Dad hacks. I don’t know if I like the word hacks or not. Maybe “things I have learned over the 20 years of being a dad”. But that doesn’t really roll off the tongue like dad hacks.
But being a dad for so long you have you pick up a few tricks and tools to make raising kids so much easier. And even now I may watch a video or read a Facebook post and think “wow I never knew you could do that”. So I am learning each and every day to be a better father.
Here is a list of dad hacks I have learned over the years, some I have been using for a long time and some I just recently found out about.
My Dad Hacks
Have candy at the ready
Now I don’t like bribery but sometimes you just need to get your kids to cooperate. Just the other day I needed my 5-year-old to pick up her toys in the living room. It was a mess and I wasn’t ready to fight her. Then I remembered she had a few M&Ms left over that she got as a reward from school.
So I told her she could have those M&Ms if she picked up all her toys in 5 minutes. Guess what? She had them all picked up in 3 minutes. Now this only works if you don’t give them candy often. If you give them candy all the time then the bribe most likely would not work.
Make toys disappear
Have you ever noticed that your kids play with toys a whole lot more the week or so after they get them? Then the toy just sits in a toybox and is forgotten. But if you find an old toy they will immediately want it to play with.
Why? Well, it is new to them again.
My dad hack is to occasionally remove older toys that they don’t play with and then reintroduce the toy at a later time. It makes them happy because even though it is an older toy it is now a “new” toy.
Wipes in every bathroom
Most of the time there is a designated adult bathroom and a designated kid’s bathroom. In my house growing up the boys had their bathroom on one end near their bedrooms and mom and dad had their bathroom on the other end.
Well if you have multiple kids the “kids” bathroom might be in use when you need to clean up a potty-training toddler. So keep wipes handy in all bathrooms in case you need to clean up a mess.
You may also want to keep some wipes in the glove box of your car. You never know when you go out and forget a diaper bag or maybe your kid is out of diapers and the bathroom has no toilet paper. Wipes are a lifesaver.
Introduce them to your childhood (aka watch cartoons you love)
Do you get sick and tired of watching Blippi or Bluey every day? Now I love Bluey but at some point watching the same 10 episodes just makes me want to throw the TV away.
Why not introduce them to kid-friendly shows that you loved as a kid. Although not widely considered kid-friendly classics like Tom and Jerry or Bugs Bunny were always a riot to watch. So I introduced my kids to those cartoons and guess what? They love them. So now we get to enjoy those classic cartoons together.
Bring a device for peace and quiet when eating out
This is one I have always struggled with. I don’t like my kids having their face in a device but when they are young your options are limited. You either have to keep them entertained or they want to get up and run around everywhere.
We eat out every Friday night and typically we let the little ones watch something so the older people in the group can carry on a conversation. But once they hit a certain age the devices are banned at the table.
I don’t even consider this a hack but if you are not making your kids take regular naps then you should start immediately.
Why am I so adamant on this?
1. Naps help your kids get through the day without being total jerks. Nothing worse than dealing with a tired toddler at 7 who is ready for bed.
2. Naps are your time. Watch that grown-up show you never get to watch while they sleep, or sit down and enjoy a video game for an hour or two, or better yet TAKE A NAP YOURSELF!
Just be careful here. As they get older those naps can cause the bedtime routine to alter because they don’t need as much sleep. Just balance and work according to how your little one reacts.
Use them as a reason to leave
Have you ever been to an event and immediately regretted it? Maybe you got invited to a gathering by a friend and then they bailed or didn’t show up at all. Well, guess what? You have a great excuse to leave at any given time.
Use them as a reason to not attend in the first place
This is an even better hack. Maybe someone wants to invite you to something but you really just wanted to chill at home and enjoy the evening. Kids will always work as an excuse. Babysitters are expensive anyway.
Give mom days off
Is your wife a super mom? Always running the kids here and there and cooking and cleaning and never seems to stop? Give her a day off. Plan a day to take the kids to the park, fishing or bowling or something to keep them busy, and tell your wife to do nothing.
No laundry, no cleaning, no anything. Just sit back and relax while you take the kids and keep them entertained for the day.
Keep them busy outside while you get things done
One of the biggest challenges I have is trying to get things done around the outside of my house without having to worry about my kids wandering off or getting into trouble. So why not give them something to do that will keep them busy but also be fun.
- Kids car wash – give them some sponges and a bucket of water and let them “wash” the car
- Hammer time – Find some scrap wood and some cheap hammers and let them “fix” some wood
- Paint – Scrap wood, an old brush, and some cheap paint can keep them busy for a while. Just make sure they have old clothes on.
