a favorite home hack tip but I’m clumping it in with this post because it works wonders. A couple little balls of Sticky Tack (you know they stuff you use to use to hang up posters on the walls of your dorm room with?) on the bottom two corners of art work or hanging pictures will keep everything perfectly square, without ever having to adjust a thing.
We live in an older home which means that opening and closing some of our doors, in some seasons, shakes and rattles walls. When I decided to do a gallery style wall of photos and art on our entry way wall years ago, I added Sticky Tack to the bottom two corner of everything hanging. Six years later and I’ve never had to adjust a single piece.
(Tip: I would avoid doing this if what you’re hanging is a temporary piece. Sticky Tack may leave a slight discoloration on the wall paint. Because I did this on a gallery wall which included plenty of nail holes, I knew that the whole wall would need patched and repainted should the gallery wall ever come down. I have done this with most every painting, frame and piece of art in our home and while some leave little oil marks they don’t always. Proceed with caution.)
10. Cups > Plates – When I mentioned to some of my girlfriends that I was going to write a post on Mom Hacks my bestie of 20+ years gave me this final genius tip. When they are at a cookout or a kid’s birthday party, you know the kind where everyone’s standing around chatting, snacking, and watching kiddos play? She opts to eat whatever is being served in a cup, rather than a plate. Cake in disposable solo cup is a million times easier to enjoy than cake on a paper plate, especially if you have to wrangle a toddler or push a kid on a swing. She serves her kiddos food the same way at parties; fruit salad in a cup is much less likely to end up on the floor than fruit salad on a plate of an excited four year old.
So there you have it! Ten super simple and highly effective ways to save time, money, and sanity. Got any others I should know about? I’d love to hear your best life hacks! Share your favorite parenting or life hacks using #kiddokeepsakesloveshacks and we’ll share your genius tips.