From DIY ideas that will save you SO much money to cutting-edge tech products that help give you peace of mind, we’re talking about some of the most amazing parenting hacks and products that you’ll wish you knew about sooner. Just keep reading to check them out!
Parenting Hacks & Products You Wish You Knew About Sooner
Raising kids is hard work, and there really aren’t any shortcuts when it comes to the big stuff. You can’t hack your way through teaching them kindness and compassion, or through instilling self-esteem.
The little stuff, though, is totally fair game. There are countless awesome parenting hacks, shortcuts, and products out there that help us deal with all of the more mundane tasks of raising kids. My favorites below help me save time and energy- both of which I can use to focus on the more important aspects of raising kids. Bonus: they also save a lot of money! Let’s check them out, shall we?
Last note: I used affiliate links to recommend my favorite parenting products. If you buy anything through these links, I’ll earn a small fee at no extra cost to you. Thanks!
1. Sign up for multiple baby registries to score freebies
Let’s start with something you can do before your baby even comes along! Several major registries give you free welcome kits with samples, coupons, and other goodies just for signing up. Some of the best include Amazon, Target, and Buy Buy Baby. Then sign up for a Universal Registry service to connect them all together!
2. Skip plastic baby tubs and get a lotus that turns your sink into a comfy bathtub
Forget those hard little baby tubs! Bath Lotus turns your sink into a soft and cozy bathtub for your tiniest tots. It comes in 6 colors and fits pretty much any sink. One Amazon reviewer mentioned that it’s perfect for Epsom salt baths because it doesn’t get moldy like hard tubs.
3. Save money by making your own sensory boards for babies and toddlers
Sensory boards are absurdly expensive for what they are, which is basically just a bunch of different textures stuck to a board. Save a boatload of money by making your own! Just look around your home for scraps of fleece fabric, cotton balls, and other texturized items. If you need inspiration, Teaching Littles shared 12 different ideas.
4. A color-coded alarm clock that just may help you all sleep better
I SO wish that I knew about this one when my kids were still very little! It’s an adorable alarm clock that changes colors to let kids know when it’s okay to wake everyone else in the house up.
My friend uses it with her daughter. She has a box next to her bed with some books and toys. If she wakes up too early, she plays quietly in her room until the clock turns green. Obviously, she’s allowed to go get her parents if she has a bad dream, needs to go to the bathroom, etc. So there’s a bit of a teaching curve with it, but it really does work wonders.
5. Turn on closed captioning to help kids learn to read
I saw this funny meme that said if you’re feeling guilty that your kids are watching too much TV, just mute the volume and turn on the closed captions. Boom, they’re reading! It’s hilarious, yes, but it’s also onto something.
Instead of muting the TV, though, leave the volume on along with the captions. Kids will both see and hear the words, which can actually help them become stronger readers. If you think this sounds silly, consider this: my friend’s teen son learned more Japanese from watching subtitled anime than she learned during the two years that she actually lived there. Another friend used this method to learn English (as a second language).
6. Invest in a TRULY SAFE hair conditioner for the tiniest of tots
Many of the so-called “safe” conditioners for kids are loaded with junk ingredients, including formaldehyde and alcohol. Clean Kids Naturally, on the other hand, is so safe that it’s actually an EWG Verified brand. It’s also certified by Natural Products Association and Leaping Bunny.
Plus, a little goes a very long way! So even though it may cost a bit more than your average supermarket conditioner up front, it’ll save you money in the long run, especially if you combine it with the next hack.
7. Make your own leave-in conditioner with your favorite regular conditioner
If your child has unruly hair (I can SO relate), a leave-in conditioner and detangler spray is an absolute must. Why buy a second product, though, when you already have an amazing option right in your bathroom?
Snappy Living has a great tutorial that will help you make the perfect leave-in spray by using your favorite regular conditioner. It takes just a few teaspoons of product, plus some water. You can add in other beneficial ingredients, too, but they’re totally optional.
