Dads of Park Slope Parents Present: Dad Hacks 101

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The savvy dads of Park Slope Parents have compiled an encyclopedia of creative tips to help your day-to-day life run a little smoother. From breakfast to naptime to bathtime and back again, these hacks will have you feeling like a seasoned pro at this whole parenting thing!

 

Want to chat with fellow Brooklyn dads and share your own awesome hacks? Join Park Slope Parents HERE; and if you’re already a member, click HERE to get signed up for the Dads Group!

 

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PSP may receive small amounts of compensation for purchases made through affiliate links in this post. We are a community-supported site, and we include these products because they've received positive reviews from our members.

 

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Out and About Hacks

The Go Bag Hack

The Wipes Hack

The Travel Crib Hack

The Diaper Hack

The Coat Check Hack

The Plane Hacks

The iPad Hack

At-Home Hacks

The Mirror Hack

The Lego Shovel Hack

The Diaper Hack

The Bath Hack

The Product Hacks

The Baby-Proofing Hacks

The White Noise Hack

The Crib Hack

The Learning Tower Hack

Cooking Hacks

The Boiled Egg Hack

The Mac and Cheese Hack

The Pancake Hack

The Waffle Hacks

The Oatmeal Hack

The Milk Heating Hacks

The Babyccino Hack

Learning and Behavior Hacks

The Potty Training Hack

The Attention Span Hack

The Time-Out Hack

The Sign Language Hack

The Choices Hack

The Job Hack

The FOMO Hack

The Tantrum Hack

The Toothbrush Hacks

Clothing Hacks

The Nap Pants Hack

The Wet Boots Hack

The T-Shirt Hack

The Morning Routine Hack

Fun Stuff Hacks

The Mountain Hack

The Balloon Hack

The Interview Hack

The Shaving Hack

The Broken Book Hack

The Busy Board Hack

The High Chair Hack

The Messy Hack

The Atlantic Avenue Hack

The Broken Robot Hack

 

Out and About Hacks

 

The Go Bag Hack

“An obvious hack is to have a go bag ready with the basics for going out. We switch up the contents with the change of weather, swapping swimsuit and sandals in summer to scarves, hats and gloves in the winter.”

 

The Wipes Hack

“BRING EXTRA WIPES ON ROAD TRIPS - not only for diapering...use them to wipe down rental cars, clean up puke (sure, it's safer for your toddler to ride rear facing, but that doesn't mean they'll enjoy it).”

 

The Travel Crib Hack

“Travel cribs > old-school pack & plays. They're lighter and smaller for hotel rooms.”

 

The Diaper Hack

“Size-up on your usual diaper size to prevent blowouts on longer car rides, hot days, and birthdays/holidays (cake/sweets/etc)”

 

The Coat Check Hack

“Bring a large tote bag to museums to hold all coats after stroller age to skip coat check.”

 

The Plane Hacks

“Travel Hack, for infants/littler kids. If you are traveling with a car seat, and checking it; that bag is free and if you get the bigger rolly carry bags, there is a TON of empty space to stuff whatever in. It really worked well for us in winter, stuffing heavy coats in there at checkin counter so didn't have to deal with carrying them in terminal or on the plane.”

 

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“Emirates: if you have to fly with kids, these guys have always made it more bearable for me.”

 

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“We just got back from California with our 9 month old and found that a tag team approach to boarding worked best for us. 

I boarded with the pre-boarding group with all the stuff (gate checked the stroller, and we already checked the car seat at bag drop) and got overhead space for a couple of carryons, and my wife was the last to board with just W. This way W. didn’t get as bored and fussy before the plane took off. 

On our way to CA we all boarded at once... and it took 1h 20min for takeoff after seating and W. was noooot happy to sit in our laps that long. Boarding separately definitely worked better as it saves 20-30 minutes of seat lap time.

