When you have young kids, even the most mundane tasks can become challenging — not to mention the actual parenting. From face masks to sunscreen, products designed for kids run the gamut, as do products that help parents deal with their kids. As a tech writer and product reviewer, I’m always on the hunt for ways to streamline my daily life, especially with regards to technology — handling my two toddlers is no different. Here are a few gadgets I’ve found over the years that have made my life easier in that sense.
When my wife and I had our first kid, we didn’t think a video baby monitor was necessary. We were so, so wrong. A video baby monitor lets you check to see if they’re “awake but quiet,” warning you when it’s time to finish up whatever you’re doing. It lets you see when they’re transitioning to a new sleep cycle, so you know to be extra quiet and careful around the house. And it tells you the temperature in their room, so you know if you should turn on the ceiling fan or crank up the AC mid-nap. And while there are plenty of high-tech Wi-Fi cameras out there, we’ve been more than happy with the cloud-free DXR-8 — no need to futz with apps or internet connections when everything is self-contained.
I cannot stress how useful white noise is for helping your kids sleep. Whether they’re newborns or rambunctious toddlers, white noise helps block sound from the rest of the house, and the Hatch Rest is much more than a noise machine. It also allows you to play lullabies while you get them ready, place everything on a timer and adjust a color-changing night light that lets your toddler know when nap time is over. I recommend the Hatch Rest+, which uses Wi-Fi, but if you want to save some money, the standard Hatch Rest is good too — it just uses Bluetooth, which means you have to be near the bedroom to adjust the light or noise thanks to Bluetooth’s shorter range.
3. Amazon Echo
Never underestimate the effect music can have on a fussy child. Our youngest daughter wakes up every morning and immediately starts pumping her fist, saying “Da. Da!” — this means she wants to dance. A voice-controlled speaker like the Amazon Echo is a crucial fixture in our day for playing our kids-focused Spotify playlist. (If you don’t have a playlist like this, look up Go Fish’s rendition of Five Little Monkeys — it’s kids’ music like you’ve never heard before.)
While our kids don’t really use iPads and phones (yet), we do use my iPad for FaceTiming liberally with Grandma and Pops across the country. While I often have to follow them with the iPad as they run around the house (I’m about ready to invest in a gimbal), it’s nice to have a stand to put the tablet on when they’re sitting on the couch or standing at the kitchen island for FaceTime. This stand from Lamicall works well — if you want something with even more freedom, Lamicall’s gooseneck tablet holder may be even better.
While our kids don’t get a ton of screen time, there are moments when everyone just needs a short break — or you need to make dinner without constant distractions. While any streaming device will do the trick — I usually recommend the Roku Ultra as the best overall — Amazon’s Fire Stick has one distinct advantage: full voice control. So instead of using the remote to find the show you want, you can just say “Alexa, watch the next episode of Dinosaur Train on Prime Video” while you start working in the kitchen. (Side note: I’ve learned more about dinosaurs this year than I ever thought I’d know.)
A lot of parents use timers to ease transitions from one activity to another — e.g. “When the timer goes off, it’ll be time to get ready for bed.” Our toddler is much more accepting of these transitions when we involve this external source. You could set a timer with your Echo, of course — but this six pack has our 3-year-old much more engaged with the process. He loves to pick the color and press the button himself. When it dings, he happily moves on to the next activity. You could always use a sand timer if you want something more fun, but those are also limited to a specific length of time, so they aren’t as versatile.