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  • Our favorite holiday hacks to make your life easier this holiday! - Spilling the Beans - Magic Beans

Our favorite holiday hacks to make your life easier this holiday!

Families at ChristmasWhen it comes to parenting advice, the ultimate experts are out there in the field actively experimenting with what works with their own kids. Every parent has their little tips and tricks for keeping homes decluttered, kids content, and food on the table, and thanks to the internet, we can crowdsource solutions for everyday problems.

When it comes to the chaos of the holiday season, these tips become that much more important, and after seeing the brilliant list that Ilana of Mommy Shorts collected from her readers and fans, I decided to hunt out some of the best shortcuts from all over the web. Ready to get hacking?

 

DECORATING

Buy your Christmas decorations and wrapping paper the week AFTER Christmas, when they’re on sale. Christmas decorations don’t really go out of style. Just buy them after Christmas and save them for the next year. Pro tip: Get solar-powered Christmas lights if you’re decorating outdoors. You’ll save on electricity bills. – Mike Spohr

When our entire extended family gets together for the holiday, each individual family brings their own menorah. It’s so beautiful to have the dining table lined with them, and everyone gets candles to light. —Pam Minkin Fishman , Real Simple reader 

 

KID-WRANGLING

To avoid meltdowns at the store with my 4 year-old all year long, whenever she finds a toy she MUST have, I take a picture so I can send straight to Santa. When we get home, I add the item to a secret Amazon wish list for my family. – Devin 

I do a Christmas Eve box with PJ’s, a movie, popcorn, bath toys and a book. I give them out after Christmas Eve dinner and it keeps them occupied till bedtime. It encourages the bedtime ritual of snack, bath, book, and bed, plus, it buys mom a bunch of extra prep time for the big day. – Stephany 

We open stockings before breakfast and gifts after breakfast. The meal in between calms down the present-opening craze, especially effective when my sisters and I were little. — Heath Goldman 

 

SAFETY

We pack a roll of blue masking tape to take with us as we travel to multiple relatives/friends non-baby-proofed houses. We use it to cover any electrical outlets that draw our toddler’s attention. – Kelly 

If your kids are past the age of babyproofing and you have friends or relatives with curious toddlers coming over, make your home a safer place to explore with this quick and easy electrical outlet hack. Just cover all outlets that could be within reach with Band-Aids. Simple, cheap, and you can peel them right off after your company leaves.  – PopSugar

 

WRAPPING

I take the presents out of the packaging before wrapping so we don’t spend hours Christmas morning trying to hack Barbie out of her plastic fortress of doom. – Kayley

[Editor’s note: I can’t believe how simple and brilliant this is, and you should definitely do this. See also: constructing Playmobil buildings the night before. The kids won’t want to wait to play with it!]

This may seem obvious, but most people don’t think of it: Wrap your gifts from largest to smallest. This allows you to use the leftover pieces from the larger presents to wrap the smaller ones. — Dori McDonald, co-owner of RedBliss Design, a custom-invitation studio 

Repurpose used potato chip bags as gift wrap. It sounds weird, but they make attractive wrap once turned inside out, washed, and dried.  – Mike Spohr

Why should stockings sit empty all month? Once ours are hung in late November, we use them like little mailboxes, leaving each other silly notes and treats in the weeks leading up to Christmas. —Donna Garlough, style director of Joss & Main, a flash-sale website 

 

GIVING

Rants From Mommyland on narrowing down which gifts to buy choosy and opinionated older kids! 

This year I purchased a few Hanukah gifts with multiple pieces to spread out over several nights. For example, we got my 3 1/2 year old a set of princess dolls with seven different dolls. Instead of giving it to her all at once (and really going for shock value), we’re giving her one or two each night. I’m doing the same with a pack of books. BAM. Tons of presents, no overload, not breaking the bank. – Rachel 

I sneak a present or two away from the kids Christmas morning to save for birthday presents for other kids during the next year. Santa gives them a ton and they generally gravitate toward a few favorites. Then the other, not-as-big-a-hit presents just kind of disappear. My kids are 6, 5 and 2. No one has noticed yet. – Cara 

I take my kids to the Dollarstore to pick gifts for my husband, their siblings and teachers. Because it is a Dollarstore with tons of variety but low cost, we never have to say “No” to their choices. The best part is we record their reason for the gifts, then write them on the card. This results in some gems that range from hilarious such as a vase “for Mommy to drink wine from” (??!!!???) to the sweetest compliment I ever received in my life, a mirror “for Mommy to see how beautiful she is”. – Kande 

We have a tradition that, for each gift they unwrap, my kids need to choose something among their old things to “retire” and give to charity. It leaves us all with the holiday spirit. —Christiane Lemieux 

My mom, a preschool teacher, loves the four-gift rule that some of her kids’ families use: The parents give something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read. —Stephanie Sisco 

 

FOOD

When making sides for Thanksgiving dinner, I double the recipe and freeze one batch. Then when Christmas comes, I can pull out the frozen batches and there’s less prep work!Gail 

[Editor’s note: Gail, we are in AWE of your resourcefulness. My New Year’s resolution: be more like Gail!]

Make cookie decorating super simple by using sandwich bags for frosting.
Put a scoopful or two of frosting in a sandwich bag, press the frosting down to one corner, squeeze out the air, and seal the bag. Snip off just the tip of the frosting corner, twist the bag above the frosting, and squeeze the frosting out gently. This is great for kids, who usually just want to apply big polka-dots of frosting anyway, or for writing words. If you want to use decorative tips, use sturdier freezer bags and tips/couplers available at any craft store. – Macaronikid.com 

The secret to preparing a large holiday meal AND enjoying the holiday? Plan a detailed cooking schedule and stick to it (use alarm clocks and phone reminders, if needed!)… On the Big Day, follow your schedule to the minute, moving items into and out of the oven and onto the stove when needed, and adjusting the temperature as required. Everything will be ready right on schedule, and you’ll have plenty of time to chat and enjoy a glass of wine with guests. Bonus tip: Label all your serving containers with the dish it’s intended for and stack them on a nearby counter, ready to fill as each item is prepared.  – Macaronikid.com

 

THE TREE

My holiday hack involves lights, which are always a nightmare. Take an old oatmeal tube, remove the cap and bottom, and cut small slits up the sides on top & bottom about 1in long. Put one end of the lights in one slit, then roll your lights around the tube up to the other side, and secure the other end of the lights. No more tangled lights!!!!Lia

I collect various small projects my children have made over the years to use as Christmas tree ornaments. I label each with their name, age and date of when it was made. I also collect a small toy each year for each child that represents something he is currently into and save it as an ornament (i.e. Lego Star Wars minifigure). Decorating the tree every year is the funnest trip down memory lane and I save a bundle on ornaments. Plus, our tree is filled with playable toys, not breakable glass.Piete 

The kids get the bottom half of our tree, to decorate with papier-maché and soft ornaments, and I get the top, to dress up with the gorgeous glass ornaments I’ve collected for years.Michelle Kohanzo, managing director of The Land of Nod 

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