Life Hacks for Busy Moms and Dads

Written by Amy Boyington | February 17, 2021

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As a parent, you’re busy from the moment you wake up to the time you get the kids in bed. That’s exactly why it’s not just a luxury but a necessity to find little ways to make your job easier. From buying a coffee machine that automates your morning cup for you to making craft time ridiculously easy to clean up, these genius—yet simple—life hacks will get you streamlining your daily parental tasks.

Turn the dreaded morning routine into an exciting game

Buy the Mind Sparks Classroom Timer for $4.59 at Office Depot OfficeMax

Ask any parent what their most disliked part of their day is and busy school mornings may top their list. Kids are tired and cranky, and they drag their feet to get ready. Instead of stressing through another dull morning, try turning your morning routines into a game. Use the Mind Sparks Classroom Timer to set time limits for each task. For example, two minutes to get dressed and five minutes to get lunch packed. Can your kids get each task done in the set amount of time? Better yet, can they beat yesterday’s time?

Invest in a coffee maker that brews your perfect cup automatically

Buy the Cuisinart SS-15 Combo Coffee Maker for $249.99 at Macy's

Science shows that the mere scent of coffee can help you feel and be more productive. This comes from a placebo effect that makes your brain expect to feel more alert when coffee is nearby. Still, it might work to give you that bushy-tailed feeling you need to get moving in the morning. The Cuisinart SS-15 Combo Coffee Maker lets you brew either a 12-cup carafe or a single cup of coffee using a timer to have it ready when you are. Program the unit up to 24 hours ahead of time and wake up to the fresh smell of coffee every morning.

Set out clothes for the week with a shoe organizer

Buy the Elegant Home Fashions Fabric Shoe Organizer for $10.26 at Lowe's

If your child hasn’t yet mastered the art of picking out matching clothes for the day, you can save some time and morning meltdowns by planning all of their outfits on Sunday evening. Use a hanging shoe organizer with separate compartments, like the Elegant Home Fashions Fabric Shoe Organizer, and have your child help you put together matching sets for each day and place them in a different square. Make labels with address labels or sticky notes, so your child knows which outfit to grab in the morning. Put one in your closet, too, to save some time picking out your clothes on busy mornings.

Plan meals for the week ahead

Buy the Ello DuraGlass Meal Prep Containers for $57.99 at Macy's

Instead of scrambling to figure out lunch and dinner plans each day, try planning for the days ahead on the weekend. You might spend a couple of hours putting together a meal plan and making meals that you can stash in the refrigerator or freezer, but all you’ll need to do when the time comes to serve them is warm them up. The Ello DuraGlass Meal Prep set includes five containers that you can use to store already-prepped meals in the refrigerator until you’re ready to eat.

Let your watch keep track of your health

Buy the Samsung Galaxy Fit for $99.99 at Samsung

Finding time to get to the gym or even think about your health can be challenging when you have little ones to care for. But with the Samsung Galaxy Fit, you can have a watch and a fitness tracker in one, leaving it to take care of all the tracking for you. Learn how many steps you’re getting each day, automatically track workouts, and find out more about your sleep patterns. All the details sync to the Android app, so you can always get a glimpse of your health throughout the day.

Print your favorite family pictures from your phone

Buy the HP ENVY Pro 6455 All-in-One Printer for $149.99 at HP

If you’re like most parents, you have tons of pictures of your little one saved on your phone. It’s like a little hub of memories that makes it easy to share photos on social media, in an email, or through a text. But phone memory fades quickly when you store hundreds or thousands of pictures. The HP ENVY Pro 6455 All-in-One Printer lets you print high-quality photos right from your device using your Wi-Fi connection. It takes just a few seconds to print each picture. Put them on display or send your prints to the family.

Keep small toys and accessories organized

Buy the Umbra Basket Shower Caddy for $15.98 at Sam's Club

Small toys, like toy cars or accessories for dolls, tend to get lost in the abyss of a child’s room (especially when kids are tasked with cleaning up!). Instead of throwing miscellaneous toys into a toy bin, use a shower caddy that you can hang in the closet for storage. The Umbra Basket Shower Caddy can hang on a wall hook in the closet to keep small pieces tucked away neatly until your kiddo wants to play with them again. This could also double as a hair accessory holder to store on a towel hook in the bathroom.

