By Kristy Wilson
If you are on social media in any form you have most likely seen articles titled “20+ Genius Parenting Hacks that Make Parenting So Much Easier” or “The 50 Best Parenting Hacks you Need to Learn.” Maybe you have not seen these specific lists, but there is certainly a high likelihood that you have seen something similar.
One such article recently popped up in my Facebook newsfeed that was shared by chambanamoms entitled “These 29 Parenting Hacks Are Serious Game Changers for 2016.” I always read through these articles, even if I think that some of the ideas will be repetitive from article to article because, let’s face it, what parent/guardian doesn’t want to find ways to make their job a little bit easier? What you typically won’t find is one such article that is specific to the area you live in.
Below you will find a list of “parenting hacks” that will help you at various points in your parenting journey if you live in Champaign-Urbana or the surrounding areas. Please know that this is not a complete list, but it is a start to get you thinking about things you can do to make your life a bit easier as a resident of the area.
1. Consignment Stores/local online buying and selling options: Just today I was talking with a group of moms about buying school clothes for my daughter on varagesale. Due to the curriculum philosophy of learning through play and exploration my daughter often comes home with stamps and paint on her shirts, so I don’t feel so bad about her ruining gently used clothes that I bought fairly cheap from someone else. Here are a few articles that were previously posted on this specific hack.
2. Carle Convenient Care/ER wait times: I have lived in Champaign-Urbana for 26 years and it wasn’t until this past week that I learned about this from our Mom-in-Chief, Laura Bleill. It certainly is not for lack of visiting the ER or Convenient Care because I have had my fair share of visits for myself or family members. This is a hack that you hope to never have to use, but if you do need to it sure is handy! You can find this information here.
3. County Market (Kirby and Duncan) grocery pick-up lane: I rarely shop at this location because it is not the closest store to my house, but at the end of a recent trip the man said, “Do you need pick up service today?” I was really confused because I was unaware of this service. I thought that this worker was taking pity on the fact that I had both my 3- year-old and 11-month-old in tow and it was pouring down rain. I politely said, “I think I am OK” as I looked around and saw all the other shoppers who would need to sprint to their vehicles in an attempt to not get every last piece of clothing they were wearing soaking wet. Come to find out the grocery pick-up lane is a service that is offered daily and could really be beneficial to parents/guardians trying to wrangle holding a kid’s hand while pushing a full shopping cart with a broken wheel (isn’t this always the case) into the parking lot.
4. Grocery stores with unique shopping experiences for kids: Any time we go to a new store my daughter automatically seeks out the most interesting looking cart available, whether it be a shopping cart with a car attached to the front (like the ones at Schnucks, CVS at Curtis and Duncan, and Home Depot) or one with a seat where she can face her brother who is typically put in the traditional child seat of the cart (like the ones at Meijer, Sam’s Club, some local Walmarts, and Target). There is something about these carts that make the grocery shopping experience a bit more tolerable — for everyone. In addition to these places with specialty carts, the County Market on Kirby and Duncan offers small shopping carts for its wee patrons to participate in the grocery shopping process. They are simply adorable! Take a look at this article written about them.
5. Kohl’s online order pick-up parking spaces: Are you a parent who loves the awesome sales that Kohl’s has? Maybe you even have a Kohl’s charge card and you get the coupons (usually 20 percent or greater in the mail). Well, if you have a bit of time before you need your items, make your selections online and place your order for pick-up at our local store. There are several front row parking spots just outside of the set of doors by the customer service desk that are “Reserved for Customers picking up online orders.” Shop and pay online at your convenience, then pop in and pick up your items without having to pick through the merchandise that hundreds of other patrons have gone through.
