Our best parenting hacks and more importantly, how to hack your perspective so that you can come up with hacks on your own!
Reduce, Reuse and Recycle – the 3Rs
We’re not diehard environmentalists but we DO acknowledge the very important need to protect the environment, conserve limited resources, reduce waste and repurpose things for a new purpose.
As parents (with limited incomes), we definitely find this to be a critical concept to teach our children, so that they grow up knowing how to use resources responsibly; and refrain from creating or causing unnecessary waste.
It wasn’t an overnight epiphany on our part – it took a commitment to decide, before I throw, I’m going to take a second look and think. What can this do? How can I use it differently?
That’s exactly how we stumbled upon the idea to repurpose food-grade breast milk bags as convenient soup storage pouches.
Examples of how you can reuse baby things you no longer need include –
- Re-purposing milk bottles / containers for holding water during paint sessions
- Reusing milk containers as convenient snack tupperwares (I also use them to make overnight oats or chia seed pudding!)
- Letting your baby role play with his or her toys using old clothes, bibs etc – it’s great for fine motor skills!
- Recycling old worksheets to do art projects such as paper mâché, collages or therapeutic sensory activities.
We also like to keep items such as toilet rolls and shoeboxes for some fun activities – think cellophane binoculars, a toy garage link this https://thatkidscraftsite.com/toy-car-garage-2/, colour sorting activities, traffic lights or build a mini city! Things don’t have to be picture perfect or long lasting (your kids will grow tired of them really fast anyway). What matters is sparking your child’s imagination, stretching their ability for abstract thinking, creativity and application of their observation skills of the world around them.
Into the Unknown!
Encourage your children not to be afraid of the unknown; and as parents, we too should strive to not dampen their innate curiosity. We’re not going to be as extreme as Jennifer Garner’s YES DAY, which was inspired by Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s children’s book, Yes Day!, but exploring activities that aren’t necessarily orchestrated or allowing your children to go off topic, can be an enjoyable experience for the whole family.
This also stimulates your child’s curiosity, their penchant for adventure, sensory skills, observation skills and cognitive composite skills (the ability to understand and process something as a whole), which is particularly important for children under the age of 6.
Examples of such activities include
- Mystery box (cut a hole in a box and put a mystery object inside – the child has to feel and guess!)
- Outdoor explorations
- Treasure Hunt!
For younger kids, give a clue or two verbally and let them explore the house to find something that fits that description. For older kids, parents can write down multiple clues with riddles or short descriptions on post-its and stick them on various items around the house.
Pulling Double Duty
Learning need not be confined to sitting at the table and drilling through countless assessment books, especially for younger pre-school children. Make your toys do double duty by repurposing them.
Using toys also appeals particularly to children who are kinesthetic learners or visual learners, as these two categories of learners benefit best by experiencing or seeing things.
Examples of how we have used toys ourselves include:
- Sorting – colour, texture shape, size
- Phonics – blending sounds by using cut up sticky notes on lego, or any toys that stack together
- Chinese characters – similar to phonics, with emphasis on radicals
- Number Bonds – using blocks or marbles and moving them around to form sets of 10
- Fractions – using lego blocks (again!) to divide, multiply and illustrate the idea of equal X pieces of a whole
Do you know what kind of learner your child is?
Understanding what kind of learner your child is will enable you to strategise their play time. Depending on their preferred learning style, most kids will be able to independently play for longer periods for specific types of activities, giving you a longer breathing time to get some work done.
For example, kinesthetic learners who naturally learn best through hands-on activities and experiences will love these activities:-
- Washi Tape Maze
- Ride-on toys or any toys that can move
Visual learners will love:-
- Jigsaw puzzles
- Maze activities and matching games
- Liquid motion / liquid density towers / lava lamps
Read / Write learners will love:-
- Activity books - use a plastic folder and washable markers to keep your books pristine for the next child!
- Drawing, painting, colouring, tracing stencils
Auditory learners will love:-
- Music, song and dance
- Rhyming games, nursery rhymes
- Recording their own voice and listening to it
Of course, parents should also strive to expose their children to a huge range of experiences, so do encourage your child to do other activities, but they may require your supervision or help to stay focused. Children may also fit into more than one type of learner, so if your child is a visual and kinesthetic learner, asking them to play dress up would be something they would love! Similarly, a child who is a read / write and auditory learner would be obsessed with a reading pen (a pen that can scan and read characters from books).
Intense physical activity
Our last, best and guaranteed(!) parenting hack, is intense physical activity. Portion out a part of the morning for sand play, water play, outdoor play or swimming and tire your kids out.
However, understanding your kids is a critical part to making this mission a success. Know what their limits are - how long do they need to play to feel satisfied? How long before they start to get cranky? What time do we have to get out of the house, play then have enough time for a bath and lunch?
As parents ourselves, we highly recommend planning the day before:-
- task your kids with packing the day before (but do not reveal the destination in case last minute changes have to be made due to weather changes etc). We talk about teaching your kid to prep their own “go” bags here!
- encouraging them to prepare early. Eat well for energy! Go to bed early so we can leave the house earlier!
- make reservations at the restaurant or food place, because desperately hungry and tired children are absolutely no fun if they have to wait too long for food, or have to detour to someplace else.
- be ready to have them nap outside - that means packing your laptop and work stuff to work on the go, if that happens.
Stay tuned for Parenting Hacks Part II, where we talk about teaching your child to be in charge of their own time, following their train of thought to encourage more independent play, allowing them to plan and take ownership, helping them understand boundaries - mommy’s “work” mode vs mommy’s “play” mode and readjusting your mindset to work from home, as productively as possible.