Keep your coffee warm on your work commute

Buy the Kitchen HQ 2-pack Heated Car Mugs for $25.29 at HSN

With the hustle and bustle of busy mornings, it’s easy to forget that your cup of coffee even exists. By the time you get to drink it, it’s lukewarm or cold. These heated mugs from Kitchen HQ seek to change this tradition by heating up your beverage while you drive. The pack comes with two corded mugs that plug into your car’s power outlet to heat them on-the-go. Now, if you could only remember where you put your car keys!

Automate vacuuming your floors

Buy the Roomba i7 with Wi-Fi and Automatic Dirt Disposal for $799.99 at Home Depot

Vacuuming your home several times each week can be a time suck for parents (and admit it—nobody loves to clean!). The Roomba i7 sweeps in to the rescue with its automated cleaning tactics that leave your floors spic and span without you lifting a finger. This model works on multiple surfaces, has smart technology that learns the layout of your home, and responds to voice commands to clean up unexpected messes. The Automatic Dirt Disposal feature even lets the Roomba empty its collected dirt for up to 60 days.

Have a quick craft cleanup

Buy the Zenna Home Shower Curtain Liner for $20 at Walmart

Crafting unleashes creativity, but it also unleashes a lot of mess! Feel free to let your kids explore and create to their heart’s content when they do it atop a shower curtain liner. Put the liner on the table or spread it out on the floor before playing with play dough, paint, or glue. The liner will protect the surface below and make it a breeze to clean up. This shower curtain liner from Zenna Home is made from heavyweight vinyl, so it won’t get poked through accidentally and will clean off easily with some warm water and soap.

Control your lights with your voice or phone

Buy the Philips Hue Starter Kit E26 for $119.99 at Philips Hue

Imagine being able to dim your lights in the evening, turn them off for bedtime, or switch them to a different color depending on what you need them for—all from one device. You can do just that with a Philips Hue Starter Kit, which gives you smart light bulbs and the Hue Bridge to help you connect and control your lighting. Use Philips Hue with Alexa, Google Home, or Apple HomeKit to change your home’s lighting with your voice. This set can especially come in handy when your hands are busy changing a diaper, carrying a child, or cooking a meal.

Make an on-the-go activity pack

Buy the Apt. 9 File Master Wallet for $44 at Kohl's

Little hands like to stay busy, but bringing toys, games, and activities with you everywhere makes your job more difficult (let’s face it—parents are the ones who have to carry it all!). Instead of filling up a backpack of toys, make a travel-sized activity pack using a wallet, like the Apt. 9 File Master Wallet. Use the zippered pocket to hold crayons and stickers, put slips of paper in the card slots, and fold a couple of coloring or activity pages to stash in the checkbook area. Your child can use the goodies in the car or while waiting for lunch at a restaurant.

Do your grocery shopping online during your lunch break

Buy groceries online at Walmart

Grocery shopping probably takes up more time than you realize, and that’s precious time you could be spending with your family. From loading the kids in the car to finding everything you need in the aisles to driving back home and putting everything away, you could easily spend three or four hours on an evening or weekend shopping for groceries. Instead, shave off most of that time by letting others do the work. You can order what you need on and head to your local Walmart for pick up. The website makes it simple to find what you need. Order your groceries in minutes and have them ready to pick up on your way home from work. If you're a Walmart+ member get groceries delivered right to your door.

Use a tent to make a backyard sandpit

Buy the Stoic Madrone 2 Tent for $159.95 at Backcountry

Sand play is one of the best forms of unstructured play. Playing in the sand promotes sensory and fine motor skill-building and gives kids plenty of things to talk about with their friends to boost social skills. Unfortunately, backyard sandboxes tend to get taken over by bugs, cats, and other pests that claim it as their own. Keep the sandpit free from unwanted additions by putting sand in the Stoic Madrone 2 Tent instead of a sandbox. The sand will always stay covered, so it’s pest-free and dry when your child wants to play in it. Bonus: It will shield your kiddo from hot sun rays!

