21 October 2014

Glow in the dark no-carve Jack-o-lanterns

Create a glow in the dark pumpkin by coating it with non-toxic zinc sulfide powder. Part Halloween decoration, part science project.

This looks like such fun, especially for the chemists in your family.

The supplies aren't cheap. That said, I know a few of you are die-hard Halloween fans ready to pull out the stops for something different.

I'm assuming you need the large container of glow powder plus a black light to show off your creation ($39.99 for a kit that contains both from Steve Spangler Science, creator of the video).

I looked for zinc sulfide powder elsewhere (including Amazon) and the prices are still pretty high. Another option to try: a couple coats of glow in the dark craft paint or spray paint.

If you decide to do this, I suggest using a foam pumpkin so you can bring your creation out year after year.

Thank you, Kris-Ann, for finding this great project!

Got a Halloween hack? Post it on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram with #parenthacks so I can share it!

15 October 2014

8 Jack O'Lantern hacks to make decorating your Halloween pumpkin easier (including not carving it)

Pumpkin carving is one of my favorite Halloween traditions, but it's not the most kid-friendly project, nor is it without effort and mess.

Time to hack the Jack O'lantern.

8 Jack O'Lantern hacks to make decorating your Halloween pumpkin easier (including not carving it) #parenthacks

Parent Hacks readers are a practical bunch, and together we've come up eight ways to simplify Halloween pumpkin decorating. Perfect for kids of all ages and their very tired parents.

Tips for carving pumpkins

1. Choose a small pumpkin. If you're into big pumpkins, choose one that's squat.

So much easier to scoop seeds out of a small and/or short pumpkin.

2. Cut the hole in the bottom of the pumpkin.

Easier to place the candle when the carving is done.

3. Scoop out the pumpkin seeds with an ice cream scoop.

The best scoopers have angular edges. I'm an OXO Good Grips ice cream scoop fan, myself.

4. Sketch the carving lines with a dry erase marker.

Amy's genius tip:

We use a dry eraser marker to sketch out the face of the pumpkin. After everything is cut out, a wet paper towel wipes away all the marker and no lines show on the face.

Tips for no-carve Jack O'Lanterns

5. Glue a face onto a pumpkin.

From Rebecca:

I cut pieces of black construction paper into eye, nose and mouth shapes and let my toddler glue them onto little pumpkins. They may not look like normal jack-o-lanterns, but they give the idea (besides, a nose floating above your eyes is a little scary, isn’t it?).

6. Stick Mr. Potato Head parts into a pumpkin.

Stick Mr. Potato Head parts into a pumpkin. #parenthacks Photo credit: Guy via Flickr cc
Photo credit: Guy via Flickr cc

7. Draw a face on a pumpkin.

Use a black Sharpie or washable markers. Paint works, too, if you don't mind the cleanup.

8. Buy a battery-operated pumpkin you can reuse every year.

No kidding! Fake pumpkins look great! Use one to back up your non-carved Jack O'lanterns. If you wait till the day after Halloween, you can buy them half-price.

If you've got more Jack-o-lantern simplifying tips, please share them in the comments!

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13 October 2014

8 tips for your child's first Halloween

You know Halloween is a blast, but it can be scary and exhausting for a first-timer.

Spooky costumes, strangers, creepy house decorations and sound effects mixed with a big dose of anticipation and sugar and you've got the makings of a toddler meltdown.

How do you best prepare your toddler (and yourself) for her first Halloween?

8 tips for your child's first Halloween #parenthacks

Photo Credit: Emily TT Sullivan via Compfight cc

Here are eight tips wise Parent Hacks readers have offered over the years:

1. Choose a warm, comfortable costume.

Steer your kid toward a costume that will help her stay warm, isn't itchy, and doesn't reduce her visibility or mobility.

2. Go out on a full stomach and an empty bladder.

Classic toddler tantrum prevention.

3. Trick-or-treat before sunset.

Everything will be less scary, fewer big kids will be stampeding through the neighborhood, and you can shoot for a normal bedtime.

4. Avoid a crowd.

Tempting as it is to head out with friends, I found that going alone -- at least for the first time -- works better.

Crowds of kids tend to run, which adds frenetic energy to the experience and amps up kids who need more time to process (or just want to look at the decorations).

Also, little kids aren't steady on their feet, especially in costume. They'll want help getting up and down porch stairs and steep walkways, and that's easier when it's just you and your kid.

5. Visit familiar neighbors.

Knocking on strangers' doors to ask for candy pretty much goes against everything we teach our kids. Start with familiar faces.

6. Keep it short.

Tweet from @HSoulEater

Leave 'em wanting more.

7. Have a plan for candy consumption.

Think about the candy consumption plan before you go trick-or-treating. Chances are your kid will never have seen that much candy. Best if everyone has the same expectation, whether that's one-piece per day, or "choose your ten favorites and leave the rest for the Halloween Fairy."

8. Let the child lead.

In the end, remember that this is your child's experience.

In Hedra's wise words:

It takes time to learn the rituals, and getting into it will come naturally with age. Let the child determine what's fun, and what's not. Stay in the moment, and follow along rather than leading (or pushing from the back). That way you'll all enjoy it, and next year, or a year or two thereafter, their memories will set up the excitement without any intervention from you.

* * * * *

Your turn: Any tips you'd add to this list? Please tell us about your toddler Halloween experiences in the comments.

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09 October 2014

Turn a plastic drink carton into a pet food scoop

I HATE buying small, overpriced packages of anything. Because of this hack, the money I save on dog food will pay for the fancy pet food storage bin I now keep in my basement. I admit, I'm feeling pretty pleased with myself about this one. I invite you to follow...

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06 October 2014

10 ways your butcher can save you time in the kitchen (for free)

Having the butcher help me with dinner is the closest I'll ever come to having a prep cook. I'll take it.

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01 October 2014

DIY bottle holder lets babies feed themselves

I already love the Oball by Rhino Toys -- it's my #1 gift for new babies. But THIS hack? Damn smart. From sueb262: From the very first, my granddaughter has been independent. When she was about 2 months old, she started trying to hold her bottle herself, but it was...

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29 September 2014

Heat pancake syrup with your old bottle warmer

The bottle warmer is one of those baby gear items you just don't need. At least Ingrid came up with way to repurpose hers.

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25 September 2014

Your turn: Creative uses for...the binder clip

I love "new uses for old things" -style tips. The cheapskate declutterer in me can't resist a) reusing an item I already have and/or b) avoiding buying another "unitasker" which will eventually make its way into the giveaway pile. As I've been sifting through the archives for book research, I've...

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24 September 2014

Freeze french toast by the loaf for quick weekday toaster breakfasts

Jill's simple tip makes french toast easy and quick enough for weekday mornings.

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22 September 2014

Easier school lunch packing: designate a pantry "lunchbox zone"

My kids just started middle- and high school and I still hate packing school lunches.

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ALL hacks in October 2014 →

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