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A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

Absolutely Brilliant Parenting Hacks You’ll Wish You Knew Sooner

These smart tips use items you already have at home (cotton socks! sports bras!) to entertain kids and simplify your day.

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Illustrations © Craighton Berman

Sort your to-do list by the time it takes to complete each job

A written to-do list is the best way to give your beleaguered memory a break. Give each to-do list item a time-based label (“5 minutes,” “15 minutes,” or whatever intervals work for you). Electronic to-do apps let you categorize tasks, but if you prefer a paper to-do list, just pencil a time label next to each task. When you find yourself with a snatch of time, scan your list quickly to see which tasks you can reasonably complete. Here’s why you never finish your to-do list.

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Illustrations © Craighton Berman

Organize coloring supplies with a dish drainer

Slide coloring books into the slots of a plastic dish drainer and crayons and markers into the attached cutlery drying cup—they’ll be contained, ordered, and easy to transport. The benefits of adult coloring books are pretty astounding.

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Illustrations © Craighton Berman

Try this trick for tightening too-large disposable diapers

No one tells you that babies can outgrow one disposable diaper size before fitting into the next. To tighten the waist and close the gap at the legs, angle the tabs down rather than straight across.

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Illustrations © Craighton Berman

Use a pool noodle to keep your kid from rolling out of bed

If your kid’s an active sleeper, those first few nights in a big-kid bed are nail-biters. Will he roll out of bed and hit the floor? Wedge a pool noodle (or a tightly rolled-up towel) along the edge, between the mattress and the fitted sheet. The resulting bump is just enough of a barrier to keep your kid in bed through the night.

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Illustrations © Craighton Berman

Turn cotton socks into baby bath mitts

Wet babies are slippery babies. Get a more solid grip by cutting thumb holes into a pair of cotton socks. Slide them over your hands, thumbs out, then use them as wearable washcloths.

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Illustrations © Craighton Berman

Trace your kid’s feet so you can shoe-shop on your own

Every few months, stand your child on a piece of white paper (with grown-up assistance if necessary) and draw an outline around each foot with a pencil. You can now take the template to the shoe store to determine the proper sizing.

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Illustrations © Craighton Berman

Reduce static electricity on the playground slide with a dryer sheet

If you’ve ever been the “catcher” for a kid coming down the slide, you know there’s the possibility of a nasty static electric shock. To reduce shocks, rub the slide and railings with a fabric softener dryer sheet, then have your kid sit on a second sheet as he slides down.

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Illustrations © Craighton Berman

Invest in one (or several) rolls of Painters Tape

If masking tape and sticky notes had a love child, Painter’s Tape would be it. It’s visible, easy to tear, and stays put—but leaves no residue behind. You can use it to label your leftovers, belongings, cords, and wires. Baby proof hotel rooms by using it to cover outlets and seal drawers. Mark the hot zone around stoves and grills. Entertain your kids by creating fun indoor floor games like hopscotch, racetracks, and beanbag toss. Painter’s Tape can also be used to seal snack bags, hang party decorations, and fix a ripped diaper tab.

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Illustrations © Craighton Berman

Turn a sports bra into a hands-free pumping bra

For breast-feeding moms, having a pumped supply of milk at the ready is like money in the bank. But the pumping itself is both time-consuming and slightly bizarre. (Who knew nipples could do that?) Turn a tedious chore into a self-care break. Buy an inexpensive, snug sports bra and cut a small hole in each cup just large enough to stretch and slide over the necks of the pump flanges. Put on the bra, hook yourself up, and your hands are now free to type, knit, or hold a book.

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Parent Hacks®:134 Genius Shortcuts for Life with Kids by Asha Dornfest (Workman Publishing). Copyright © 2016.

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Excerpted from Parent Hacks®:134 Genius Shortcuts for Life with Kids by Asha Dornfest (Workman Publishing). Copyright © 2016. Illustrations © Craighton Berman.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest