(Cheap) Must-Haves for Parents

I’ve been around the block a few times, and I’ve made said trip with kiddos in tow. As a result, I’ve come to learn there are few key “must-haves” every parent should have in his or her arsenal of tricks at all times. Fortunately, too, all of these items are cheap. But they’re absolutely worth their weight (and then some) in gold. So drum roll, please…

Small bubbles are convenient, cheap and fun. They can easily be stored in the car, in a purse or stashed anywhere throughout the house or even elsewhere. Whether you get ‘em at a local retailer or at a nearby party store (often for only 25 cents), they can come in handy for breathing a bit of novelty into the ho-hum of everyday or for lightening the mood whenever necessary. I keep a small bottle in both my purse as well as my coat pocket for passing the time with my kids while waiting for the school bus as well as for distraction during shots or uncomfortable or scary “stuff” at the doctor’s office. I even used them while my youngest was getting ready for surgery in the hospital. Bubbles are severely underused and underestimated!


Bubble gum has gotten a bad rep. It needn’t be a no-no laden with sugar that only serves to rot kids’ teeth. Quite the contrary, select the sugar-free variety with xylitol and you’ll actually be helping your child to fight cavities. Use it as a treat, reward or distraction and gum can be your and your child’s best friend. Need your child to keep quiet for a short period of time whether it’s for your own sanity or out of necessity? Offer him or her a piece of xylitol gum as both a reward and a way to do so. Just be sure to teach proper gum etiquette as well for the benefit of everyone (i.e. chewing with mouth shut, no spitting out gum, no playing with it, etc.).

Hand sanitizer is any families’ best friend. After all, kids and germs go together just as well as PB and J. You and your family don’t have to fail victim to illness as a result, though. No matter the variety or brand, keeping hand sanitizer handy at all times helps increase the chance it’ll be used and decrease the chance of subsequent illness. Don’t risk it. Keep a small bottle in the car, your coat pocket and/or purse and teach your children how to use it properly (including instructing them that it’s not a replacement for proper hand washing!).

A small notebook and pen is vitally important in a number of ways. First, they provide you, the parent, with an immediately available way to unload at least some of what you have to remember. (It seems with each child I tote around I lose more of my valuable mental space with which to remember things!). Secondly, they function as impromptu art supplies. Need to busy your kiddo while you’re out and about and can’t be bothered for a moment? No problem, whip out the paper and pen and set them to work creating a small masterpiece. You’ll appreciate the ability to attend to the task at hand and they’ll appreciate the opportunity to immediately express their creativity. Ah, a win-win all around!

Photo credit: Longye33

This article was originally written or modified on . If you enjoyed reading this post, please consider subscribing to my full RSS feed. Or you can also choose to have free daily updates delivered right to your inbox.

Author Info

This post was written by Shannon M. Medisky. Shannon is an educator turned parent turned writer and focuses on sharing new and innovative ways to not just survive, but thrive on empty. Visit ThrivingOnEmpty.com to learn more. Her newest book The Complete Idiot's Guide to Stretching Your Dollar is available in bookstores now.

2 Responses to “(Cheap) Must-Haves for Parents”

  1. Jenn |  Jan 29, 2012 at 2:46 pm

    Great ideas, thanks for the tips! Please remember though – parents that have pets: xylitol is deadly for pets. Even in small quantities it can kill dogs and cats. Use care when disposing of it, or storing it in the house where pets can’t reach it.

  2. jacob@ |  Jan 30, 2012 at 10:23 am

    great tips here i can never go with without hand sanitizer, never never!