My Very Best Parenting Hacks For Small Kids

     Some of you might have realised that I am a mom of two pre-schoolers. I have also helped to raise my younger brother, who was 11 years younger than me and a total sweetie. So I have a bit of experience, and have developed some really useful tricks! Here they are:

* The double hand hold:

    This is my own invention and has two advantages: the kid thinks that they are holding your hand, when in fact you are holding their. Second, it is super secure because it is much more difficult for little hands to slip or wriggle away than in the normal hand hold! How to: Let the kid hold your index finger. Now, with your remaining fingers, grasp their wrist.

* Notice patterns before they develop into habits:

Small kids, once they develop a rut is is really really hard to get them out of it! Ask the mom whose kid refuses to eat anything but noodles, or the one whose .... . Now, as a parent you have to spot these when they are forming. If your kid asks for noodles (or other less-healthy) three days in a row, don't re-buy noodles and tell him that the store ran out of them (or distract him with something else while shopping). He might be upset, but this is nothing compared to denying him noodles after he has been eating them regularly for weeks. Soon he'll get hungry and will eat something else.

* Instead of colouring books, encourage free hand drawing and painting.

    Kids never manage to draw within the lines and often get frustrated, besides most colouring books seriously lack aesthetic. However, even very little kids can produce pretty and imaginative pictures when allowed to paint freehand. Bonus: drawing on a blank piece of paper not only allows the kid to experiment more, but also helps them to process their experiences and emotions.


* Trays as work surfaces

    I totally stole this from the Montessori schools, where small kids are given trays as work surfaces. This helps to keep stuff from getting all over the place (especially stuff like modelling play, crayons or beads), protects your tables and catches spills. Also, the tray is easy to move from surface to surface, when you need to make space on the table for lunch or your kid wants to play in another room. The tray should be rectangular with handles, not too heavy, and the design should not be too loud or distracting (you can always re-cover the bottom with wax-cloth).

* Hang a bag with books and toys on the stroller:

    Most parents loved this: I hung a small bag by threading the loops on the umbrella, and filled it with little books and toys (usually flea-market stuff than neither of us was really attached to, because they would sometimes get lost). Every time the kid got bored, she would pull out her little books and entertain herself. Also, this means I didn't have to keep stuff to entertain her in my handbag.


* Shallow baskets with handles are amazing for storing toys. 

   The ones almost as flat as trays allows the kids to see what's inside and at the same time corral stuff.  Best if the have handles. I totally stole this from Waldorf Kindergardens. Also, the nature tones add a calm look, and makes the toys more visible.

* Keep stuff in their hoods

   This one I stole from a fores play-group :). During the cold part of the year the adults kept a paper tissue and gloves (when the kids took them off) in the hoods of the kids (the hoods were hanging down because the kids wore caps). That way they could re-use the tissues and match the right gloves with the right kid. I have often put scarves, comfort items and toys in them when the kids gave them to me to hold. Surprisingly, the stuff never falls out!

* Distraction is the best strategy

    Distracting the kid works when there is a power-struggle going on, or you feel a tantrum coming up, unreasonable request, bickering between siblings. It's amazing how distractable small kids are, and many of the power-struggle ones are thankful for the change of topic (because they don't want to lose but know they can't win). Ways to distract include: songs and finger games, pointing out something interesting you see, asking for help (especially with a "grown-up" task), starting a new activity, or even asking a question that requires concentration to answer. And of course doing a silly dance or pretending to be a dragon that is hungry for kids.

* Use their age as a guide

    Their kindergarden does this a lot an applies this to many different tasks. For example they recommend that a kid gets so many guests on their birthday as their age -- this keeps the kids from getting overwhelmed and the party from turning into a chaos. Or their age determines how many tasks to do: the three year old puts away three things, while the five year old puts away five things.
      Kids seem to understand this pretty well, because they know that everyone grows and besides their age is a very important thing for a preschooler! I'm sure you can use this to determine many things -- from food portions to pocket money.

      Do you have kids? Do share your own tips and tricks that help you deal with the little people in your life.

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