8. Detangle hair with the cutest little brush on the planet
My thick-hair friend swears by these cute little macaroon brushes by Milk & Sass, so I had to check them out. They’re super gentle and even work at detangling those horrible knots that your kids get right at the base of their heads. You know, the ones that come from wearing ponytails all day?
They’re easy to clean and they last a very long time. Bonus: they come with a little cover that has a compact mirror in it, and they’re sized just right for stashing in your purse or diaper bag.
9. Use a rubber band to prevent lock-outs (or lock-ins)
When my friend moved into a new house, her 5-year-old managed to lock the dog in a room not once, not twice, but THREE times. Three separate rooms, all of which had old locks that were impossible to pick (at least for her “not a criminal mastermind” skills). She actually had to use a hammer to smash the doorknobs until they fell off! Too bad she didn’t know about this hack, right?
10. Buy a faucet extender to make good hand hygiene easier for tots
If there’s ONE thing we learned these last few years, it’s that good handwashing skills are important. Yes, some of us already knew that, but apparently it was news to others. Anyway, teaching kids to wash their hands is only half the battle. The other half is making it easy so that they actually can do it without a boost from you. These little faucet extenders from Munchkin make that task SO much easier.
11. Or just DIY a faucet extender with an old lotion bottle!
If you’re short on cash or prefer upcycling instead of buying yet more plastic, you can also just make your own faucet extender with an old lotion bottle. The video above will help you out if you’re stuck on how to do it.
12. Help kids learn new skills by watching AND doing with this upgraded step stool
Okay, so this one is pricey, but it’s definitely worth every penny! Kids learn both by watching and doing. This nifty “learning tower” helps our littlest ones do both. It’s designed to give toddlers and up a boost (literally), so they can stand side-by-side with you in the kitchen and beyond.
13. Try this funny discipline hack that also teaches a valuable lesson
On the surface, this is just another funny parenting meme that’s meant to be taken as a joke, right? But dig deeper and this “punishment” can actually be used to teach a valuable lesson about managing finite resources and prioritizing tasks. Think about it: they’ll have to figure out how to get the most out of the “juice” left in the battery. Do they blow it all playing a game or put it in low power mode and use it just for communicating with the outside world?
14. FridaBaby 3-in-1 Nose, Nail + Ear Picker
FridaBaby makes some of the oddest baby products that, at first, will have you asking, “What the actual heck? Is this a joke?” Well, except you probably won’t use “heck.” But one look at the rave reviews and you’ll quickly realize that these products are no joke. Then you’ll start to think, “Yeah, I can see how that would be useful!” Before you know it, you’re buying a baby ear/nose/nail/belly button picker! If you’re questioning my sanity right now, take a look at the reviews. Over 15,000 parents gave it a combined total of 4.5 stars!
15. Reuse boxes as paint canvases
Cardboard boxes aren’t just perfect for creating forts and stair slides. They also make awesome paint canvases! They’re a whole lot cheaper than real canvas and gazillion times sturdier than paper. Just cut them open (and cut them down to whatever size you want), lay them flat, and let your kids unleash their creativity.
16. Use a monitor that knows the difference between crying and fussing
There are tons of smart baby monitors out there, but this one by Lollipop is definitely my favorite. It’s fairly affordable compared to competitors, for one thing. I love that it detects when your baby is actually crying and not just fussing. It also detects crib escapes, noise, and even temperature changes. Plus it’s kind of cute, don’t you think? The biggest drawback is that you have to pay for a subscription to store video captured by the camera. That’s pretty much the case with most smart baby monitors, though.
17. Make your own “Monster Be Gone” spray that doubles as a soothing sleep spray
Why buy expensive room sprays when you can make your own for a few bucks (less if you already have the lavender essential oil on hand). Check out the tutorial above for a DIY “Monsters be Gone” soothing sleep spray. While you’re at it, whip up this easy DIY Sleepy Time Essential Oil Roll-On that will help the whole family drift off to dreamland faster.
