50 Brilliant ‘Child Hacks’ For Babysitters, Parents, Teachers, And Nurses
1. If a child is having a meltdown, ask what color their shoes/shirts/pants/whatever clothing their wearing are. This distracts the child long enough to stop them in the midst of their meltdown because they haven’t thought about what they’re wearing.
2. To get a newborn to burp: Sit them on your knee, holding them under their armpits, and move their upper bodies in a circle several times. Like a reverse hula move I guess. I learned it from a neonatal nurse, and it’s almost infallible. So much faster and more reliable than regular burping.
3. If you want to enjoy some time undisturbed tell your kids that you’re taking a nap and when you wake up all of you are going to do chores together. They’ll want to let you sleep as long as possible to avoid doing housework, so they’ll leave you alone to actually nap or do other things like read.
4. Be mindful of how you phrase questions. Example: Instead of “Do you want a hotdog for supper?” ask “What do you want on your hotdog?”
If your kid’s a dick, it won’t matter. But it will help in most situations.
5. When your kid sees something they want like a toy or game and you can’t/don’t want to buy it tell them to “put it on the list.”
If they’re the type of kid that will follow through then you have a handy list for Christmas or birthdays. If not, then they’ll forget about it.
Helps avoid arguments in the store because you aren’t really saying no.
6. If you have a hard time getting them to eat their vegetables give them before the dinner because that’s when they are hungry and will eat almost anything, give them some carrots and cucumbers in a glass which is a great snack.
7. When mine were younger, say, three or four, and it was close to time to stop playing at the park or in the pool, I always gave them plenty of warning using a concrete timeline that they could understand. Instead of saying “we’re leaving soon” or “five more minutes,” I would tell them something like “ok, let me see you jump in the pool. Seven more jumps and we’re leaving.” Sometimes the number was higher, but never less than five. Less than five was always met with “come on, just one more!!” Which usually wasn’t allowed. Seven or more was always such a big number that they seemed to get their fill and were ready to go when it was time.
8. I had 3 kids very close in age. At one point I assigned them each a day of the week (they each got two and Sunday was the leftover) Whatever the question was, the answer was whose day is it. Who gets to go first? Who gets to ride in the front? Who has to take their bath first? I saved so many arguments with this.
9. Offer a choice. Do you want to put your shoes on first or brush your hair first? It short circuits their tendency to fight you and makes them feel like they’re making their own decisions, which they are. Make sure the options listed are ones you’re okay with though.
10. Always count down time to prevent surprises, no matter how much of a routine it is (“15 minutes until pajama time!” “10 minutes until brush teeth!” “5 minutes until bed time”) helps ease them into the shit they hate so they don’t get blindsided by it while they’re having fun.
11. If a certain child doesn’t want to wear their jacket while outside, we’ll usually just slip it on backwards and zip it up the back; it’s harder for them to get off, they always think it’s so silly, and they’ll use the hood as an extra pocket (usually for wood chips and dirt lol).
12. Put clear packaging tape over the speaker holes of toys that make noise/play songs – it lets the toy operate with a fraction of its actual volume.
13. Put sunscreen on at home, before you get to the beach/pool/park. They know we’re not going anywhere till it’s on. Saves me from the scramble at the destination because they’re always too excited to hold still and I’m in a rush, so it’s not a thorough job. Sunscreen takes 20 minutes to kick in anyway.
14. Have a baby who turns away as you’re about to wipe their face?
“Wipe” your own face first. The nonverbal communication allows the baby to understand what’s happening. Might not work at first, but keep at it. The child will start to let you wipe.
15. Let your baby watch you fall asleep. If it’s their bedtime, don’t play on your phone or read a book. They are following your lead. So be boring, close your eyes, and be still and quiet, and they will learn to, too.
16. If you threaten a consequence, follow through 100% of the time. Kids will test boundaries at every age, you just have to make it appropriate for their age group.
“If you throw sand again we are leaving the beach.” – you must leave the beach
“If you don’t clean your room no screen time tomorrow.” – no screen time.
The key is to make the consequences not impact you to the point that you don’t want to follow through since it will ruin your day too. A hard line to toe, but boy do boundaries and trust work.
17. Learn to say thank you and I’m sorry to them. It makes you closer and helps your relationship with them no matter what age.
18. You know the Facebook picture going around of the kid in a massive box, coloring with crayons on the walls and floor of the box?
That shit works. Keeps my two year old entertained for hours.
19. When my kids disagree or are arguing I will give them a false dilemma. For example, we are going to dinner and my daughter wants to go to restaurant A and my son wants to go to Restaurant B. We decide to go to Restaurant B but tell my daughter that she gets to pick where everyone sits.
20. Realize that while the problem your child may be having is ultimately meaningless, it could very well be the most painful thing that has ever happened to them.
