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The Art Of MacGyvering For Sleep-Deprived Moms And Dads

One of a multitude of uses for the magical multitasker: blue painter's tape.
Craighton Berman/Workman Publishing
One of a multitude of uses for the magical multitasker: blue painter's tape.

As anyone who's been one can attest, new parents need all the help they can get.

While blogger, author and mother of two Asha Dornfest can't come do the night feedings, she does have a number of MacGyver-style moves that may help avert disaster — and preserve some parental sanity.

Dornfest is the author of Parent Hacks: 134 Genius Shortcuts for Life with Kids, which compiles some of the best tricks from her blog of the same name.


Dornfest, whose kids are now 16 and 12, started ParentHacks a decade ago. Some of the solutions may seem simple — but sometimes they aren't so obvious when you're in midst of a kid crisis.

"Every now and then, sometimes it's that moment of desperation that actually inspires some crazy ninja moment of genius," Dornfest tells NPR's Kelly McEvers. "Every now and then I would stumble upon one of these solutions, and whenever another parent would share something like that with me, I would think to myself, "Wow, why didn't I think of that?"

Dornfest shares some of her favorite hacks with McEvers.

On what to do for a kid who can't keep her shoelaces tied


Swap the shoelaces out for elastic, the cheap elastic that you can buy in a sewing section of a store. Amazingly, it transforms lace-up shoes into slip-ons if you just tie it.

On how to fix a broken diaper tab and other uses for the 'magical multitasker'

A Band-Aid actually works in a pinch. But, believe it or not, there is a magical multitasker that I still, to this day, carry with me all the time, and that is a roll of blue painter's tape.

It comes off easily, it's kind of the Post-it note of tapes. And so ... it works really well on a diaper, in a pinch. You can actually use it (to childproof a) hotel room. You can put it over electrical outlets. You can use it to keep drawers closed, because you know how little toddlers are, they love to open and close drawers.

One of my favorite uses is for creating little floor games. So you can use it to create tracks for toy cars on the floor. Or you can use it to mark the hot zone around a grill outside.

On the cleaning power of the lint roller

It's great for getting crumbs off of just about anything. You can use it to clean the flotsam that ends up at the bottom of a diaper bag. You can almost use it as a little vacuum cleaner for the car.

On how to deal with kids' 'fear of the flush'

My favorite parent hack in the book is how to disable the auto-flush sensor on a public restroom toilet. The simple way is to cover the sensor. This is where our handy and beloved painter's tape comes in, or Post-it note, and then remove it after the kid is out, and then the auto-flush can do what it's meant to do.

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