18. Melissa & Doug Magnetic Responsibility Chart
First, I love how this is called a “responsibility chart” rather than a “chore chart.” I think that teaching kids how to be responsible has to go way beyond just assigning them chores. It comes with magnets for the basics, like “make your bed” or “brush your teeth,” along with behavioral responsibilities, such as saying please and thank you.
Since it’s also a dry-erase board, it grows with your kids. As they get older and their responsibilities change beyond the basics that are included, you can write your own instead.
19. Use pool noodles to toddler-proof your house
Pool noodles are by far one of the most versatile Dollar Tree items on the planet. Along with about a billion other users, they’re perfect for baby- and toddler-proofing everything from fireplaces to coffee tables and more. They soften pretty much every sharp corner or edge in your home.
20. A growth chart that won’t mar your walls or look outdated in your kids’ room
Cutesy growth charts are great…for a toddler’s room. Once your kids outgrow baby elephants and dancing moons, though, they end up shoved in the back of a closet and forgotten. Sure, you could measure your child’s growth right on your wall, but that’s not exactly practical if you rent.
That’s why I love this one so much. It’s simple, yes, but that’s the charm. It fits into any décor, for one thing. Plus, it’s made of canvas, so if you move to another house, you can just roll it up and take it with you.
21. Make your own non-slip socks with puffy paint
Non-slip socks are essential safety items when you live in a house full of hardwood or tile floors. In fact, they’re such an essential that most hospitals won’t even let a patient get out of bed without donning a pair. You can get cheap ones at a dollar store, but they’re not really all that cute or comfortable (the material is way too scratchy, especially for texture-sensitive kids). Use a bit of puffy paint to make your own out of socks that your kids actually like. Check out this tutorial to learn how.
22. Get more bang for your buck by using skincare products made for babies on the whole family
Don’t buy separate skincare for your baby, toddler, teen, and yourself. Just choose something that’s safe for the youngest member of your family, then use it for everyone else. Think about it this way, if it’s safe enough for your infant, it’s gentle enough for your sensitive skin. Era Organics Healing Ointment is a great place to start. It’s a head-to-toe balm that smooths rough patches, soothes rashes, and so much more. It’s cruelty-free and certified organic.
23. Upcycle your baby’s crib into a desk or playtable
Baby cribs are expensive, and they’re really not something you can sell off after you’re done with them. I mean, you could try, but safety standards change constantly and people are really apprehensive about buying them used (who could blame them, though?). I’ve seen some clever ways to reuse the different parts, but this is probably the most genius crib hack ever. It’s something that your kids can really use for years to come, and it keeps most of the components intact, so you can reuse them again for another project down the road.
24. Take some of the “ick” out of using public bathrooms
I don’t care how many doctors or scientists say that public toilet seats aren’t the “Big Bad” we make them out to be, they’re still pretty darn gross. These toilet seat covers take some of that “ick” factor out of using public bathrooms. They’re soft, disposable, and small enough to fit into your diaper bag, purse, or even your pocket. Just make sure you remove and toss them in the garbage when you’re done. Don’t be that person that leaves a mess behind for someone else to clean up.
25. Use old DVD cases for on-the-go coloring kits
Upcycle some of those old DVD cases into a cute on-the-go coloring kit. Stash a few in your car and break them out on long trips, at restaurants, or when you’re stuck waiting forever at the doctor’s office.
26. Stuffed animal storage that doubles as a comfy chair
Bean bag chairs are outrageously expensive! I remember two years ago I was trying to help a friend find something reasonable for her son. It was one of the few things he actually asked for that year, but she struggled to find something under $100…and that was considered a “cheap” one!. She still had a bunch of his old stuffed animals in storage, so I recommended something like this stuffed animal storage bean bag chair idea. Well, not this one specifically, her son is older and wanted something a little more “mature,” but I just think this one is SO adorable, don’t you? I kind of want one for myself!