Make healthier drinks at home

Buy the SodaStream Fizzi Starter Pack for $89.99 at SodaStream

Breaking a soda-drinking habit isn’t easy, but it’s necessary for your health. Sparkling water can be a healthier alternative to soda while still giving you the flavor and carbonation you enjoy. You can skip the grocery trips with kids in tow to get some and save money with the SodaStream Fizzi. This compact appliance lets you brew up your favorite sparkling water flavors at home in just a few seconds. With 50 percent less sugar than most sodas and no high fructose corn syrup, even your kids can enjoy it once in a while.

Check in on the kids when you’re away from home

Buy the Samsung SmartThings Cam for $89.99 at Samsung

Whether you’re at work or enjoying a night out with friends, being able to check in with your kids is priceless. You can get peace of mind knowing they’re safe and happy with a trusted babysitter using the Samsung SmartThings Cam that monitors your home in HD. You can connect the camera to a SmartThings Hub to control your other SmartThings items from Samsung, or you can simply connect one or multiple cameras to the mobile app without a hub. You’ll get live video and up to 24 hours of video playback for free.

Make meals in minutes with a pressure cooker

Buy the MegaChef 12-Quart Programmable Electric Pressure Cooker for $103.19 at Lowe's

Are you finding yourself rushing to make dinner on weeknights after school and work? You aren’t alone. Many parents are making the switch to the pressure cooker, a ridiculously convenient appliance that can cook a full meal in minutes, even if you forgot to thaw the meat the night before. This pressure cooker from MegaChef has plenty of room for a family meal. There’s even a Slow Cook setting to transform it into two appliances, giving you the option to slow cook your dinner all day and have it ready when it’s dinner time for the family.

Shop online for birthday supplies

Buy themed birthday sets at Shindigz

Party supply stores seem to be dwindling in number, but that doesn’t mean you can’t throw your kiddo the birthday party of their dreams. Instead of sticking with generic decorations from a local store, shop for themed decorations online with Shindigz. You can get everything you need to match your child’s chosen theme, from cake toppers to decorations to party favors and more. Shindigz also has themed party sets with bundles of supplies to give you an easy, time-saving shopping experience.

Stop searching for pacifiers

Buy the Carter's Giraffe Plush Security Blanket with Pacifier Clip for $18 at Kohl's

The last thing you want to do when your little one needs a pacifier for soothing or sleeping is to spend time searching for it. Yet pacifiers often get lost in couch cushions, under chairs, in the car, and wherever else your baby goes during the day. This adorable pacifier clip from Carter’s attaches to your baby’s pacifier to keep it handy when you need it. And it’s easy to spot, thanks to the cute, plush giraffe that holds it. You’ll always know where the pacifier is, and your baby will have a new friend to hang onto.

Help baby fall asleep without getting out of bed

Buy the Project Nursery Smart Sound Soother for $69.99 at Best Buy

Self-soothing is a natural and essential part of development for babies. When your little one learns to self-soothe, they find ways to calm themselves down, which can be handy for a healthy sleep routine. A sound maker gives the nursery some white noise that could help relax your baby for dreamland. The Project Nursery Smart Sound Soother has sounds and lights to spread the calming effect throughout the room. You can control everything remotely with the connected app to keep you relaxed in bed, too.

Make a legal will entirely online

Buy the Nolo Quicken WillMaker & Trust for $99.99 at Nolo

Have you put off making a will because you don’t know where to start, don’t want to spend money on a lawyer to do it for you, or don’t have time to get one started? This is a common struggle for parents. Still, wills are a necessary part of parenting to make sure your children are physically and financially taken care of if something happens to you. With Nolo Quicken WillMaker & Trust software, you just have to answer questions to have a team of lawyers draw up the legal documents for you. Get everything done at your own pace from the comfort of your home.

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