10 Tips for Less Frustration and Mess-Free Fun

“Stop, take a deep breath, and think” That’s the lesson from an episode of Blue’s Clues on dealing with frustration. It’s taken me some time to figure out how to not get frustrated with my toddler (or myself) over the same issues all the time. The spills over the couch, the dents and scratches on the table, the messy fun that takes too much time to clean up. I’ve finally tackled each of those frustrating situations and have come up with a few other creative and fun ideas so everyone can relax and enjoy.

 1. Cardboard canvas:

Wet paint, curled up paper, rips and tears. Nothing is more sad when our little Picasso’s art gets ruined. Next time you get a delivery, cut down the shipping boxes to paper sized rectangles and use them as blank canvases for your kids to paint on, glue on, and stick on. The cardboard will be easier for their little hands to work with and hold up much longer. You can also use it as a mount board by gluing your child’s favorite artwork on it.

 2. Yoga mat playground:

Whether it’s a rainy day or not enough time to play outdoors, simply get some chalk and let your kids draw on your yoga mat (darker color mats work best). Draw hopscotch squares, some circles for jumping from one to the next, from train tracks to giant connect the dots. It is hours of fun that you can clean up with a wet wipe in 30 seconds!

 3. Bathmat seat cover:

I’ve tried special seat covers, slip covers, and towels to cover the dining chair and couch. Although plastic covers protect the best, it’s uncomfortable to sit on and sticks to my son’s legs. Slip covers are so thin that anything absorbed tends to spread quickly. The best solution I’ve found is using a small bathmat, and I choose one in my son’s favorite color to mark his seat. It protects the seat, it’s easy to wash, and it’s also a fun way to assign seats when you have more than one child.

4. Pre-peeled sticker sheets:

Next time before you hand over a sheet of stickers to your child, first peel off the part without any images. You will never hear another frustrated cry from your child over not being able to pick up the sticker they want.

Beautiful Messy Hands

5. Less-breakable crayons:

For those of you who have had trouble cleaning off crayon from your furniture know to never bring home the crayons from a restaurant. I only buy washable crayons for my home, but they tend to break more easily than regular crayons. A good trick is to wrap the crayons tightly with painter’s tape, or any other type of paper tape to keep them from breaking as easily.

6. Noodle bumper:

For whatever reason, children love to run around in the dinning room. We have an oval dining table, although there are no sharp edges, it can still hurt quite a bit when you bump into it. For a toddler, that’s the perfect height for a head-on collision. Most child-proofing bumpers are for straight edges and require some heavy duty tape to keep it in place. A good alternative is to slice a swimming noodle all the way down length-wise to create an opening that you can wedge the table top to the center of the noodle. We can’t stop our kids from running around inside the house no matter how hard we try, but at least we can make it a little safer when they do.

7. Floor mats on the table:

We all enjoy dining with some live musical entertainment, but definitely not when it’s the sound of forks and spoons making dents on our tables. Try using a few tiles from those foam puzzle floor mats as a place-mat for your child. You can be creative and cut the shape to fit around the high chair, custom holes to help keep the cups and bowls in place, even let your children put together the mats they want to use. You can use a product called Quakehold, a putty that will hold the mat in place that can be peeled off and won’t damage the table surface.

8. Entry-way closet organization:

If you are tired of picking up the backpacks and jackets after your child, here’s a very easy solution. Add a row of coat hangers or towel hanger hooks to the inside of the closet low enough for your child to reach, and out of the way of the jackets on top. You can find ones that have cute designs on them, even ones that you can put a picture of your child’s face in them. Just make sure to involve your child in the process of selecting the hook, installing the hook, and finally, have your child do the quality control by testing it out. They will feel so proud of being part of the process that they will want to hang their bags and coats when they get home.

 9. No-mess apple sauce cups:

As adorable as it may be to see a child trying to spoon feed himself apple sauce, it’s another thing to have to clean up the mess after. I started cutting drinking straws to about 4 inches long at an angle for my son to drink his apple sauce straight from the little plastic cup. We’ve done the same with yogurt by shaking the yogurt, insert the straw through the foil cap, voila! It’s great for the lunch box and on the go.

 10. Cleaning up the emotional mess:

This last tip is for those times when the damage has been done and your child is frustrated and upset. Whatever the situation is, first take a few deep breathes yourself so you can feel calm and focused. Lower your body so you are able to look at your child in the eye. Empathize with your child by describing what just happened and how something like that would frustrate or upset you too. I tell my son that when I feel that way, what works for me is by putting all that energy into my hand and push it out. We put our palms together and ask him to push as hard as he can. Then I pretend to fall down and act surprised by how strong he is. I will ask him if he has any “mad” feelings left in him or if we need to do that again. Often he says he has more because he just wants to see me fall down again. Then he giggles and forgets all about what made him upset in the first place.

Once both of you are feeling calm, you can offer to help whatever it was that caused him to get upset. It is also a good chance for you to demonstrate taking a few deep breathes when you come across a frustrating situation.

annA Mom Knows Contributor

About Ann

After working over 10 years as an art director at the Walt Disney Studios, I became a stay-at-home mom. My experience as a first-time mom inspired me to publish a book called "Quick Tips For First-Time Moms: A Simple and Practical Guide to Finding Balance". I love using my creativity to solve problems. From organization to recycling, parenting to party planning, I continue to find new interests and inspirations through spending time with my child.

2 Responses to 10 Tips for Less Frustration and Mess-Free Fun

  1. Mom With A View says:

    Love it!!! Great article, nice to know there are people out there like me, who want a “mess free” life with the kids.

  2. Emily Huston says:

    Thanks for sharing such a quick tips to make the kids activities less messy and more entertaining. These are really survival tips that requires less preparation and frustration with fun and excitement for kids.