Today on the TODAY Show, our own Kristen, co-publisher, editor, and single mom of four extraordinaire shared some of her best tips for making mornings easier with kids, staying organized, and getting her kids to help out more around the house. I will tell you I get some of my own best tips from Kristen, so I’m thrilled she got to share them with zillions of parents on TV this morning.
(Plus, we’re always so happy when Cool Mom Picks gets to come back to the TODAY show. We love them so much!)
If you’re looking for more info on the tips and products she shared, check them out on the TODAY Show website, or we’ve got all the details right here for you.
Also, be sure to check out the podcast episode of Spawned with Kristen + Liz, in which Kristen shares some of the hilarious things people say to parents of bigger families. (And her hilarious comebacks. No surprise.)
1. Post a morning to-do list for the kids
If kids need reminders to clear their dishes, make their beds, remember to put on matching socks or not wear bathing suits to school…whatever it is, make a checklist. There are a few places to put it.
You can use a chalkboard, a dry erase board, whatever you’ve already got at home. If you have more than one kid, individual notebooks (which may remind older kids of the homework planners they use in school) are a fantastic idea. Each morning they open it to find their list of chores or things to remember (gym clothes? Extra snack for an after school club?) that day.
We happen to love the personalized notebooks from Minted which make the journal a little more special for kids. There are so many designs, kids can even pick their own and some let you add photos.
One of our very favorite easy option is to use Boogie Boards, erasable, easy LCD writers.
The new Boogie Board Jot e-Writer (avail at our affiliate Amazon) lets you scribble notes on it just like pen and paper, only it’s easy to erase, and doesn’t leave marker on your walls like we’ve experienced with dry-erase boards. It’s also got a built-in magnet so you can mount it right to your fridge or prop it on a counter.
If you want to use it for other purposes too, check out the souped up Boogie Board Sync, with a larger screen, and Bluetooth connectivity — Kristen mentioned you can even sync it to your mobile device to keep track of notes through apps like Evernote.
2. Color code or personalize dishes
If arguing over whose cup belongs to whom is a time suck in your family (like ours, ahem) it may be as easy as using color-coded dishes, cups and water bottles. IKEA has good affordable ones, or if you already own a bunch, just separate out the kids’ own colors and put those in a separate area so they know what to choose from.
For something a little more special, she shared these awesome personalized dishes for kids from the wonderful little parent run design company, Olliegraphic. We both use them with our own kids, and they work wonders. You can choose hair style, skin color and more and they’re so cute!
Also, be sure to move kid-friendly dishes down to a drawer they can reach. When kids ask for a cup of milk, we adore being able to say, “you know where the cups are….”
3. Let kids pack their own lunches. Mostly.
Just like dishes, it’s smart to keep kid food and drinks on lower shelves that they can reach. You can also take it one step further with this genius lunch-packing hack that Kristen uses: At the beginning of each week, set out three bins labeled snacks, fruits and veggies and fill them up. (She recommends personalized labels from Mabel’s Labels but of course you can use a Sharpie or whatever works.)
You may still make the sandwich, but kids can pick their own veggie, fruit and snack. Not only does it save you time and get kids more involved, but now they can’t whine that you didn’t pack them a banana, when they chose their own apple that morning. Sneaky!
4. Use the marble jar system to reward good behaviors
At quick glance, it’s an easy way to reward kids for good behavior, and later they can turn in the marbles for 15 minutes of screen time, a new toy, whatever rewards go over well in your home. But the best part is that it’s not a punishment system; you never take away marbles — you simply tell your kids that they can “pay you in marbles” to finish their vegetables for them, or make their beds for them…or break up the fight with their sister for them.
This system is easy and effective. And beyond it helping you get a little more help around the house, it also teaches kids budgeting and responsibility. We love it.
5. Leave post-it notes with helpful hints…from the objects in your home
I love this idea from Kristen so much, I’m totally going to use it: Using the fun speech bubble sticky notes from Yoobi, leave notes around the house…only not from you. Like a note on the hamper that says “I’m empty, feed me!” Or a note on the bathroom mirror that says, “I can’t see you, please wipe me off!”
It’s so much better than nagging, it makes kids smile while they get stuff done, and seriously, it works.
Plus, cute stickie notes!
Got any questions about organization or tips of your own to share? We’d love to hear them! And you can watch the TODAY Show segment video here.