Although I’ve only been a parent for four years, I’ve definitely learned some tricks to saving time, money, energy, and sanity while parenting little ones…and in our case multiple little ones! Little Man just turned four years old and with two more Littles under him, we have quite the busy household! I’m naturally like being organized and enjoy utilizing ‘systems’ that help our home run as smoothly as possible.
Since Willis is busy working fulltime plus being a youth pastor, it means I’m the sole caregiver to them during the day and the primary housekeeper as the kids are still so little. It’s important to have the time and energy we need to take on those roles properly and these following tips have helped out a bunch!
Now, I struggle on a daily basis to keep things running in a ‘mostly’ smooth fashion so I don’t want to seem as I’ve got all my ducks in a row EVERY SINGLE DAY. Nah, it’s more like once a month I truly feel on top of things!
But these tips have helped a lot and I’d like to share them with you. Hopefully, other parents of littles can benefit from at least one of them! It’s a LOOOOONG post so I divided into two parts. Here’s the first eight tips so get comfy!
I have a basic monthly meal plan that I reference regularly. It’s set up like a calendar and has a meal assigned to each day. More or less we go off of what’s written but just as often I move meals around to suit what we feel like eating or what food we have on hand. Over the summer when our garden was in full producing mode, we had lots of fresh veggies that I utilized in our meals. Because of that, I might tweak what meal we have that day. I’m actually going to try to get back on my calendar plan soon, summer really threw me off! Some people meal plan for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but I only plan dinners. Breakfast is pretty much the same for the most part and lunch is usually leftovers or whatever is available quickly. Having a meal plan allows me to grocery shop more effectively and helps cut down on decision making for the day.
2. Grocery Shop Less
Recently I’ve started monthly shopping and it’s been a huge lifesaving! It’s minimized the number of times I have to go to the grocery with all the kids in tow. One evening a month Willis stays home with the kids and I do a large shopping trip for most of the stuff we’ll need for the month. Then, I’ll run to the store maybe a couple more times during the month for produce and some odds and ends that we ran out of (or just forgot). If I do need to run to the store another time that month, it’s usually really quick and only for a few items. No biggie. This system allows me to get most everything at once and then forget about shopping for a while! No more long grocery trips with three little ones! It actually allows me to take just one of the kids for some one-on-one time.
3. Keep a “Ready Bag” in the Car
I don’t really carry a diaper bag anymore. That stopped after child #2. I already have my hands full with tiny humans so I don’t like the idea of another thing to carry. I do have a small sling backpack that I use as a purse and keep a couple extra diapers in it. I’ll usually through a paci in as well and we’re good to go! BUT I do keep a fully prepped “Ready Bag” in our van. It’s a backpack full of necessities we might need when we’re out:
- Extra clothes
- First-Aid supplies
- Books, sketch pads, a toy for baby
- Emergency items like flashlights, etc.
Have the bag “Ready” when needed almost eliminates entirely my need to lug around a diaper bag everywhere! Whew.
4. Keep Shoes/Socks/Coats by the Door
This one seems so simple like: “Well, yeah, doesn’t everyone do that?!?” But really it’s been a huge help in keeping things organized and prepped for any outing. Willis made two long coat racks that hang right by the front door, one for grown-ups and one lower for the kids. The kids keep their coats, hats, and backpacks on the hooks. We also have a large shoe basket by the door which holds ALL of the kid’s shoes for that season. They know when they come home to put their shoes in there (Theoretically. Little kids need to be reminded a lot!). We also have a small basket that holds their socks. Having everything together in a centralized location cuts down on scavenger hunts for lost shoes and disappearing jackets!
As with anything regarding young children, this will take training and practice (on yours and their part). They will need to be reminded many times to hang up their coat and throw their shoes in the basket. BUT, they learn over time and soon will need fewer reminders.
5. Keep Kids Clothes Together
Wash, dry, fold, put away, repeat for infinity….
I don’t want another step by taking EACH of the kid’s clothes to EACH of their rooms all the time. NOR do I want to go to each of their rooms to get then dressed daily. Soooo….
A few years ago we moved the kid’s dresser into our master bedroom and assigned each child a drawer. The drawers are plenty large enough for a young child’s clothes and any nice church clothes get hung up in a small closet (also in the master bedroom). This arrangement makes things sooooo much simpler. 1) I’m able to put away almost all of the laundry in the same room. 2) All the kids are in the same room getting dressed. 3) It makes the preparing things the night before much easier (We’ll talk about that next).
