10 Surprising Ways Parents of Young Kids Use Their Phones to Stay Sane

What did parents do before cell phones?

By Dena Ogden

The longer I parent, the more rely on my phone as a lifeline. How can you bring a friend up-to-date on how things are going without pulling out your smartphone and scrolling through the latest pictures of your adorable kids? How can you settle on a family-friendly dinner venue without consulting reviews from your phone? And how can you plan your day without using it to check the weather report to see whether your kids need coats (they always will need coats).

Phone-assisted parenting may start with the first ultrasound picture you share on social media. It continues with text exchanges between partners about who can pick up diapers from the store, with video chats with distant family members, and with emailed birthday invitations. But your smartphone can do more—much more.

As you perform the countless daily duties of a parent, your cell phone is often your main connection to the outside world—a source of practical information and occasional entertainment, as well as an attractive temptation for kids. But while you probably already rely on your smartphone for help with multiple tasks, you may not be using it to the full extent of its capabilities. Here are 10 surprising ways that parents of young kids can use their phones to stay sane outside beyond texts and social media.

1. Streaming Curated Song Playlists for the Whole Family

If we couldn't make playlists, we'd be forced to lean toward only kids' music or only adult genres of music. But your smartphone lets you handpick hours and hours of music that offer something for everyone in the family. And, if “hours of music" sounds ambitious, trust me: You’ll need them because your kids will veto many of your favorites, and you’ll want to be prepared with lots of alternative options. I recommend a mix that includes one kids’ song for every three or four adult contemporary/pop tracks, but your ratio may vary.

2. Tapping Into Library Collections

Many public libraries maintain impressive collections of digital content—both ebooks and kid-friendly movies—that you don’t have to leave your home to enjoy. Apps such as Zinio for LIbraries, OneClickdigital, Hoopla, and OverDrive offer access to ebooks, movies, audio books, magazines, and music, pretty much eliminating the need to leave your house in search of reading and viewing material ever again.

3. Listening to Podcasts for Insights on Culture and News

When a newborn rules your roost, plugging in a single earbud can reintroduce you to the world beyond the floor of the nursery. Podcasts can bring you humor, current events, celebrity gossip, or political news—even Harry Potter lore and connections to other fandoms. You know, all the things that tend to fall by the wayside when your world revolves around a tiny child.

4. Storing Your Family Memories and Masterpieces in One Place

My phone holds hundreds of photos, videos, and audio clips (my toddler loves to sing). I've even taken some pictures of drawings he's scribbled and stored them on my phone—because the paper may get crumpled or torn, but my digital copy will never age.

5. Using Calendaring/To-Do list Apps to Manage Family Responsibilities

Even the most loyal fans of pen-and-paper calendaring can't deny the ease and convenience of syncing their family's schedule in a single, cloud-stored space. In my family, I keep a paper planner but frequently tap into my partner’s app of choice (Google Calendar) so I can check what’s on his shared calendar and plan ahead.

6. Reading Product Reviews While Shopping Offline

There are so many factors to consider when buying for your kids that running price checks before you commit to a purchase is a great way of confirm that you're getting a good deal on a good product. The only thing that feels better than avoiding a toy that reviewers warn will break immediately is feeling confident about the quality of the item you ultimately buy.

7. Communicating Shopping Lists and Recipes

No doubt you can use a text message, phone call, or email message send to inform your buyer of needed items. But your smartphone specializes in handling exactly that task. Cozi is a great option that my family uses to share grocery lists and add last-minute additions when one parent is already at the store. And if you're the one waiting at home, you can have the satisfaction of watching check marks appear next to items on the list as your partner adds them to the shopping cart.

8. Searching for DIY Art Project Instructions

When a small child is in need of entertainment, and the weather reduces your options to indoor activities, your smartphone can open a world as big as all outdoors. Desperate times call for desperate measures, but the suggestions and instructions for child-friendly art projects you can find online will make you glad to stay inside. If your search results are anything like mine, you’ll come away with a lovely set of color-coordinated collages and pipe cleaner animals.

9. Using the Camera as a Mirror

Lots of people take advantage of the camera-as-mirror trick whether they have kids or not, but you unlock a new level of parenting convenience when you use it to see whether the child who’s lying on you, with head turned away, has finally fallen asleep.

10.Taking Slow-Motion Videos of Kids’ Dance Moves

I can’t be the only parent who plans to keep these on hand until the kiddos reach high school, right? Right?

Photo credits: Unsplash.com, Pixabay.com.