5 Household Items That Rock My Parenting World – Plus A Bonus Hack

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Image via Flickr/ Donnie Ray Jones

When you become a parent, a whole universe of specialty items opens up before you: Dozens of different kinds of pacifiers, wipe and bottle warmers, swaddling blankets, and varied stroller systems.

Here are a few of my favorite finds that don't require a stroll down the baby aisle.

baby eating
Image via iStock

Table Survival: Tablecloth Clips

For my first three years as a mom, I watched my wood dining table get destroyed, constantly scouring it to remove yogurt, sauces, and ketchup. I wanted to use a tablecloth, but since my daughter has been bestowed the name “Little Miss Wigglebottom,” the tablecloth and anything within reach often ended up on the floor.

My world changed with these tablecloth clips. My table is now protected from both meals and the work of my young artists, and our arguments at dinner are now back to how many bites of vegetables they have to ingest.

solar-system-floor-puzzle
Image via Melissa & Doug

Puzzle Chaos Contained: Resealable Magazine Sleeves

Do your kids melt down when you get to the end of the puzzle and the last three pieces are missing? Yeah, that's never happened at my house either …

We have conquered the puzzles by storing them in resealable magazine sleeves, which you can find in a range of sizes. Once the kids are done with the puzzle, it goes into the sleeve intact – which also means they can admire their handiwork as long as they like, without the puzzle underfoot.

{ MORE: The Best Ideas for Pumpkin Decorating at Any Age }

Make sure to cut the finished image off of the puzzle box. I attach ours to the outside of the sleeve with clear packing tape for reference.

step stool
Image via Amazon

Building Independence: Stools That Fit Your Home

The original foot stool I had for my firstborn was a personalized hand-painted beauty that matched her room decor. Now well into the years of “I do it myself!” with two kids, both cost and storage have become much more important.

I currently have six folding stools in my home:

  • Two in bathrooms
  • Two in bedroom closets
  • One in the kitchen
  • One in the basement by the toy shelves

Accordingly, this one is now my favorite. It's inexpensive, it folds up easily for storage, and it is lightweight when children want to move it around. You can find them in a number of stores and in a range of colors.

My four- and six-year-olds now pick out their clothes in the morning, get their toys off of their shelves, brush their teeth on their own, and my oldest has started rinsing her dishes and loading the dishwasher.

{ MORE: The Free App to Keep Your Early Reader Learning this Summer }

Please note that these stools do not guarantee that your kids will actually spit their toothpaste into the sink.

kids cooking
Image via iStock

Imaginative Play for Hours: Bulk Sets of Restaurant Guest Checks

If your kids like to play school, work, or restaurant, head over to any office supply store for restaurant guest checks. I buy them in packs of ten pads, and they last for ages. They're easy to pack into a carry-on bag for airline travel, too.

My children love to take restaurant orders, write checklists, and use them as tickets to their “shows.”

art dynamic
Image via Flickr/ Improvements Catalog

Art Storage for Busy Parents: Dynamic Frames

A while back, I discovered Dynamic Artwork Frames from Improvements.com. I have one for each child, and they have held up beautifully for several years. The frames open easily to display one picture, but they store up to 50 in total. So, when the kids create a new painting I love, I open the frame and give it the front slot, with the rest of the pictures moving back.

{ MORE: Still Having Separation Anxiety at School? }

This has been helpful for two reasons: First, it helps me limit how many masterpieces I'm keeping. The kids select which are worthy of hanging on the wall. Second, when it's time to make their scrapbooks at the end of the year, the artwork is all in one place inside the frame, ready for the album.

receiving blanket
Image via Flickr/ sewwithjan

Ready for your bonus parenting hack? I just learned about this from a friend and I wish I had known about it sooner. When you are on the go this summer, keep a couple of receiving blankets in the car. When you take your kids out of their car seats, cover the seats with the blankets.

{ MORE: Parent's Guide: How to Work the Car-Rider Line at School }

When you come back to latch your little ones in, you won't have to worry about scorching hot metal buckles!

What are your favorite time and sanity savers?

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5 Household Items That Rock My Parenting World – Plus A Bonus Hack

Tracy Jensen is a writer, marketer, mother, fundraiser, marathoner, and music lover. A working, single mom of two kids ages six and five, she is notorious for doing things the hard way. In addition to writing for EverydayFamily, she survives suburban exile by blogging about life’s foibles at It Builds Character. She can be found at night ignoring the dishes and playing on Twitter. ... More

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