Over on our Facebook page, we recently asked readers to give us their best parenting hacks. The entries were so clever, so thoughtful, so immediately useful that we've decided to share some of our favourites.
The winning hack comes from Christopher Bickerstaff, a father of a 10-year-old daughter in Overland Park, Kansas. He wrote:
"To encourage my daughter to discuss her friendships and her day, I have taken to talking to her about mine. Workplace relationships have a surprising amount of similarity to elementary school relationships. So when I tell her about how one of the supervisors has a habit of making inappropriate comments, but that few people call him on it because they don't want to rock the boat, it prompts her to talk about her own experiences with peer pressure."
We loved the idea - it normalises struggle, showing the kid you're a real person with real challenges. And it's a much more inviting conversation opener than the dreaded "How was your day?" Congratulations, Christopher!
Here are some other hacks from the Facebook contest that we're keeping in our toolbox:
Teach "waiting fingers"
"My 2-year-old was struggling with waiting and whining for a while, so I came up with 'waiting fingers.' Whenever she has to wait for something, I have her wiggle her fingers furiously. It has really helped, and now she'll do 'waiting fingers' quietly and unprompted when she has to wait." Kristin T.
Make a toy condo
"My 4-year-old son has way too many stuffed toys so we built a 'toy condo' out of 10 small cardboard boxes. We cut out doors and taped them together in different directions. Now my son puts all his stuffed toys into the condo at night so they can 'go to sleep.' This keeps everything from spilling out over his bed and helps pick up around the house." Hunter H.
Use T-shirt as a spit-up rag
"Spit-up rags never worked. Inevitably my son would hit someplace outside the rag, or it would just run down onto my shirt. So, I just started wearing a t-shirt over my clothing. Much larger area that he couldn't 'miss.' Granted, there was a day or two that I left the house still wearing it." Rob O.
Load 'em up with info
"Bombard their current interests with information. If today they like tigers take them to the zoo to watch them, run free documentaries of tigers on YouTube, have them paint and a tiger, read tiger books at the library, etc. Do this until their interest changes then pivot." Caleb E.
Pretend your kids are Rocky
"To help get a 3-year-old and a 6-year-old dressed in the mornings, right after breakfast, I start to loudly hum the Rocky theme song, set my phone timer, and send them on a race to see who can get dressed the fastest. We keep a scoreboard of times and when a new 'record' is set, they get to be 'champion' and I bestow them with a plastic gold medal for the rest of the morning. We went from dawdling around for fifteen minutes with underwear around the ankles to fully dressed in three minutes flat." Nancy R.
Have your food pouches do double-duty
"Fill a resuable food pouch with expensive diaper cream that only comes in tub form (triple paste). Much easier to apply and you don't have to lug the tub around!" Jamie A.
Find that old iPod
Instead of watching TV shows, my almost three year old gets time with headphones and an old iPod full of music — but never kid music. He's obsessed with Michael Jackson, The Beatles, Janelle Monae, OKGO, Stevie Wonder. Finding the song he wants bolsters reading skills, and he sings and dances his heart out for us. Wins all around. Anna r.
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