6. Monticello Railway lunch with Santa on the train: I do realize that in comparison to other listed hacks that this may not seem “local,” but it is. People travel from all over the state to bring their kids to ride the Christmastime Polar Express train. I found out just how popular this event was this past June (yep, tickets usually go on sale six months in advance of the event) when I fumbled too much with the date that we would attend and all tickets sold out within five minutes of them going on sale at 8 a.m. My back-up plan was lunch on the train with Santa and I think that not getting tickets to the Polar Express was a blessing for our family because my daughter had a blast having lunch with Santa. Will I try for Polar Express tickets again this summer? Yep! But lunch on the train was a bit more our speed this year with a 3-year-old and an 11-month-old.
7. Park port-a-potties for emergency bathroom needs: So at the point when I started potty training my daughter I started carrying a small potty in the trunk of my car for emergencies. Primarily I thought I would use this if we were on a longer trip and in between rest areas or towns. I thankfully haven’t had to use it too many times. However, I got to thinking that if I didn’t have that in my car I could always stop at a park and have her use a port-a-potty. Now, I am not sure if these are typically in parks year-round or not. We had family pictures taken at the end of October at Porter Park in Champaign and there was still one at that point — I know because we had to utilize it! Here are a few of the parks that I am aware of that have port-a-potties on site, but keep in mind there are many more: Porter Park (Champaign); Burwash Park; Wisegarver Park; Hessel Park (onsite restroom facility); Eisner Park (the Hays Recreation Center is open Monday-Friday from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. and allows use of its restrooms); Colbert Park (Savoy); Prairie Fields Park (Savoy).
8. Public nursing rooms: Unfortunately, there are not as many out there as one might hope. So here are the places that I am aware of that have spaces for nursing moms:
–Toys R Us/Babies R Us (located near the restrooms)
–Carle (this is especially true of the buildings that have pediatrics and post-natal care for mothers. Just ask a nurse and they will find a room and put a sign on it so you are not disturbed by anyone)
–Your workplace. I am not well-versed in all of the laws that companies must uphold for employees. However, companies must provide a pumping space with a door that locks and a place to store breastmilk that is separate from the employee refrigerator. For more information on workplace guidelines please visit the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District’s breastfeeding resource guide.
–Market Place Mall (located near the food court)
9. Reserved parking for expectant mothers: Here are the places I am aware of that currently have “Reserved for Pregnant and Expectant Mothers:” Schnucks; Toys R Us/Babies R Us.
10. Sam’s Club cupcakes: I feel like this could also be added as a best kept secret. My family has been getting cakes here for years. We go to other places as well, but for larger events like birthday parties, graduation parties, etc. we go to Sam’s. With all the other items that need budgeted for the party, getting 30 cupcakes for $14.48 plus tax is a true parenting hack! And the Sam’s staff has always been easy to work with.
11. Sandy (the horse) at Meijer: This will be a parenting hack for most parents with kids age 5 and under. Sandy sits at the front of the Urbana Meijer. The reason that this is a hack: She is free to ride. Just push a button and away she gallops. Just last night we went to get a couple of things and I used Sandy as a reward incentive “if you are good, then you can ride Sandy after we check out!” For my horse-loving 3 year-old it worked like a charm!
12. Schnucks’ cookies for kids while shopping: The combination of the car carts and free cookies at Schnucks are enough to keep my child occupied while I meander my way through the store with her and her infant brother.
13. Sonic ice: I really enjoy the small pellet-like ice that is crunchy and kind of melts in my mouth easily. You know the stuff! It is almost like chewing a hard snow cone. Well, did you know that you can buy it at Sonic? Just pull up in their drive-through and request a bag of ice or two, or 10! It makes great ice packs for boo boos, blends nicely in smoothies, and is just down right good.
14. Stephens Family YMCA for child care and showers: OK, so you can’t drop your child off and leave the facility. However, on those days when you need a mental health break from things, having a YMCA pass is handy because during child watch hours trained, loving staff are available to watch your little one. I take my kids, go get in a workout and if possible, a shower. Sometimes this is the only guarantee that I will get a shower that day. And while it isn’t convenient to pack all my shower gear up it is better, in my book, than no shower at all!
So, there they are! The “14 Parenting Hacks of CU.” What others would you add?