Not-So-Obvious Items for a New Parent’s Toolkit
Asha Dornfest is a writer, parent, award-winning blogger, and author of the new book, PARENT HACKS: 134 Genius Shortcuts for Life With Kids. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and two kids. She launched the ParentHacks.com blog in 2005, and ever since has been at the center of one of smartest, most generous parenting conversations on the Internet. Her book highlights her community’s best shortcuts and “parent hacks,” but her underlying message is the one new parents most need to hear: you’ve got this, even though it doesn’t always feel like it.
Life with kids — especially brand-new ones — is full of surprises, both pleasant and not-so. But just because you can’t predict (or control) how a given day will unfold doesn’t mean you can’t prepare yourself with a few tools. These multipurpose workhorses have saved my butt (and my kids’ — literally) over and over again. Keep these items stowed in your bag or car. Together with some trust in yourself and a sense of humor, you’ll be ready for whatever family life throws at you.
1. Baby wipes
A no-brainer which you’ve already got stashed in your diaper bag. But keep in mind that wipes useful for cleaning more than butts. They can also get rid of errant deodorant stains, refresh your face, wipe down sticky tables and chairs, and clean up unexpected car messes.
2. Cloth diaper
Even if you’re committed to disposables, stash a few cloth diapers in key areas of your house (and keep one in your bag). They’re good for soaking up just about any spill. They’re also good as burp clothes (protect your shoulder from hurl), and you can drape the large, thin ones over the stroller canopy as a sun shade. What I love best about cloth diapers as all-purpose cleaning cloths: you can bleach them when they get dingy, and they get more absorbent with wear.
3. Ziploc bags
Kids are always a) spewing something or b) getting into something funky. You need a way to contain the mess on the way back to the wash, so never leave home without a few Ziploc bags. Good for anything gross, wet, and/or smelly — clothes, sippy cups, used diapers, spit-up rags, you name it. Also good for organizing your diaper back into modular packets you can grab with one hand (a single clean outfit; a kid- or grownup snack pack; a clean pacifier), or as the basis for an on-the-go icepack for scrapes and bruises.
A small, functional multitool is a parent’s best friend. I’m a fan of the Leatherman Micra, with its scissors, tweezers, screwdrivers and other tools folded into a compact and colorful case. Don’t forget to pack it in your checked baggage when flying.
5. Blue painter’s tape
It’s visible, easy to tear, and easy to peel off with no residue left behind. Use it to close snack bags, fix a broken diaper tab, and temporarily seal cabinet doors and drawers shut (think: hotel room). It’s also a labeling powerhouse (see also: Sharpie).
6. A Sharpie
When paired with painter’s tape, a Sharpie lets you label anything. Jackets, sippy cups, lunch boxes, drawers…you get it.
7. Glad Press N’Seal plastic wrap
I don’t know how I got along without this stuff. It sticks to any surface (not just glass) and creates a waterproof seal. Use it to turn any cup into a travel cup (seal then poke a straw through). Also good as a makeshift art- or food bib (stick to clothes), placemat, fridge shelf liner, or childproof medicine packet for travel.