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Parenting is no joke. Even when you're standing proud and think you have it down, another unexpected curveball comes flying at your face, putting you right back on your ass again. Now, by reading this, you will not become a better parent (nor will your children start behaving better); but hopefully, by passing on this wisdom, I can make one parent's life a little bit easier. If I can just save you one meltdown, one article of clothing, or five minutes of time, than my mission is complete.
There is no rhyme or reason to these 15 lifehacks every parent needs to know; they range from food savers to stain removers with a few time-saving tips sprinkled in between. This is a collaboration of information spoken about by real moms with real tricks to make your adventure in parenting a little less chaotic.
Use stickers to help distinguish shoes from one another.
So, for some reason, teaching my children to put on their own shoes is as fun as walking across hot coals on fire. I'm serious, even if the laces or Velcro cooperate (which they rarely do), one of them always winds up with shoes on the wrong feet. This usually results in, "NEVER MIND I will just do it myself!" Then, one day, I came across a truly helpful tip from, believe it or not, my babysitter! My young, childfree, college student of a babysitter. She told me to cut a sticker in half and place one half in each shoe. Now, when my kids are confused with what is left and what is right, they just have to look down and, just like a puzzle, match the stickers up to fit.
Bonus lifehack: Since I never want to spend money on stickers that I plan on cutting, every time my child visits the doctor, dentist, or specialist, I always ask for an extra sticker or two. They usually don't mind, and it saves me $5 and a trip to the store.
Baby wipes are not just for butts.
Real talk right now, one of the many things that my mother that told me that turned out to be true (other than the no sleep thing) is that baby wipes are the best weapon a mother can have. No, not because they feel gentle on your toosh and smell powder fresh, although that is great, but because they do so much more than just cleaning butts. SO MUCH MORE. They can remove marks from surfaces, remove makeup when you can't or don't want to wash your face, and remove static cling as well! You can also use baby wipes to help get off sand, clean eyeglasses, and they are safe enough to use on most parts of your body (and even your pet's bodies). Last and most importantly, the number one reason I always keep a baby wipe on hand is for stain removal. Forget the Tide Stick, a baby wipe can remove coffee, juice box overflows, and dropped food from clothing, walls, and car seats, along with stubborn makeup and dreaded deodorant marks.
Inflatable pools are great playpens.
Back when I was a baby, playpens were so big that my mom used to play and lay in there with me. Now, they are so small you can barely fit twins. So, as a mother who has mostly worked from home (writing for you lovely people), I was always in search of a new way to contain my children, as well as entertain them. I mean how the hell else could I ever get anything done? To remedy my small playpen conundrum, I purchased an inflatable pool from Target, placed it in the center of my living room, threw a bunch of soft toys and pool noodles in there, and let them play and bounce and perhaps practice some light WWE wrestling. Ha! I also, being the extremely cool (or insane) parent I am, purchased 150 plastic balls and made it into my own ball pit. I kid you not, out of all the parenting hacks here, I have saved a considerable amount of time (up to an hour and 30 minutes of occupied time at some points), from this.
Toothpaste cleans teeth, as well as permanent marker and crayon stains.
Kids LOVE to draw. They also love to draw on everything that is not paper. To a three year old, your house and belongings are a blank canvas. So, when your little artist gets their hands on the permanent marker or crayon box you swore you hid, and starts designing your floors, you can have no fear that there is a trick to remove it. By combining just a small amount of water and a little squeeze out of the toothpaste bottle, you can remove crayon and permanent marker stains from furniture and floors. Wipe on, wipe off, voila! A cleaning hack that is sure to leave your house spotless!
Never throw away a cardboard box.
This one is simple. Never, on all that is Holy, throw away a large cardboard box. Not only will this give your child an excuse to use their imagination instead of their iPad-pointer finger, but it can also play babysitter while you get other stuff done. This is why I online shop so much (or so I tell my husband) because WE NEED MORE BOXES!!!!! Thank you, Amazon!
Always have an emergency bag in the car.