This is especially important if you don’t get seats together initially, eg our return flight last night we had two window seats. I was onboard and working with flight attendant to get seats together for 20 or so minutes before W. came onboard (it all worked out!).”

 

The iPad Hack

“They make iPad holders that fit on car headrests. Instant BYO TV for long trips.”

 

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At-Home Hacks

 

The Mirror Hack

“Not sure if this is a dad hack, specifically, but I cannot recommend enough getting one of those flexible mylar mirrors. I waited too long to do it, as my son is 3 1/2 now. But he gets so much fun out of it, making faces etc. And it has proved to be incredibly valuable, when it’s time for him to brush his teeth.

The mylar mirrors' main benefits IMHO are indestructibility and portability, but the funhouse-mirror effects come as a much-appreciated bonus.”

 

The Lego Shovel Hack

“This is a shovel made from a diaper box. It’s for cleaning up legos when I can’t get my 2.5 year old to do it (often). Makes the job significantly faster.”

 

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The Diaper Hack

“He’s been fighting diaper changes recently but having a dedicated play diaper heads off 50% of those.”

 

The Bath Hack

“From my mother - comb hair before bathing children with long hair. Fewer tangles and fewer tears.”

 

The Product Hacks

“Super useful products: stick on toilet seat locks, bath spout soft cover in an animal shape, snack cup with a soft cover that prevents spills but which he can reach into.”

 

The Baby-Proofing Hacks

“Off the top of my head, I’ve:

 1) used big baskets with toys/blankets and also his chair (a favorite on it's own) to block outlets we use (and can't just plug up). same story to block a floor lamp he loves. really worked to keep him away it, at least for now.

 2) this may be more obvious, but worked well. Used plastic wire conduit to cover the cable for the camera we use in his room at night. we don't have a shelf so this wire was exposed. Used something similar to this, picked up at one of the local hardware stores for cheap.

 3) he loves playing with doors. this might be the best $20 (we have 2) we've spent as parents.

 4) the rubbery mat you use in the bathtub so they don't slip? put it over the stopped up drain so they don't pull that plug. (ok, fine that was a momhack)

 5) all low cabinets in the kitchen child proofed save two which have the Tupperware and his plastic bottles and such. so he'll keep himself entertained in there for a bit and I know he's safe.

 6) If it's available to you, we use one room (my office) as kind of storage for more unsafe things and then just lock that door so he can't get in at all.”

 

The White Noise Hack

“Newborn dadvice. Babies love vacuums. Got this tip from Harvey Karp's Happiest Baby on the block. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=azGKRF5r-EM The first time we turned it on we were skeptical but he immediately stopped crying, and looked up into the air like he heard angels singing. YMMV.”

 

The Crib Hack

“The only thing I can really contribute concerns my 15-month-old daughter’s crib. Sleeping has continued to be a challenge with her so I needed to get creative with how my wife and I manage the getting-to-sleep routine—especially now that we had to lower her mattress to its lowest level. This solution really depends on the design of your crib/bed, but the Stokke Sleepi was perfect. You can see in the attached pictures how I separated the middle panel, but instead of leaving it off as you would for a proper toddler bed I attached some hinges and simple bolt locks. This way we can give her and us easy access to her bed while making sure she’s safe overnight. Hope this is helpful to anyone with a Stokke, or helps inspire some creative solutions for other cribs!”

 

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The Learning Tower Hack

“One thing that I think has been really great to have is a learning tower. I didn't know what one was until a friend asked me if we were thinking of getting one - for the uninitiated. a learning tower is just something that your kid can climb up to be up at counter height. It makes cooking or crafting at the counter much easier for kids. Also, cleanup at the kitchen sink (which always turns in to very wet playtime). Mine loves dragging his around to climb and see what I'm cooking or help out in the kitchen when he can.

Many commercially made learning towers are expensive and too bulky for New York sized apartments. A cheaper, more compact alternative is the popular Ikea Hackers version, which uses the Bekvam step stool ($25) as a base. You attach some wood on top of that to make the safety frame, and voila; learning tower for just about $35 and it can tuck under a kitchen counter or stand unobtrusively to the side.