Obviously this system won’t last forever but for now, it works great. As the kids get older they will want to have their clothes in their own rooms and the obvious privacy issues as well. At that stage, they won’t need us getting them ready for the day and they’ll be able to put away their own clothes!
6. Prepare the Night Before
Leaving the house first thing in the morning can drive just about any parent a little wacky and has them reaching for an extra large coffee first thing. To help cut down on the crazy just a tad we like to prepare things the night before. We especially find this helpful for Sunday Church. On Saturday night we lay out EVERYONE’s clothes (yes, even mine and Willis’) including all the kids’ accessories like belts, bows, neckties, undershirts….
Although we don’t usually do this for Sunday mornings, I do utilize prepping breakfast the night before on other occasions. If I’m heading out early with the kiddos or I know I have a REALLY busy day ahead, then I’ll have breakfast stuff ready to go. Usually, it means getting a big pot of oatmeal fixed up with all the ingredients minus the water. (I make oatmeal from scratch so it means adding in things like cut fruit, cinnamon, honey, salt, etc.) For others, it could mean having smoothies in the fridge, coffee ready to go in the pot, or even making pancakes already made and ready to pop in the microwave or toaster!
7. Teach Your Kids Independence
Willis and I have a desire in instill in our children from an early age the art of independence. Now, I must preface this with explaining what TYPE of independence I’m talking about.
I’m NOT talking about being independent from people. (i.e. “I don’t need anyone to depend on.”)
I’m NOT talking about prideful independence. (i.e. “I can stand on my own two feet and do it all myself. I’m enough.”)
I’m NOT talking about independence in our relationship towards God. (i.e. “I can provide what I need, God doesn’t need to help me.”)
What I am talking about is teaching our children to do things for themselves and not always be expecting grown-ups to take care of their every whim. It allows them to develop skills early on that they are perfectly capable of doing but not often allowed to do by the adults in their lives. Teaching them independence not only frees us up from having to take care of their every need, but it allows the child to grow into a capable person who sees no limit to what they can accomplish.
Here are some practical examples of what we do in our family:
- When our children are little and learning to climb, we let them. Unless it would be dangerous for them (like a tall staircase or up a ladder) then we let them explore by climbing up the few back steps to the porch or climbing up the playground. They learn mobility, what they are capable of, exploration, body coordination, and to not be afraid to try new things. Don’t be afraid to let them explore, get a scrape, and try again.
- As soon as our kiddos show and interest in putting on their own shoes, we let them. This can vary in age but ours have been around 2. No, they won’t always put them on the correct feet, and no they might not always have socks, but their shoes are ON and YOU didn’t have to do it!
- Having kids dress themselves works just the same as with shoes! ⇑
- Allowing them to work also teaches them independence. Get a toddler size broom and show them how to sweep, allow them to throw laundry in the washer, and teaching to clean up their toys.
- Have them help with food prep. Little Man likes peeling hard-boiled eggs, and Curly Top can peel bananas to go into the freezer!
8. Teach them to Work
This goes right along with teaching your children independence. The art of working and the character of independence are siblings, they go hand in hand with each other.
If we do not instill in our children the understanding that work can be enjoyable, fun, and a necessary part of life, then we are doing them an injustice. When God placed Adam in the Garden of Eden he gave him work to do.
BEFORE the curse.
Work is a God-given gift and something not to be looked upon with disdain. Now, yes, the grueling thorn infested work is a part of the curse but the IDEA of work did come from God and it was good.
Teaching our little ones from a young age to enjoy work will greatly benefit them throughout their whole lives. It starts RIGHT NOW.
- As soon as our little ones are able to walk and carry something at the same time they have their first job! Throwing away their diapers!
- Invest in folding step stools like this one. We own two and it allows the kids to help in the kitchen with many different jobs. Pealing bananas, helping turn on the blender, mixing dough, the list goes on…! They also use these step stools to help with laundry as they can throw dirty laundry into the washer for me.
- Both Little Man and Curly Top are beginning to put away their own laundry. As mentioned earlier they each have a drawer that they can reach that holds almost all of their clothes, so it’s easy for them to take care of their own laundry.
- Give them a hammer and let em’ bang away on a few nails in a spare piece of wood!
- Another job that Little Man does faithfully and we’re beginning to have Curly Top do as well is clearing their dishes from the table after meals. At some point that will transition to them cleaning up more and more after meals.
Children are much more capable than we often give them credit for and see new jobs as an exciting opportunity. It’s up to us to mimic a good work ethic and cheerful attitude about work. If we make work fun, even turning it into a game, then they are likely to enjoy it as well.