Holiday hacks for Busy Parents
The most wonderful time of the year is also the busiest time of year, especially for parents with tiny tots at home. There’s decorating, cooking, baking, gift buying and wrapping–and that’s on top of keeping up with already-packed kid schedules and household to-dos. So finding a shortcut or clever hack that’s good–and we mean really good–is a huge gift in and of itself.
To save you sleigh loads of sanity this busy season, we’re wrapping our favorite holiday hacks into a saveable, shareable list. Enjoy!
Cup delicate ornaments
There’s the crafted-at-school kind, the keepsake kind and the breakable ball kind, but all three types of ornaments need TLC when it’s time to trim the tree. To keep your decorations in one piece, give little ones a wide-mouth plastic cup to hold under any breakable ornaments as they walk from storage bin to branch. If securing it in place is a two-hand job, kids can work together by having one child hold the cup underneath and the other fastening the hook in place. Even better, the cups can be used in the container or box to keep delicate ornaments from touching and potentially breaking.
Hot glue your gingerbread house
Gingerbread houses can take hours to set before they’re ready to be decked out in candy. If you’re not prepared to tackle this family tradition in two sessions (as in your kids are melting down because they simply can’t wait to add the gumdrops), you can pull out your hot-glue gun to speed up assembly. Apply a bead of hot glue to the inside corners, waiting for the glue to dry completely on each side before moving on. Once it’s good and sturdy, use the icing to cover up any visible glue and attach the candies like normal.
Skip the gift tag step
Writing out gift tags can get tedious quickly, not to mention there’s never really enough space. Save yourself a step and frustration by giving each family member their own wrapping paper pattern (or colorway if you need to mix patterns) so you can skip gift tags all together.
Send Santa back with toys
The big guy’s known for delivering new toys to the good boys and girls, but (new) legend has it that he is in need of used toys back at the North Pole so he can recycle the parts in his workshop (wink, wink). When it’s time to make room in your child’s playroom or bedroom for big kid toys, share this story to make it easier to part with what they’ve outgrown.
Email wish list photos
The toy aisle is no place for kids, but sometimes you’ve got no choice but to tow them along if the holiday shopping is ever going to get done. When your kid starts to whine and plead for you to buy them something ahead of the holiday gift exchange, let them use your phone to take a photo to email to Santa. Type Santa in the TO field (it will bounce back) and later on you can check your sent messages for the product info if you want to wrap it up yourself.
Send your elf on a mission
If your family has an elf on the shelf, chances are you could use a break from thinking of clever places to position it day over day. When this time comes, write out a note that explains to kids that Santa is sending their elf on a special holiday mission and he’ll be back just as soon as possible so you can enjoy having one less thing to do for a few days.
Stash a blanket the car
When the weather drops, it can’t hurt to have a warm blanket handy to put over kids before the car reaches a more comfortable temperature, but it’s also hugely helpful for hiding gifts. Keep a large one in your trunk so if you need to do a store pickup on the way to school pickup, you can without spoiling any surprises. Just throw the blanket over the gifts and your kids will be none the wiser.
Make festive pancakes
Want to add some holiday cheer to your breakfast routine? When you’re not baking with them, metal cookie cutters are a quick way to make your pancakes more merry. Spray the cutters with non-stick cooking spray before placing them on the griddle, then pour in your pancake mix and remove the shapes when you’re ready to flip.
Pre-load the batteries
Given all the toys that spin, flash, and move, stocking up on batteries ahead of the holiday season is a must these days. Instead of just keeping them handy, consider putting them in the toy before you wrap it. Your kids will love that things work straight out of the box and you’ll save time fumbling with a tiny screwdriver when you really just want to be enjoying their smiling faces.
Schedule family traditions
This may sound like work, but really it’s a way to ensure you all enjoy the fun. Make your list of holiday season must-dos (think ice skating, gingerbread house building, cookie baking, and more), then decide on the best day and week for each activity and add it to your calendar. With a plan in place you’re less likely to be left with regrets on January 1st.
Track gifts year over year
Start a note in your phone that you can use to keep track of what you’re giving to each family member. Make a section for gift ideas then mark off when you’ve actually purchased something. Not only will this help you remember what you ordered bleary eyed at 12am last Sunday night, it also gives you a record that you can look back on each year. While the kids probably aren’t thinking about what they unboxed last holiday, your MIL may appreciate not opening slippers from the kids for three years running. It’s also a way to come up with gift ideas. That custom blanket you gave your aunt two years ago could be the gift you’ve been looking for for your nanny this year.
Psst..check out A Very New York Family Christmas: all holiday events, activity guide and more!