As with marketing, the best advice with parenting is often to Keep it Simple. With over two million apps out there, using apps to simplify parenting life may seem like a ridiculous notion – but there are some that really can make a difference.
In the run up to Christmas, with all its added pressures and chores, I thought it apt (excuse the pun) to share the 10 digital apps that have helped me to organise and simplify my life during my early years as a parent.
Wunderlist – for managing chores
I love lists almost as much as I love my children so this app has been a godsend – it allows you to create different lists for different areas of your life, adding deadlines, notes and alerts, and it syncs with your other devices – no more losing paper reminders under stacks of books and toys. You can also choose to share select lists with partners, friends and colleagues – my husband wasn’t overly delighted to learn about this feature, but doesn’t mind it now he knows how to switch off notifications! After recommending it to him, a friend of mine who runs his own businesses now uses it for employee task management. I should really start asking Wunderlist for commission…
Google sheets – for forecasting
Once just an essential tool for work, I’ve discovered that the joy of spreadsheets extends to parenting life – it may sound a bit too organised, but we now have a meal planner spreadsheet and ‘staple foods’ list that we use to inventory check the cupboards and plan ahead. No more wondering if fishfingers are acceptable more than twice a week or running out of essential items like cheese, dishwasher tablets and wine.
I should also briefly mention the essential app that is the Tesco Groceries app (any supermarket app will do really); attempting to food shop with two kids in tow is never a wise move – and although it might feel like a mini holiday when you get the chance to go it alone on the weekend, even fitting in time to ‘browse’ (oh the excitement!), it eats into valuable family time. Online shopping has definitely made parenting life infinitely easier.
Spotify – for setting the day
Music has the ability to change the entire outlook and outcome of your day – if the soundtrack of my mornings has to be the ‘Justin’s house’ theme song, then being able to choose from a vast library of artists and playlists for the rest of the day is true freedom. Sometimes, the kids just need half an hour or nursery rhymes or Disney songs to dance off some extra energy; other times, I might need half an hour of inspiration to wind down after a busy day. It also comes in very handy for compiling playlists for entertaining at parties and on long car journeys, and with the new ‘Premium for Family’ you can get unlimited downloads on 6 devices.
Poo goes to Pooland – for toilet training
This is an interactive NHS app that tells the story of Ollie and ‘Poo’, a very, very shy Poo who wants to go home to Pooland and see his family. Children can make Poo laugh, burp and help Ollie to flush Poo down the loo to reach his parents; highly engaging for them and fairly entertaining for you – which, in the face of potty training, is an amusement to be relished. There is also a downloadable colouring book of the story.
Evernote/ Google Keep – for keeping up to date
Evernote has proven a great app for saving all those articles/ news stories that I don’t get a chance to read during the day, not to mention saving links to recipes that have gone down well (you really don’t want to lose those), or craft ideas for rainy days. Google Keep is also great; when you can’t find a pen and need to remember something, you can use it to record a voice memo to yourself and it’ll turn it into text.
Kindle – for escaping the everyday
Having easy access to a library of electronic books and magazines that can’t be ripped up by a shred-hungry toddler has been amazing. I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that being able to escape into a book, scrolling the pages one-handedly while rocking your baby in the dark early hours, or during those rare and fleeting times when both children are napping in the car, is one of the true joys in a parent’s day.
Map my walk – for exercise
Oh the excitement of seeing how many miles you’ve covered and how many calories you’ve burned pushing a double buggy 2.5 miles to the park – whilst of course educating your children on the natural surroundings and the neighbours’ building works. My mum has always said: “walking is the best form of exercise”, and since it’s about the only form of exercise I manage these days, it’s nice being able to record my efforts – as I mentioned in my previous blog on measuring parenting success, I’m a sucker for tangible results.
Calendar – for organisation
Boring, but true – digital calendars are essential parenting apps. Who can remember where they are meant to be at all for the first six months of their baby’s life, let alone where they put their diary? It also has the added bonus of being able to add the other parent to your children’s numerous birthday party invitations, or ‘Meal out with the girls’/ ‘Curry with boys’, so you know how much of your ‘me time’ is actually left.
White noise Baby – for encouraging sleep
This app has a wealth of background sounds like ‘car ride’, ‘vacuum cleaner’, ‘white/pink/blue noise’ and ‘chimes’ (not sure about that one) to help you lull your baby to sleep. You can download pretty much any sound that works for you from its Market Companion app, ‘White Noise Market’. Somehow, my son is just as content with 10 minutes of recorded babbling as he is with my soothing vocals, which, when you have a toddler to attend to and repetitive strain injury in your jaw from ‘ssh-ing’, is a welcome substitute.
Gumtree – for buying equipment and presents
Let’s face it: baby equipment and toys are expensive. You can invest £100 in some items in the vain hope of them solving a certain challenge, only for them to be used twice. After a quick Dettol wipe, it’s hard to tell second-hand from new – and kids under a certain age don’t know the difference. So if you want to save yourself money, check the condition of something before you commit to buy, and have the added bonus of not having to construct the equipment yourself, Gumtree is the way to go. And if you’ve invested in that all-promising sling or baby bouncer that turns out not to be the answer to everything, you can easily sell it on to other hopeful and wanting parents.
So there you have it: ten apps that have helped me to become more organised and simplified parenting life. What about you? What apps have helped you?