- Clean windows – A squeegee or rag and a bucket of water. Let them “clean” windows
- Mowing – let them push around a push mower (that isn’t running of course) and “mow” the grass
- Shovel – Let them dig some holes.
- Gloves – Have them pull weeds. This one can actually help you as long as you don’t mind a few real flowers getting pulled.
Use a baby carrier (while painting or vacuuming or other things)
If you need to vacuum or maybe do some other things around the house but have a little one that won’t sit in a bouncer or crib, use a baby carrier. They are meant to carry a baby while walking but that doesn’t mean you can’t do other things while holding your baby tight.
Apply sunscreen while they are still in the car seat
Sunscreen is the worst to try to get on little kids. The spray stuff gets everywhere and they never close their mouth and eyes right. So using the lotion sunscreen is always the best choice. If they squirm a lot put it on them while they are still strapped into their car seat.
Clip Nails While They Are Asleep
When it comes to trimming your little one’s nails, sometimes the best approach is to catch them during their peaceful slumber. This way, you can avoid the squirms and protests that often accompany nail-clipping sessions. Softly trim their nails with minimal disturbance, ensuring both their safety and your sanity.
Give Them Options
Offering choices empowers your children and helps avoid unnecessary battles. Whether it’s about what they wear, what they eat, or which activity to do, providing options gives them a sense of control. It fosters decision-making skills and reduces resistance, making your daily routines smoother.
Set a Timer to Share
Sibling rivalry is a common challenge, but setting a timer for shared activities can be a game-changer. Whether it’s screen time, toys, or any coveted item, a timer helps establish fair turns, teaching patience and cooperation.
I don’t know how many times I had to hear kids fighting over a toy and then I told them I would set a timer and things got really quiet. But they always remember that I set that timer, so don’t fake it.
Make Picking Up Toys Fun
Tackling the cleanup routine can be transformed into an enjoyable game. Set a timer for a quick cleanup challenge, use a grabber tool for added excitement, or turn it into a race. Making the task fun not only teaches responsibility but also turns mundane chores into playful activities.
Managing screen time for kids can be a delicate task. Utilize parental controls and filters on apps like Snapchat and Messenger to ensure age-appropriate content. This way, you can grant them a bit of freedom while maintaining a safe digital environment tailored to their age and interests.
Make a Pillow/Blanket Fort
Transforming the living room into a cozy pillow or blanket fort is a fantastic way to engage with your kids creatively. It encourages imagination, teamwork, and quality bonding time. Plus, it provides a designated space for play, keeping the mess confined to their imaginative haven.
Email for Your Kids
Create a personalized email account for your child and send them emails over the years. Share anecdotes, photos, and words of wisdom. When they’re old enough, share the account details with them. It becomes a touching and tangible way to capture and share memories, creating a digital time capsule.
Get a Trundle Bed or Mattress on the Floor
Transitioning to a big-kid bed can be challenging. Ease the process by starting with a trundle bed or a mattress on the floor. It minimizes the risk of falls and provides a gradual shift from the confines of a crib, ensuring a smoother bedtime transition.
And it gives you something comfortable to lay on when someone gets scared or can’t go to sleep very quickly. There is no reason to not catch a few ZZZs because your youngest had a nightmare. Lay down next to them to give both you and them comfort.
Cultivate your child’s artistic flair by creating a designated drawing box filled with big box crayons and paper. The larger crayons are easy for little hands to grip, and the freedom to go wild on paper encourages creativity without the worry of making a mess. It’s a win-win for both artistic expression and easy cleanup.
Alright, fellow adventurers in the journey of fatherhood, here’s the bottom line – being a dad is like navigating an epic quest, and sometimes, you just need the right hacks to level up your game. From stealthy nail-clipping maneuvers during naptime to turning cleanup into a race against the clock, these dad hacks are like secret weapons in your parenting arsenal.
Remember, giving your kids choices isn’t just about what’s for dinner; it’s about empowering them on this wild ride of growing up. And if you’re looking for a bedtime solution, consider starting with a trundle bed or a mattress on the floor – because conquering the transition from crib to big-kid bed is a victory worth celebrating.
So, my fellow dads-in-training, embrace the chaos, get creative with pillow forts, take naps, and don’t forget to use that baby carrier to get things done. Oh, and if you’re feeling nostalgic, start an email chain with your little ones – trust me, the future you will thank the past you for those digital time capsules.
Parenting is a grand expedition, full of surprises and plot twists, but armed with these dad hacks, you’re ready for whatever challenges the next chapter brings. May your days be filled with laughter, your forts be epic, and your email exchanges with your kids be cherished relics of the extraordinary adventure that is being a dad.