So far I've built four of these for friends and family. My Design is a little different - I use dowels for all of the horizontal beams, and 1"x2" for the vertical beams. Also, I include another beam in the back (stair side) for when the kid is really little and might slip out. - you're just placing the kid in it before they can climb in on their own. You then remove the back dowels as they grow and gain motor skills. I made ours so that it just fits under the counter, and I recommend getting some felt pads for the feet so it doesn't scratch up the floor when your kid drags it around.

These are great to have starting at around age 1 (depending on how your kid is standing/walking/climbing) and my son still uses his at age 4.5, though honestly he could probably just use a step stool at this point. When kids get a little bigger (maybe around 3-4) the center of gravity will be higher and you have to watch out for kids tipping to the side if they reach too far. Always under supervision, in other words.

They're pretty easy to make, especially if you get your wood pre-cut (I think Tarzian will do that, but you'll pay per cut). Here are the plans.”

 

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Cooking Hacks

 

The Boiled Egg Hack

“I take the breakfast shift on daycare days, so I'm finding it incredibly handy to softboil 6-8 eggs (they'll keep in the fridge for a week) so I can just grab a couple out of the fridge at breakfast time. (Best "recipe" I've found so far: bring a pot of water to a boil, gently put the eggs in, boil for seven minutes and remove to an ice bath.)”

 

The Mac and Cheese Hack

“Boil water in an electric kettle for faster mac and cheese or pasta; transfer to saucepan when boiling. Also: preheat the pot on the stove while the kettle boils.”

 

The Pancake Hack

“When our son first got to be about 2, I started making pancakes a LOT. The problem was that he was only eating one or two pancakes at a time. I figured out that I could make a small batch of batter using about a cup to a cup and a half of flour, and keep it in the fridge. But to make it even more convenient, I bought some plastic condiment bottles of the sort used in many restaurants. They fit a batch of batter perfectly, and it lasts three or four days in the fridge. Bonus; they make it easy to make silver dollar pancakes or different shaped pancakes. My best were frogs and firetrucks, but shown below is the pancake breakfast I made for my son's second birthday. Those are supposed to be balloons. :D”

 

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The Waffle Hacks

“Dad hack for dads with skinny kids: get a waffle iron. Kids love waffles. Then you put all kinds of weird things in the waffles (popcorn, chunks of fruit, skittles, whatever) and also bulk up the waffle mix with some egg and whole milk. Boom! 

PS The one I got is crazy spendy, but it was given to me as a gift (dadhack #2 -- get your mother in law to buy you a waffle iron). Its surface must be made from spare tiles from a SpaceX rocket because NOTHING sticks to it. Also, it makes a crispy waffle in like 90 seconds when set on high. Powered by nuclear ninjas? Maybe.” 

 

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“Easy healthy waffles that we make a lot here and both kids (1Y and 3 1/2Y) loves to eat for breakfast, lunch or just a snack..... and only sometimes adding maple syrup.

When we make oatmeal we always make extra (the simple recipe here is 4 cups of quick oats and 8 cups of water plus some salt). 

If about half or less is left, mix that with 2 eggs, 1-2 grated apples, 1/2 cup ish of regular flour, 2 tablespoons or more of cinnamon, 1 teaspoon baking powder and some milk. Maybe some vanilla sugar to make it a little sweet. 

We put it in a cheap 15$ non-stick waffle iron from Target and leave it in about 4-5 minutes (do not look after 2 minutes). This is without adding butter or any other kind of grease.”

 

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“I would add to the waffle hackers - when I make waffles, which is usually on the weekend, I make a big batch with enough for plenty of leftovers, which I store in the freezer. 20 seconds in the microwave and then pop in the toaster, and it's a quick weekday breakfast for the tot.”

