With an app for just about everything these days, it is no surprise to discover there are many to assist parents, says Ed Power.
IT’S challenging being a parent — but fortunately technology can lend a hand.
The ubiquity of smart-phones and other mobile devices means mothers and fathers can now avail of up-to-the-minute advice on childcare and best parenting techniques. A wide range of information is available literally at the press of a button.
Of course, the proliferation of gadgets in our lives can have drawbacks as well as advantages. Hundreds of parenting apps crowd the market, some more useful than others.
As a parent, you will already be hard pressed for time, so to save those precious minutes, we have outlined some of the outstanding apps available.
You should not take this as a definitive list. Every family’s requirements differ — look on the applications below as a jumping off point, not a destination in themselves.
White Noise Baby (Android)
If background noise keeps your baby or young child awake, this Android app may be a godsend. It offers a variety of looped sounds, from the hum of a car and the swish of ocean waves to the tinkle of classical music — all designed to lull your infant to sleep and screen out disruptive sounds.
An additional feature is the virtual ‘rattle’ to distract your child if you are on the go. The app is free: a ‘pro’ version, priced at 72c, blocks ads and allows you stream the sounds in the background.
Cloud Baby Monitor (iPhone, iPad).
Why fritter cash away on a baby monitor when you can let your computer do the work instead? All that is required is an IOS device or Mac computer, to be placed in baby’s nursery.
This app hooks the ‘monitor’ up to your iPhone or iPad, so that you can keep virtual watch on your precious bundle. Naturally you will want to remain close at hand: however, the monitor works over both Wifi and 3G so, in theory, distance is not an issue.
The app costs €3.99 — a ‘free’ version allows you test the service for ten minutes. After that, you will have to pay.
iRewardChart (iPhone, iPad)
Many parents find it useful to reward children for achieving milestones or for good behavior. Enter iRewardChart: this bright and breezy app helps mums and dads track their kids’ activities and decide on appropriate rewards.
You choose from a menu of goals — examples include, ‘polite behaviour’, ‘cleaning room’ and ‘showing respect to others’ — and award stars, which are then put towards a reward (such as a ‘new colouring set’, ‘one extra bedtime story’ and so on).
Not only does the app assist in motivating your children to be on their best behaviour, it also teaches the value of delayed gratification and of saving towards a long-term goal (stars are totted up weekly).
There are two versions : a free ‘Lite’ iteration which allows you track one child over a maximum of four tasks each week. The €3.99 full version comes without limits.
Toddler Lock (Android)
Not the most glamorous of applications, this product for the Android mobile phone is nonetheless invaluable for parents of young children, where the kids simply cannot keep their hands off a shiny smartphone.
We’ve all looked away for a moment only to find our little bundle of baby-talk has liberated our phone, switched off the Wifi, deleted all our texts and placed a call to Tasmania.
As a bonus Toddler Lock features cartoonish graphics and gentle noises, so that your child is entertained while manipulating your handset. Best of all it’s free.
Total Baby (iPhone, iPad)
For those who believe in getting the most from technology, Total Baby is a heavyweight offering (and carries a relatively hefty €4.99 price-tag).
Essentially a combination of spread-sheet and diary, it allows you log such information as your baby’s nappy cycle (how many, what time of day), sleep routine, consumption of solids and milk and so on.
You can also track developmental milestones, vaccines, doctors visits and rate of growth.
Granted, all of the above may be accomplished with pen and paper: however, physical records are easily misplaced while the data logged on Total Baby is uploaded into the ‘cloud’, so you can retrieve the information remotely should you be so unfortunate as to misplace your mobile device.
Find My Kids — Footprints, iPhone
This popular app allows you keep tabs on your kids with your iPhone. Find My Kids tracks their mobile phone via GPS, letting you know where they are in impressive detail.
Of course, this presupposes you have permitted your children to have their own handsets in the first instance. However, with phone ownership now commonplace among older children, the advantages of Find My Kids are obvious.
The app is easy to use and is clearly designed with the non-tech-savvy in mind.
There is the loop-hole that your children can leave their mobile devices behind or have it powered off, so that you cannot ‘snoop’ on them. Given the degree to which kids are attached to their phones nowadays, though, it is unlikely they will take such a radical step.
While the service is free to download, a €3.99 yearly subscription is required.
Developer Solico is better known for its financial planning apps – nevertheless, Footprints has garnered strong reviews and has been downloaded more than 100,000 times.
Headpace (iPhone, iPad, Android)
Recommended by parenting expert Sheila O’Malley, Headspace is a ‘mindfulness’ app that leads the user through a programme of meditation.
She advocates it for parents rather than children: if you can find peace of mind,then you will be much better at caring for your kids.
“Many of the [mothers and fathers] I meet are stressed working parents,” says O’Malley, who offers advice under the Practical Parenting banner. “I recommend Headspace — a 10-minute meditation app to destress.”
The initial 10-day programme is free — after that you can go back to the start or pay monthly or yearly subscription.
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