Make tidying fun. When the toy-strewn living room has you near meltdown, clap your hands and say, "Let's see who can get 10 items back in the toy box first. I'm timing you—Ready, Set, Go!" If even half the mess is cleared up, you're ahead of the game!
Be playful. When Kia, a friend's 2-year-old, balks at brushing her teeth, she can drag the whole thing out for half an hour. So her mom sings the request: "Now it's time to brush your teeth, brush your teeth, brush your teeth." This makes Kia laugh—and eager to brush.
Stockpile gifts for other children. "I buy when I see great gifts for kids the same age as our daughters, who are 6 and 11," says Jeffrey Lee of Seattle, author of Catch a Fish, Throw a Ball, Fly a Kite: 21 Timeless Skills Every Child Should Know and Any Parent Can Teach (Crown). "Now we don't face frantic, last-minute buying on the day of a birthday party."
Review and update your calendar with each child's activities. (You won't show up for a school swim meet on the wrong day!) Boursaw recommends writing directly on your calendar rather than on sticky notes. "Otherwise you spend extra minutes transferring the notes later," she says.
Encourage kids to load their backpacks when their homework is done. "This will save you battling sleepy kids in the morning when they're getting ready for school," says Lee.
Give help now, not later. If your 6-year-old needs a little help with his homework, take time out from whatever you're doing. You'll not only save him some frustration, but helping your child is always time well spent—no matter how long it takes!
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What Do You Most Want to Hide?
When guests come over, what's your "trouble spot" that you most want to fix up or hide in a hurry?