 

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“Re: Waffle/Pancake hacks. I drop an individual packet or two of instant oatmeal (maple brown sugar, apple cinnamon, etc) into regular pancake batter to spice it up, and it cooks enough in regular pancake time.”

 

The Oatmeal Hack

“Cheap, healthy, hearty breakfast for the family- I often make a large tub of steel cut oatmeal with 1/2 water 1/2 whole milk early in the week. Easy and fast to reheat portions as needed during the week”

 

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The Milk Heating Hacks

“Much easier to re-heat frozen breastmilk with hot water while it is STILL IN THE BAG rather than in a thick(er) plastic bottle.”

 

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“I was at Ikea and had to warm up a bottle for the little one. Usually when I'm out and about, I run the bottle under hot water from a public restroom faucet for a bit, or ask a cafe for a cup of hot water to let the bottle sit in.  Ikea's bathroom sinks are motion censored (ie no hot/cold handles) and it sprays out a low pressure, cold water. My baby is pretty sensitive to milk temperatures, so I had to figure something out-- and fast. I looked over at the hand driers and, low and behold, a few minutes under the hot air flow brought the milk up to a nice warm temperature. She killed that bottle real quick.”

 

The Babyccino Hack

“Babyccino - my daughter will do anything for a babyccino (just steam some milk if you have an espresso machine at home).”

 

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Learning and Behavior Hacks

 

The Potty Training Hack

“We were able to potty train our then 2-1/2yr old boy last summer (luckily before #2 was born in Nov). We were camping in August and during a hike, #1 said he had to go #1, so I took the opportunity to introduce the joys of peeing in the woods! He was not having it and said he can only go on the potty (while dancing all around in some distress, we were also fully into underwear and no diaper bag). We found a stick and drew a circle in the dirt and told him it was a potty. For some reason that worked and he watered the forest. We used it again at a remote beach, same scenario, but drew the ‘potty’ in the sand. It worked again.”

 

The Attention Span Hack

“My most recent hack, as the father of a toddler, is more about adapting my own thinking/behavior than trying to change hers. I've come to realize I should just use her fairly short attention span to avoid getting into battles with her when I want her to do something or not do something. 

For example: I'm trying to get her out the door to day care, she suddenly wants to color (a variation of which plays out daily). Or I want her to do anything else in the world except watch the iPad, and she wants to watch one of her PBS shows on the iPad (a variation of which plays out pretty much anytime she's awake). 

I've realized it's far easier to let her happily color for the minute or two that she's really focused on wanting to, rather than to get into a battle of the wills that will last far more than two minutes and leave no one happy. By the time I'm done letting her color (or whatever) in peace and getting myself ready to get out the door, she's content and far easier to get going. Or I'll let her watch the iPad, but fairly soon she's doing other activities instead, or while partially watching.

Letting her get her way for a few minutes when it's a non-critical thing, and then letting her naturally be ready to move on, has been much easier (and far more pleasant) than the far longer fight that otherwise ensues.”

 

The Time-Out Hack

“On a more serious note, around the age of three we started having some discipline problems that I was unprepared for. We tried the ‘hard’ time out and it didn't fit with my parenting style. Eventually we moved to a ‘soft’ time out (i.e ‘you can stay in your room until you're ready to apologize’) but that doesn't work for all circumstances, especially when we're out of the house. So instead of giving my son time out, it's the toys that get a time out -- whatever the favorite toy of the day is, or whatever is causing the problems, that's what gets removed from play. It might be for an hour or it might be for a day. I call this technique the ‘one more time and the bear gets it’ move. It has proven remarkably effective. But since no parenting hack works forever, we'll see how long this technique works.”

 

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The Sign Language Hack

“Before he could talk, we taught him how to ‘say’ things like ‘milk,’ ‘more,’ and ‘bunny’ in sign language.  You might feel more like an animal trainer than a parent, but it's worth it.  For the kid, asking for and getting what you want = less frustration = way fewer tantrums.”