Since my children were born, I have packed their baby bags like I was preparing for the end of the world. I wish I was exaggerating, but sadly I am not. However, it wasn't until my kids grew out of the baby bag that I needed to get creative. Thanks to some experienced mommy friends, I was let in on the incase-anything-happens-emergency-car-kit. This is not something you buy, this is something you make to fit your needs. My emergency kit includes: spare clothes (season appropriate) for both kids; including undies, socks, and always a sweatshirt. I also have a small blanket and towel. In case hunger or thirst strikes, as it so often does, I keep two small bottles of water and Goldfish packets, as well as baby wipes and extra plastic bags to get rid of any soiled items if need be. Oh yeah, and suntan lotion, I am a suntan lotion fanatic and you should be, too! This may sound like a lot, but it can be thrown together in a backpack in a matter of minutes and stored in the trunk of your car for. I promise, it will come in handy one day.
Bribery is okay, especially in the form of fruit snacks.
I don't care who you are, how amazing your children are, and what the heck you believe in, every once in awhile, bribing your child to do something is okay. In fact, it is sometimes necessary. Honestly, if you're not bribing your child at some point, then it's probably your kid who is rolling around screaming on the floor of Shoprite; and well, I don't feel bad for you. I am not suggesting to buy them an expensive toy or banana split, but rather provide them with a quick reward like a piece of candy or a trip to the park. Introducing, the almighty fruit snacks! These little packets of colorful, chewy joy are an essential in my home, as they help to get the kids dressed, get into their car seats, get them to stop crying, and the list goes on and on.
If you feel really bad, just check out this picture of Beyoncé and Jay-Z, not only bribing their child daughter with fruit snacks to behave, but by also being her tray table.
Make Monster-Go-Away spray.
What do you do when your child won't go to sleep because of the monsters in her bedroom? Simple! You create your own Monster-Go-Away Spray, or as we now call it, Scare Spray. It's a mixture of calming essentials oils, like lavender, and water, stored ready to go in my handmade spray bottle. Our Scare Spray bottle has a monster with a big red X across it, and was ordered from Monsters University, or so my kids believe. Before we go to bed at night, I spray some in every corner, in her closet, and lastly on her bed. The idea itself eases her mind, and the calming effects from the child-safe oils cannot be denied.
In fact, side hack for your monster spray, essential oils can be wonderful for children. You can make hundreds of concoctions in all forms, like sprays, rubs, rollers, and inhalers. I have a collection of mixtures for everything from bug bite and allergy rollers to sleep and motion sickness sprays that I use on their car seats before a long drive.
Dress your kids in neon when going somewhere crowded.
Luckily, neon colors are cool again. They aren't overly popular, but they are easy enough to find in stores. You see, whenever I take my kids to the beach or public pool, I dress them in the brightest bathing suits I can find. Same goes for amusement parks, busy playgrounds, and everywhere else you are herded around like sheep. This won't save their life or prevent them from getting lost, but it will most definitely help you keep an eye on them. Need a real life example? We just got back from Hershey Park in Pennsylvania and when visiting the indoor water park, I dressed my daughter in hot pink and my son in neon yellow. Did it help? Heck yeah it did! Whenever I lost sight of them for even a second, I would scan the area for the two brightest swimsuits; and sure enough, there they were. My two little, neon highlighters. This is definitely easier than trying to spot a safety bracelet in a crowded room (though, those can be especially useful if your kids wind up getting lost or becomes unable to find you), and is a parenting lifehack you need to remember!
Use water to touch up wrinkled clothes forgotten in the dryer.
I swear, if I can ever afford a babysitter or nanny daily, one of her first duties would be to take over laundry. I don't mind gathering and washing, but it's the whole remembering to put it in the dryer and then take it out that challenges me. However, since I don't see a Nanny McPhee in my close future, I have learned how to fake it with this laundry lifehack. When you leave laundry in the dryer for days, whether it be by accident or intentionally, the clothes are usually so wrinkled that they are unwearable. Of course, you can put them on another dryer cycle (risking extra fading or shrinkage), or if they are really bad you can do the whole damn load again. However, I have discovered that if you keep a spray bottle full of clean water, spray the clothes generously, and then repeat a quick dry cycle, that the clothes will finish fresh-scented and unwrinkled in about 10 minutes.
Invest in command strips.