Your five year old stub their toe and won’t stop crying? That might actually have been the most pain they’ve ever felt and the little throbbing after might make it seem like it’ll never end. They don’t know better, and they won’t know better till they experience it for themselves and only for themselves.
Your teenage daughter just got dumped by her boyfriend or her favorite band broke up? This emotional trauma, however ridiculous, might actually be the worst emotional pain she’s ever felt. She doesn’t know that it’ll fade soon enough and one day she’ll even laugh at how she acted, and there is nothing you can say that will teach her this.
Your children have to learn these things for themselves, simply telling them “You’ll get over it.” IS a true statement, but it will feel like you are dismissing their problems. And if the worst pain they’ve ever felt is something you as their parent will dismiss, then don’t be surprised when they don’t come to you for something serious.
21. When you want them to change bad behavior, tell them stories, sometimes I make up a story, but mostly fables with morals. Afterward a long talk about it. (“My 3 yo -right now in the phase of temper tantrums- loves it so much, sometimes he tells me out of nowhere ‘can we have a long talk?’)
22. Whenever we go to the grocery store instead of listening to my son(4 years old) cry about all of the stuff he can’t have I just tell him he can have one thing and one thing only. So he grabs cookies. Then when we get to the ice cream isle he decides he wants ice cream, then changes to Captain crunch. But every time we go back and put up the last thing he chose.
It teaches him to decide what he really wants instead of wanting everything and whining the whole time.
23. Whenever either of my toddlers was crying or whining in the car, I would point to something invisible out the window and say “hey! do you see that over there?!” By the time they realized they couldn’t figure out what I was pointing at, they’d forgotten the reason they were whining. Amazing how many times that worked.
24. Baby clothes… the little folds on the shoulders open up so you can pull the shirt over the body instead of the head. Comes in very useful when covered in shit.
25. My hack is to never let my kid see the packaging her treats come in. I take stuff out of the wrapper or packet and give it to her in a bowl or plate. That way when we are shopping she doesn’t point and nag for sweets or snack foods because she doesn’t recognize the packaging. Also means I can limit how much she gets in the bowl/plate rather than give her the whole packet.
26. Make “No helmet no wheels” the law with no exceptions from the moment they get their first tricycle. Wear your own helmet when you ride together. Let them pick out cool colors etc. Come down hard the first time you catch him or her without.
This saved my son’s life when he was hit and dragged under a van!
27. When the baby is nursing, fill a hot water bottle and put it in the crib or bassinet. Then if (when) then baby falls asleep at the breast, he or she won’t be shocked awake by being put down on cold sheets.
28. If you have treats, give them to one child to hand out to the others.
Siblings have a lot of negative interactions. There’s jealousy, competition for resources, perceived injustices. You have to create opportunities for them to have positive interactions.
The simplest way of doing this is with treats.
If you’re passing out cookies, give them both to Child 1 and say: “here, this one’s for you and take the other to your sister”. (Obviously you need to be right there to see that they do it, lol.)
There’s nothing nicer than to see a kid saying to another kid: “here, this is for you” and the other kid saying “thanks!” It warms your heart, and they actually really enjoy it, too.
Same goes with gifts, good news etc. “Hey LO, tell your little brother we’re going to the beach tomorrow”— that kind of thing.
They’ll cherish the memories, too.
29. Sleep routines are a LIFESAVER. I don’t know where I saw it, but months before I fell pregnant with my first, I watched an interview where someone talked about how a sleep routine implemented early made all the difference for them. I’d been nannying for years at that point and all my kiddos were terrible sleepers so I figured I would give it a try since I desperately need both sleep and alone time.
Right from birth I’ve done some form of sleep routine in the evening with my kids even if they weren’t going to sleep through the night (bath, lotion, bottle, then adjusted to accommodate stories and changes as they’ve grown) just to let them know it’s nighttime and quiet time, and they’re all phenomenal sleepers. It’s the one area where we’ve never had any major issues. My other parent friends have adopted their own routines after I’ve shared my success and have had great results with it too.
Kids thrive with routine (usually) and letting their little brains gear down and understand that the time for sleep is coming lets them really settle into it. It’s also handy because, if they need to go to bed early or later, they’re usually not phased because the routine means it’s bedtime whenever it happens.
30. For small tasks like getting dressed or if they’re being difficult getting buckled into their car seats I generally try to hype them up and act as excited as when I play games with them, and then clap and cheer when we’re done. It’s silly but effective, and I get a kick out of the one year old yelling “yay! Shoes!” when I get her shoes on.
31. When I was little I used to pick flowers for my mother, but the neighbors hated it because I picked the flowers from their Gardens! My late grandmother then taught me to pick dandelions for my mother, and the problem never came up again.