27. Help kids put shoes on the right feet with this sticker trick
Cut a sticker in half and put the right half in the right shoe and the left in the left shoe. That way, they’ll be able to tell which is which with just a quick glance. It’ll just save you all a few seconds every time they have to put their shoes on, but those seconds add up fast.
28. Invest in a set of cups that TRULY spill-proof
I can’t tell you how many cheap sippy cups I bought that promised to keep the drink in the cup where it belonged only to leak all over the place. Contigo cups are a bit pricier than your average spillproof cup, but they actually work REALLY well. I like that they’re more like regular big kid cups, especially since dentists recommend against using sippy cups too often.
29. Remove permanent marker with toothpaste
So. little Susie got ahold of the Sharpie and decided to use her little brother’s face as her canvas. We’ve all been there! Don’t worry, you have the perfect kid-safe cleaner right in your bathroom: toothpaste!
30. Create a safe space for kids with special needs
Therapy swings, like this one, offer amazing benefits for kids with sensory processing disorders (especially those that affect the vestibular system). They’re not only therapeutic in the physical sense, but in the emotional sense as well. They’re also beneficial for kids without therapeutic needs since they help strengthen core muscles. Plus, every kid just needs to swing away their stress sometimes.
31. Turn bedtime into a spa-like experience
There’s nothing quite like snuggling into a warm blanket, is there? When my kids are having a hard time settling down, I toss their blanket, jammies, and even their pillowcase into the dryer for a few minutes. I like to add a few drops of lavender essential oil to a washcloth and toss that in, too. It doesn’t take much time or energy, but the results are spa-mazing!
32. Snuggly toys with a positive message
Have you heard of these Slumberkins Snuggler & Board Books? They are the sweetest! They teach kids valuable lessons about family bonding, creativity, courage, conflict resolution, and more. They’ll become your favorite baby shower gift, I promise. Grab your favorites for your kids, while you’re at it. They’re designed for babies, but I actually think the Dragon (creativity) and the Yak (self-acceptance) make great gifts for teens, too. Hey, if Dr. Seuss books make acceptable graduation gifts, then these do, too!
33. Make clean-up time fun by turning it into a game they’ll actually want to play
Cleaning is boring, but it’s essential, right? Rather than arguing with your kids about it, turn it into a fun game. I’m not just talking about setting a timer and telling them to “beat the clock.” They’ll see through that pretty fast and you’ll be back to arguing. Instead, get creative and turn it into a scavenger hunt or matching game. For example, tell your kids to find and put away everything that’s red, then blue, then green and so on. Or everything that’s in the shape of a square, a circle, a triangle. Everything that has eyes, then wheels, then strings. You can even make up index cards with different directions ahead of time and let kids take turns picking them.
34. Soothe booboos with this cuddly toy
No matter how careful we are, sometimes our kids get hurt. It’s a part of life. We can’t wrap them in bubble wrap, after all (it’s a choking hazard, for one thing). Soothe those bumps and bruises and bring a smile back to your child’s face with these cute cuddly toys that double as hot/cold packs. Buy two, that way you can keep one in the freezer for when you need an ice pack and one that you can zap in the microwave for a few seconds for a hot pack.
35. Or just make your own hot/cold pack
You can also just make your own ice/hot pack for a few cents! I love the tutorial above, but you don’t have to know how to sew to pull off this DIY. I like to use fuzzy socks filled with rice. Again, I make two- one that I can keep in the freezer (in a plastic bag), and one for heating up.
There you have it! I hope you found at least a few of these parenting hacks and products useful. I know they’ve come in super handy for me over the years. Remember, you can’t hack your way through the important stuff. Parenting is hard work, and we need to really put in the effort when it comes to raising kids who grow up to change the world. But for all the little things, take all of the shortcuts you can.
Last update on 2021-05-14 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API