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5 simple big-family hacks that will make life easier for families of any size

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As a mom-of-four, you can imagine all the comments and questions I get from people, so on a recent episode of my podcast SPAWNED with Kristen and Liz, I decided it might be fun to share some of them. And by fun I mean entertaining at my own expense because as I always say, if I wasn't laughing about parenting, I'd probably be crying.

As you might guess, they range from reasonable to ridiculous, like "You sure have your hands full!" or my favorite "You do know where babies come from, right?" Yes, yes I do. The stork!

But mostly, people ask me how I do it. So I figured why not sure the tricks I used to help make my life with lots of kids a little easier. Here, some simple big-family hacks that I bet will make life easier for your family of any size.

MORNING HACK: Create a morning to-do list for your kids

Getting out of the house in the morning can be a little crazy no matter how many kids you have, so here's a way to make it a whole lot easier:

1. Grab a notebook (I love the personalized journals from Minted) or an LCD e-writer like a Boogie Board.

2. Create a morning to-do list that includes everything they have to do in the morning before they leave the house. At my place, it's getting dressed, making their bed, their morning chore, homework (yes, a few of my kids do it in the morning), eating breakfast, you get the idea.

3. Use incentives, like screen time, allowance, or whatever else it is that positively motivates your kids to reward them for completed lists. Extra points when there's no whining.

4. Keep the books or boards in a place where they can find them. I like to leave them special notes or encouragement when they do a great job.

MEAL HACKS: Let them help with lunch packing

I pack four school lunches every day and I will just come right out and say that it's not my favorite thing. However, since I got my kids involved, it's gotten so much better.

1. Purchase three plastic bins that fit in the lower shelf of your fridge.

2. Write on them with a Sharpie or grab some labels (I'm a big Mabel's Labels fan) to mark them "Snacks," "Fruit," and "Veggies."

3. Inside the bins, stack pre-packed fruit slices, carrot sticks, their favorite snacks etc. in small plastic containers.

4. While you pack the sandwiches (or the main part of the lunch), they get to pick and pack one thing from each. This way, they're getting to choose what they want, they're helping you with the entire process, and they can't complain when you forgot to pack them a banana.

Make your kitchen kid-friendly

One thing you'll notice about my kids, even my 5-year old, is that they're super independent. I credit this to making my kitchen in particular much more kid-friendly, which frees me up from playing sous chef for them 24 hours a day.

1. Purchase color-coded dishes and cups so that they know which ones are theirs. It really does cut down on the fighting and the dish washing. Or try these fun personalized plates from Olliegraphic.

2. Depending on your kids' ages, place the plates, cups, bowls, you name it in a low cabinet or shelf so they're easily accessible.

3. Do the same with breakfast and snack foods. I keep a small pitcher of milk on the lower shelf in my fridge, along with cereals and healthy snacks in a big drawer that they can all get to if they need. Lesson learned: Keep the cookies up very very high.

GADGET HACK: The Marble Jar

Who has time to keep track of star charts and tricky reward systems? The Marble Jar is the best thing ever and will have you managing screen time like a champion.

1. Find a jar, some marbles, and a kitchen timer (though your smart phone timer will work too).

2. Label it with your kid's name, and if you want, let them decorate it just for fun.

3. Decide how much screen time each marble is worth. In our house, it's 15 minutes and you can only use 2 of them during the week.

4. Then, figure out what sorts of things you want them to do in order to earn the marbles. Is it a chore? Is it a behavior? Is it sleep?

5. When a kid earns a marble, he drops it in his jar. When he wants to use it, he pays you with a marble.

The end! Just be sure you're not taking them away as a punishment. It's too much to manage and then it becomes a bargaining chip rather than a learning tool.

CHORE HACK: Have the items in your house do the nagging

It's okay, I can be a nag too, but with this simple hack, you won't have to do it anymore. Or at least, as much, anyway.

1. If your kids are doing repeated behaviors that you're trying to nip in the bud (i.e. wet towels on the floor, toothpaste on the sink, TV on without finishing homework), write a note FROM that item.

2. You can write it on scrap paper and hang with tape, or I like these fun speech bubble sticky notes from Yoobi.

3. It's amazing how much this changes the tone of the ask, and allows you to do other things rather than continually remind your kids about certain behaviors and tasks.

For more information on any of these hacks, make sure to visit We're on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest too.

{Photo by Aaron Adler Photography}

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