32. Don’t chew your kids out in front of other people. Pull them aside and talk to them in private. It helps them to trust you and it helps them to save face in front of others. It’s a win-win.
33. Basic sign language. Eat milk water. They can usually learn way early and it solves so much frustration with point and grunt/shriek or whatever.
34. When you go grocery shopping with a small child, park near the cart corral. You don’t have to play the awkward game of choosing to leave your child in the cart or the car when returning the cart.
35. When my oldest (now 5) was a toddler, we started giving him a 5 minute warning for bed because otherwise he would lose his mind. 5 minute warning can be 5 minutes or an hour, but now the kids are way more mentally prepared when we tell them it’s time for bed and it’s a breeze 99% percent of the time.
36. Teach your kids to read VERY EARLY.
Read to them as soon as you bring them home; but really focus at age 2. Start making them read back to you at 3. Make it fun.
When you give a kid the love of reading at an early age, the rest of school is usually a cake walk. They are ahead of the curve in many ways. And, if they love reading, they always have something to do, and if you buy them a book when they are good and make a reward out of it? You don’t need to wait for another Harry Potter to come out to get them to read.
My mother did it with her children, I did it with mine. It works.
37. Starting as soon as they can walk, ask for help for just about everything. And they will help and enjoy being needed. And when they do tasks and ask for help, help them. They will always help if you teach them to do it as a family instead of an individual task. Clean house…yes, please!
38. Bubbles! Seriously magical. For especially long car rides or traffic or just for fun. Keep some bubbles up front (cupholder ideally), turn on the a/c or fan, hold bubble wand up and instant stream of happiness! I’ve found myself doing this alone in cranky traffic jams & open the windows to spread the mirth and glee. Also, have tiny bubble bottles (like wedding favor sized) and easy to share with others in need out and about.
39. Let them be messy sometimes. I’m a neat freak so this was hard for me at first. Doesn’t matter what kind of home you have, just put them in the tub with those bath paints, or tape some trash bags to a kid table or the ground and let them paint. Don’t worry about the mess, they will have fun and it’s building good memories.
40. Best advice we ever got from our doctor – babies don’t have a good circadian rhythm and rely on us to set one for them. Pick a time that you’re going to go to quiet time – basically turn out lights, TV off and/or volume down, do quiet activities, sit still, etc. We did this with our first child and it became the center of our evening routine. Now my son is 3 and knows that when the clock says “7-0-0” it means “settle down time” and helps to turn the lights out. A routine is key — our kids do great transitioning from one setting to another like home and school, on vacation, etc.
I mean, they’re little a-hole toddlers a lot of the time, but that’s expected with toddlers.
41. Lasagne bedding. Waterproof sheet, sheet, waterproof sheet, sheet. No changing wet beds in the night, just pull off top layer and change child!
42. I would turn anything I could into a game if I got the sense they were wanting to be difficult. I babysat 3 kids for a few years and any time they started to get tantrumy about brushing their teeth we’d play a game; I brush the oldest kid’s teeth, the oldest one brushes the middle kids teeth, the middle kid brushes the youngest, and the youngest brushes mine (cause I can touch up the worst job later) By the end of it everyone is laughing and having a good time. Or we make teams and race, me and the youngest vs the two older kids.
43. My wife and I came up with a short unique whistle that both kids knew meant come here to us. Works in malls, water parks or just to come in and clean up for dinner. Fellow parents were amazed by this. Teach them early.
44. If you have a toddler who likes to get naked when they’re supposed to be sleeping you can cut the feet off of footie pajamas and put them on them backwards (with the zipper on their back) and then they won’t be able to get them off.
45. Mother of two teenagers. Don’t just listen but . Ask questions that can’t be answered with a yes or no. Then follow up with a few more questions about the answers given, and before you know it, they are talking to you without trying.
46. If they are cranky, put them in water. I have teenagers, this is still the method that I use. Even having them wash their hands or face does wonders.
To be fair, I do it with my husband too. So really, I guess it’s just works for humans.
47. I told my kid her ears turn red when she tells a lie, now she covers her ears when she lies. She is almost 7 and it still works.
48. The best advice I ever received as a parent… “It’s all about the long game. Work really hard now to mold them into decent and intelligent little people and you can worry less as they turn into more responsible, respectful teens/young adults.” It’s a way to ensure quieter years later.
49. When my kids were little my wife worked at a health club and I would take the kids swimming in the evening. We’d always pack their PJs for their clothes they’d change into after swimming. That way, they got out of the pool, showered, and changed in to pajamas. They didn’t always go to bed right when we got home, but they were always ready for bed when we got home.
It was my wife’s idea.
50. Dennys is where I teach them restaurant etiquette. Zero pressure and light on the wallet.