I know what you're thinking: Command strips? That's your big helpful parenting lifehack? Hear me out though. Not everyone has the room or money to buy extra storage bins or furniture, which leaves many of us stuffing crap into any possible place we can find. However, there are so many ways a person, especially a parent, can use a command strip, and I don't just mean for towels or jackets behind a door. For instance, when my daughter used a highchair, I would place a strip on the back of the seat to hang all her bibs. In my son's room, I have three hooks behind his door that are used to hold his many, many sport medals, collection of baseball hats, and a heavy-duty one for his book bag. I also have two in my shower, which I hang caddies from to keep bath toys organized and bottles off the ledges. I use them to hang kitchen towels and oven mitts inside my cabinets, on my front door to hold my wreaths, to keep wires together behind the TV in our living room, as well as above my kitchen window to hang banners for birthday and holiday décor.
Invest in a hot glue gun.
Before children, all I thought a hot glue gun was good for was crafts and more crafts. Now, don't get me wrong, I LOVE CRAFTS; but it wasn't until I popped some babies out till I discovered that hot glue guns can be used for so much more. For instance, all those bath toys with the annoying holes that collect mold: If you just shoot a little hot glue in there, you can stop water from entering the toy and causing mold. How about the plastic, princess high heels my four year old likes to dance around in? Those things are so slippery, it's like putting a drunk on ice skates. However, if you add a few dots on the bottom of the sole, you create enough friction to prevent slipping. Same goes for socks without the grippies. Lastly, once your children begins to grow and school projects come into play, a glue gun is as essential as a #2 pencil and pack of crayons. Between academic assignments and birthday party decor, my living room has been turned into a damn art studio. An art studio that revolves around glue guns, and I have the burn marks and ice packs to prove it.
Use GoodNites pads for potty training.
I wish I would have known about these with my first child while potty training, because I can't even tell you how many times I had to change his sheets in the middle of the night. It was never just a little accident either, it was always a tsunami of pee-pee. Well, with my second child as I just so happened to be discussing the hell that is potty training in public, some angel of a woman floated over and suggested GoodNite disposable bed pads. Of course, then I thought to myself, "Wait a minute, these are like what I laid on in the hospital bed after giving birth. Also like the wee-wee pads my mother uses with her little dog. How have I never thought of this?" The best part is these bed mats have four sticky tabs that keep it locked in place on the sheet. So, no matter how much she tossed and turned, the pad did not budge. So when the dreaded holler of "MOM!" came, I was able to clean her up, replace her pajamas, and lay a new pad down in a fraction of the cleanup time. So much better than unmaking and remaking an entire bed at 2 AM.
Create your own sensory bins.
When moms are stuck home with small child without a babysitter or a sibling to help entertain, they will go to extreme measures to get three minutes of peace. Even if that means placing rice into a large storage bin and allowing their child to play with it. Indoors. That's right, little humans love to play with rice. They also love sand, magic sand, pasta, toilet paper, and water. Basically, anything you can put into a large bin where they can stick their hands in and play is a guaranteed time occupier. Beware though, this isn't for all parents. If you can suck up some light sweeping and vacuuming though, then putting together one of these top-rated sensory play activities is totally worth it for not only your sanity, but for their growing brains.
Drink wine to survive.
Last but not least, and of course most importantly when it comes to lifehacks every parent needs to know for surviving parenting, is WINE! That's right, the number one mom tip and parent trick in my group of 13 mothers was to drink wine! Ha! I am not saying to drink wine for breakfast or roll up to your kid's soccer game with a sippy cup of vino (unless it's a six hour tournament); but at the end of a long day or in the middle of dinner, four ounces of a nice Cabernet is sometimes just what the doctor ordered. It calms my nerves, gives me patience, and even gets me to smile at shit that I would normally not be happy about. It helps me sleep, encourages me to like my husband, and even makes me feel sexier in the bedroom. It allows me to vent easily and feel a connection to other wine-loving mom friends who are also losing their shit on a daily basis. So I leave you with this. If fruit snacks can save a child from a meltdown and motivate them to put pants on, then why can't I have a glass of Pinot Grigio to stop me from crying and get me through the nightmare that is bedtime?