 

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“Another plus one on the simple sign language. In addition to milk, more, done we incorporated please and thank you. It really got them in the habit of being polite.”

 

The Choices Hack

“The best piece of advice anyone ever gave me is kind of a variation on Michael's: whenever possible, give them a choice, even if it seems meaningless to you, especially when one of the options is bad. ‘What do you want to do first, take a bath or brush your teeth?’ ‘Do you want to go home/to bed/to the dentist now or in five minutes?’ For my kid at least, having some say made the bad option less bad.”

 

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“‘Do you want to put on your shirt (etc.) by yourself, or do want me to do it for you?’

Watch them get independent, real fast.”

 

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“As a corollary, when you need your kid to actually make a decision give them three options: A, B, or mom/dad decides for you.  E.g:

‘do you want to wear the blue shirt or the red shirt or do you want dad to choose?’ It breaks indecision locks and defuses stalling/protest gambits all in one slick move.”

 

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“Yes to 3 choices; also planting the obvious choice among two fillers to make it easy to pick.”

 

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“Also agree with giving them a choice, but we usually make the choice about an accessory: It's time to go to bed, which blanket do you want to use, the green monkeys or the orange elephants?  Still works like a charm on our young paduans, who much to learn they still have.”

 

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“Pro-active teaching is also super important. We all love being successful, kids too.  Giving them the steps to be successful ahead of time provide them a sense of accomplishment and competence from following simple routines. I spent a lot of time chatting with my son about the steps to accepting no for answer. 1. look me in the eye. 2. say ok dad. Then I give him a choice, accept no for answer or choose a negative consequence (e.g. leave playground early).  He can actually feel good about not getting his way.”

 

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“I was reminded today of another good way of giving options, the false choice, where either answer leads to the same desired result. For example, instead of asking ‘do you want to go potty now or later?’ you can phrase it as, ‘do you want to bring your truck to the potty or leave it here?’

I mean, who cares if he brings the truck, just get on the damn toilet!”

 

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“Variation on the choice; the weighted choice. Or the daily marshmallow test. “Watch five more minutes of a show, then get dressed, or get dressed then watch 10 more minutes.” Works well for getting things done more quickly.”

 

The Job Hack

“Kids love having a job to do, especially if it makes them feel grown up and important. Our 3 yo son loves putting the silverware away, carrying the mail inside, feeding the cats, getting ingredients out of the fridge/pantry while cooking…”

 

The FOMO Hack

“I use the choice thing all the time. Sometimes I need to remind myself to do it because it's not obvious that there is a choice in every situation, but it does work even if the choice is artificial. 

Another technique that I use is Fear of Missing Out. When trying to get my son to motivate I would often say something like ‘We've got to go now, or we'll miss it.’ What are we missing? Who knows. Could be the start time of a puppet show or it could be the entirety of Coney Island. At 3-4 years old he's got very little concept of time and would often just go along with it ‘Let's go dad, I don't want to miss it!’ It worked better when he was younger. Now that he's older, he wants to know what specifically we're missing and how long we've got. But it still works to a certain degree.”

 

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“Ha, very similar to FOMO pressure, we find ourselves using (fake) peer pressure all the time, even though we joke that soon enough that's the exact opposite of what we'll be wanting her to follow. ‘Harper is brushing her teeth now!’ ‘Lorelie is eating dinner!’ ‘Fenn is getting ready for bed now, too!’ ‘Amelia is going home now since it's getting dark.’ ‘Cora is wearing her mittens!’

At least when that backfires on us and becomes ‘But Jo smokes cigarettes!’ ‘Sarah's parents are letting her go!’ ‘Courtney says drinking at 13 is cool!’ we will know exactly who to blame.”

 

The Tantrum Hack

“With regards to avoiding tantrums, I agree that giving a choice of two options works really well. I'll have to try 3.

