Summer Life Hacks for Parents

Whenever I read a life hacks list, I always think, “Why didn’t I think of that?!” Or, if it’s something I actually have thought of doing, but haven’t, I find myself thinking, “Why can I never remember to do that?!”

The reason is that we are parents. We are busy. We keep our brains completely stuffed with information that is relevant at the very moment we’re living. Our minds fire on overdrive most of the time, but harnessing that creative juice is harder than it sounds. We have moments of genius and then they pass.

This list is a compilation of some of the amazing hacks that parents have come up with, and hopefully it will inspire you to remember some of those awesome ideas you have developed yourself as you have navigated parenthood. I encourage you to share them –  it’s nice for us as parents to rely on our collective cleverness.

Fruits and Veggie Popsicles
Kids will eat most anything if it’s frozen and on a stick. Put it to the test: buy a popsicle mold set and experiment with all forms of fruits and veggies. Anything you’d make a smoothie out of can be frozen. Some of my family’s favorites: puree of steamed carrots, mango, and yogurt (tastes like a creamsicle), or a puree of steamed cauliflower and banana with a little honey and cocoa powder (tastes like a chocolate covered banana.)

Create an “Outdoor Stuff” Bin
Half our time outside feels like it’s spent running inside to get things we need. So this summer, I bought an outdoor weatherproof container to put all the outdoor necessities in, and we keep it right by the playset. Inside we keep bug spray, sunscreen, sun hats, bubbles, chalk, picnic blankets, a cloth to wipe off the swings, trash bags for snack wrappers, etc. Not only does it reduce the running back and forth, but we don’t have to junk up our mudroom with things we only use outside.

Household Bug Repellent
A few drops of vanilla extract diluted in a spray bottle of water is a great alternative to bug spray – it smells awesome and keeps the bugs away. Or, grab a dryer sheet from the laundry room and stick it in your kid’s back pocket and the bugs will keep their distance, no spray required.

Hide Valuables in a Diaper
This is one of those hacks that I ALWAYS smack myself for not remembering. Even if you don’t have kids in diapers, this idea makes it worth buying a pack. Stick your wallet/cell phone/glasses in a clean diaper bag and seal it up when you’re at a concert or the beach. No one is going to take a chance poking around in there.

Cinnamon in the Sandbox
If anyone else’s toddler is as squirmy around  insects as mine, this one is for you. Sprinkle ground cinnamon in the sandbox before they head out to play, and the box will be free of bugs (and smell delicious.)

Outdoor Shade Fort
Throw some toys, books, and your kid into an outdoor pack and play, and snap a fitted crib sheet over the top for shade. Sure, this is great for a baby, but toddlers love it too. It’s like their own little fresh-air fort.

Attach a Hammock to the Backyard Playset
Everyone wants a hammock in the summertime, but one of the biggest obstacles is where to put it. If you’re lacking two trees perfectly located in your yard, clip off the swings on your playset and use the structure as the perfect support for a hammock to lounge in.

Soda Bottle Sprinkler
Make a homemade sprinkler by attaching your hose to a 2 liter soda bottle with lots of duct tape. Poke holes or slits as you’d like and turn on the hose to watch the water spray out. (Even if it’s not the most effective sprinkler, it’s a fun project for a hot summer day.)

Individual S’Mores Portions
Has anyone ever gotten through an entire bag of marshmallows in one campfire night? Or even in one summer, for that matter? Instead of letting half the bag shrivel up in your cupboard, take some small plastic bags and in each one put 2 marshmallows, 2 squares of graham cracker, and a portion of chocolate. Toss them (carefully) in the freezer, and pull them out as needed all summer long.