We do not lack information on “how-to parent.” People often joke that our children don’t come with manuals, but the truth is, we have so much information at our fingertips that we can easily become overwhelmed by all of the (often contradicting) expert opinions out there.

I, however, am a sucker for almost all things parenting related. I love all the blogs. All the books. All the conferences. Even the YouTube parody songs about the quirks of parenting. (But I don’t love the minivan family decals.) So much of what I have read and watched has equipped me to at least feel as though I’m not blindly facing each day as a mom. But sometimes I don’t have the capacity to read/watch the big stuff. When I don’t have capacity to tackle the philosophical parenting mountain, I just need some tips to survive the moment. Preferably tips that can be read in 3 second chunks while unloading the dishwasher, pulling a Lite-Brite® out of my baby’s cheek, and refereeing a brotherly WWF match.

So here you go. Tips from some of my favorite parents of small children—parents just like you and me. Tips for scheduling, simplifying routine, and creative activity. No theme here. No rhyme or reason. (Just like our day-to-day lives).

  1. Listen to  a family podcast or audio book during lunch time.
  2. Share highs/lows during meal time.
  3. Simplify your meal-planning routine with a predictable pattern (pizza and movie Friday night, Taco Tuesday, etc.)
  4. Use the Moms On Call  books for baby scheduling
  5. Create block-building or coloring competitions
  6. Let your older pre-school/early elementary kids make fun “how-to” videos on your phone (you can still keep it on screen lock).
  7. Switch up the dinner routine for fun (eat dinner under the table, or on a picnic blanket in the family room, etc.)
  8. Write letters to loved ones or teachers (create a stamp station, envelope sealing station, etc.)
  9. Need to get the wiggles out? Try “Cosmic Yoga” and “Freeze Dance” on YouTube.
  10. To get rid of excess Halloween candy, let the kids trade it in for a prize.
  11. Forego some presents, and invest in a family membership (zoo, museum, etc.). Great for rainy days, family bonding, and an easy-go-to for getting out of the house. (Plus, it’s clutter-free).
  12. Use paper plates/ bowls for breakfast. Easy clean-up during the hectic part of the day so that you can return home to a clean kitchen easily.
  13. Set a timer for 20 minutes during nap time to get as many chores done as you can. When the timer dings, stop working. This way you don’t spend the whole nap time cleaning, and you can take some time for self-care.
  14. Dance parties generally cure even the worst of moods.
  15. Keep your play area and playtime exciting by storing some away some of your toys in plastic bins and rotating them out periodically.
  16. Use a hair-tie as a soft door close tool by hooking it around both door handles to cover the latch (so it doesn’t wake a light-sleeper up when you open and close the door).
  17. Keep a supply kit in your trunk: extra clothes for everyone, socks for bouncy house places, snacks, water, diapers, sunscreen, and first aid supplies.
  18. Keep bandaids everywhere—stroller, car, purse, laptop bag. Someone will always need one.
  19. Keep a small lunchbox in your car filled with crayons, stickers, and small toys that you can take into restaurants to keep kids entertained . . . better than giving them a screen.
  20. Picky eater? You can hide almost anything in a smoothie.
  21. Keep large plastic bins in your kids’ closets so you can toss any clothes they outgrow immediately in them…helps declutter closets and keeps sizing accurate in their drawers. Also keep a bag in each closet for clothes to be donated.
  22. Use your play water table inside on rainy or cold days. Place several layers of towels underneath or an old shower curtain underneath to catch any water spills.
  23. Most routines can become more fun when made into sibling races: brushing teeth, getting dressed, getting buckled in the car etc.

Most importantly, remember this when you don’t feel like you have time to research: “Who we are and how we engage with the world are much stronger predictors of how our children will do than what we know about parenting.” [1]

What are some of your best parenting hacks?

[1] Brene Brown Daring Greatly