Once a tantrum starts two things that have worked with some success are to wait a minute so that he goes from anger to crying and then offer him a hug; that's usually what he needs at that point and it will calm him quickly. Another is distraction, especially talking about something fun or new and mysterious in his world. 

One thing that's counter-productive is raising your voice or getting angry which just escalates the situation. Of course, easier said than done…”

 

The Toothbrush Hacks

“Speaking of toothbrushing. We got M. started with an oral-b electric early on. He'd watch us in the shower and it looked like he wanted one. So he brushed his own teeth and already is in the habit. Plus it's great for teething!”

 

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Elmo’s Brushy Brush song is a big hit for teeth brushing and the video has some unexpected cameos. We’re at the point where just me singing it makes my 18 month old dance and start brushing movements. It sounds best with bass.”

 

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Clothing Hacks

 

The Nap Pants Hack

“I couldn’t get my now 2 year old son to nap. I recognized the vale of routine for the night ritual. This was as we were transitioning to the noon nap. So, I added the addition of changing him out of his day pants and putting him into “nap pants” (any sweat pants will do) along with the diaper change. He now naps like a champ.”

 

The Wet Boots Hack

“Shove crumpled newspaper in your kids' wet boots. Dries them right out!

(Tip: Doesn't work with New York Times digital edition.)”

 

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The T-Shirt Hack

“As a dad to a 6 month old, the furthest I have got is a small hack to put on a t-shirt:

1) Curl a t-shirt like a donut and put it on a flat surface.

2) Place the baby on his/her back with their head at the center of the donut t-shirt.

3) Pull the t-shirt over their face, hopefully without a struggle.

My son likes the fabric running across his face quickly and usually starts giggling.”

 

The Morning Routine Hack

“As far as ‘tricks’ go, we've found that our 3.5-year-old is really resisting getting dressed in the A.M., as he gets more independent and excited to bolt out of bed at dawn to invent new vehicles with his Lego blocks. We've found that nabbing him, while he's still a bit sleepy and impressionable (and calm) and redirecting him right into morning potty and dressing, before he gets into any kind of play-rhythm (not to mention breakfast), makes a world of difference.”

 

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Fun Stuff Hacks

 

The Mountain Hack

“Be a mountain. Sit on the floor and put a blanket over you. Kids love to climb. And fall.”

 

The Balloon Hack

“An inflated balloon on a small floor fan pointed upwards will float and dance in the air. Super exciting to 2 yos.”

 

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The Interview Hack

“When your child is between 5 and 8 or thereabout take a hairbrush, pretend it is a microphone and interview them. Start out with basics, name, school, favorite color and so on. Then move onto some personal stuff such as best friend, favorite thing to do, what makes you mad etc. You can find out somethings you didn't know and your kids will be entertained. Then if you are really brave, hand your child the hairbrush and let them ask the questions.”

 

The Shaving Hack

“Shaving - give your spouse 20+ quiet minutes in the morning - a tiny bit of shaving cream to play with kept my daughter endlessly entertained in the bathroom every morning for about a year.”

 

The Broken Book Hack

“Books can be ‘broken’ if you don't want to read the same one for the umpteenth time.”

 

The Busy Board Hack

Busy board. :) about $40 and 45 minutes. Hours of fun!”

 

The High Chair Hack

“High chairs are a great place for early arts and crafts - easy clean up and mom and I are not fighting to keep her focused or in one place.”

 

The Messy Hack

“11 month old here:

IKEA kladdig bib is amazing. It’s like a painter’s smock and lets him really go wild.

Also pasta party in the bathtub. ;)”

 

The Atlantic Avenue Hack

“Atlantic avenue station. Watch trains come and go on all of the different lines. Good for at least a half hour and you're mostly inside.”

 

Last but not least, the Broken Robot Hack

“Play ‘broken robot’ -- you stay in bed and refuse to move, occasionally saying ‘I am a broken robot’ in a ‘robot voice.’ Kids think it is hilarious and you get to remain horizontal for another 25 minutes.”

 

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