Parenting can be hard! Here are some of the Sassy Mama team’s best parenting hacks…
We know mums are generally fantastic at multi-tasking, but we always love to hear what other parents are doing to make their lives easier. What may seem obvious to one mum can be a complete revelation to another. From screen time and parental controls, to picky eaters, car seats, tantrums and ice cream, here are some of our team’s best parenting hacks!
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This is an obvious one but you can set up a personalised account on Netflix for each child, adjusting the maturity level for each account. We have a 7-year-old and a 2.5-year-old so what’s appropriate for the older one often isn’t for the younger one.
YouTube’s autoplay function means that it doesn’t take much to get from a fairly innocuous video to something pretty inappropriate. But if you download the YouTube Kids App for younger kids, it allows you to set a Homescreen age level – either Preschool or School-Aged – when setting up the parent controls. Just note, YouTube will still make recommendations outside of that age range, so supervision is still recommended.
We had to turn the Explicit Content Settings to ‘off’ after my 7-year-old discovered Tenacious D’s ‘The Greatest Song in the World’. It’s a really funny song, but with Google making the decisions about what song you might like to hear next, we ended up with a heavy metal track with Jack Black cheerfully yelling just about all the expletives you could think of.
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We recently discovered that our son had been getting up early in the morning and sneaking a bit of YouTube Kids before we got up. We are now adjusting access through Apple’s parental control settings. But Sassy Mama Emilie has come across a great app called OurPact which allows parents with Android devices to schedule screen time, and block or grant access to the Internet and apps on your child’s device from anywhere with your own device.
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There’s a 4.5-year gap between my kids so their bedtime needs are a little different. When I’m putting the kids to bed by myself, I often set up Audible to read to my older one while I put the younger one to bed. Current favourites are Stephen Fry reading Harry Potter, and Anne Hathaway narrating The Wonderful Wizard of Oz — they both do EXCELLENT voices.
It can be hard to make time for all the things you want to do. We all know that reading to our kids is important, but sometimes bedtime is too rushed to fit in quality reading time. Sassy Mama Beate multi-tasks like a pro and gets her older child to read a bedtime book to her younger child. He gets to practice his reading out loud, and the little one gets (an extra) bedtime story before Beate takes over and reads both her kids a few final stories before tucking them in.
Sassy Mama Carlijn has discovered a playlist of some of her kids’ favourite Dutch stories on Spotify. ‘I often play Dutch audio books to the kids in the car or at home so they hear someone other than myself and my husband speak Dutch.’ Spotify also have playlists for authors such as Beatrix Potter (narrated by Vivien Leigh!), as well as bedtime stories and fairytales.
Did you know that you can access free audiobooks through the National Library Board’s Overdrive app? Sassy Mama Marisa says, ‘we put the Overdrive and Audible apps on a very old phone that has no other games, so our kids can use that for audio books only and it’s not considered ‘screen time’. That’s where my 10-year-old listens to the Percy Jackson series in the morning before school (he is an earlybird).’ Get yourself a library membership, mama, and download Overdrive! (Bishan has one of the best libraries for kids if you want to make an outing of it.)
I recently read about a post about ‘fridge dinners’ and I loved it! It’s the perfect Sunday night dinner parenting hack – basically you get out all the food you need to use up, chop it up into small bite-sized pieces and arrange it on a platter. Veggie sticks, slices of cheese, boiled eggs, ham, fruit, whizz up some hummus if you’re feeling motivated, and have a little picnic on your living room floor or outside. It’s low effort, reduces waste, and kids can get involved with arranging the platter, too! (Although if you want to be seriously impressed by kids helping out with meals, check out former That Mama Tammy Hitchens‘ Home Hawker IG account.)
Got a picky eater on your hands? Sassy Mama Nadia swears by the ‘you don’t have to eat it’ method. ‘I would just set my daughter’s plate and say “You don’t have to eat it, but if you do you get [insert some kind of reward]…. but you don’t HAVE to.” So there’s no punishment at all for not finished dinner. Then the second part of the hack is that I would brag loudly to someone about how she tried something new and how she’s so open to trying new things, and I could just see her well up with pride. Next time she would be all proud about trying something new & “icky”. (Feel free to exaggerate!)’
Keep a couple of bananas in the freezer (peeled and chopped) so that when your kids want ice cream you can deliver on the guilt-free goods! Whizz a couple of frozen bananas in a food processor, adding any other flavours you like – peanut butter, cacao powder, or berries – and there you have it, instant and healthy ‘nice-cream’.
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These devices are a fun way for kids to play around with technology while avoiding screen overload. Plus they can be a lifesaver when your kid asks ‘Mum, when was Abraham Lincoln born?’ Answer: ‘Good question, let’s ask Alexa.’ Sassy Mama Kate loves Google Home: ‘We barely utilise its capabilities (you can combine it with your aircon, your lights, your TV, your morning alarm etc.) but my kids just like using it to play music, and to ask random questions — it can also read stories and tell jokes.’
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Did you know the Mifold fits inside the Trunki? Or that you can strap a Cosco Scenera Next onto a Maclaren Quest stroller with just a paper clip and a piece of string? (Kidding, you’ll actually need a luggage strap.) Travelling safely in taxis with kids in Singapore can seem tricky but there are ways to simplify it and make your outings easier. TaxiBaby has some great videos on how to safely hack car seats onto prams.
Image courtesy of TaxiBaby via Facebook
Aim for yes! I read a blog post about this on Cup of Jo a while ago, and it really resonated for me. Sometimes you can find yourself arguing with your child about something really silly – they want to try ketchup on their ice cream for example (which is clearly a terrible idea). But really, what’s the harm in saying yes? I now aim for yes – unless it’s dangerous – and to be honest it’s often the easier option anyway — it’s remembering to do it that’s tricky.
It can be hard to know how and when to start doling out pocket money to kids. Do they need to earn it by doing chores around the house, or should they learn that they need to contribute to the family, without needing an incentive? We’ve written about the pros and cons of pocket money before, but if you’re already at that stage, you WILL want to know about this handy pocket-money tracking app – RoosterMoney.
At the beach with the kiddos and can’t get the sand off before leaving? Pack corn flour/starch with you (or baby powder does the trick, too!). Sprinkle cornflour liberally on your kids’ sandy legs etc. and the sand will easily slide off.
When my kids were toddlers they would keep busy for hours with a few paintbrushes and a bucket of water – “painting” the side of the pool or a wooden fence. The water creates a darker shade so it looks like painting but with zero mess (and the sun dries up the water so they can start all over again in a few minutes). If you have busy toddlers and want to keep them occupied but just can’t deal with any more mess, this arty hack is for you!