We’re starting the year off with some tools for you, more specifically, apps.
Personally, I don’t like a lot of “parenting stuff”…most of the time I find it overwhelming and cumbersome and more trouble than it’s worth.
In a lot of cases, the tool doesn’t actually meet the goal it’s designed for. Behaviour charts come to mind.
There are some tools and some apps that you can pry from my cold dead hands.
These are apps I’ve used for years and have made behaviour management much easier for me and my clients.
This post isn’t sponsored by anyone. I have purchased all of these apps multiple times and on multiple platforms with my own money.
The first is the Time Timer app.
If you’ve been listening for a while, you know what a Time Timer is.
However if you’re new, a Time Timer is a brand of visual timer that makes the passing of time concrete for children.
It shows them how long they have to wait in a way that makes sense to them.
When you set a physical visual timer there’s a coloured disk that comes out and slowly disappears as the time passes and the Time Timer app takes that concept, and it puts it in an app.
I find this really helpful for when I’m out and about with my kids and there’s a hold up.
We have to stand in lines, we used this a lot when we went to Disney World in November.
I would check the line time estimation, and adjust the timer so my kids could see how long they had left to wait or if they have to wait to take a turn, or even for leaving.
I use this a lot to show my kids how much longer they have on a trampoline or at the park so that they can see when it’s time to leave.
I love Time Timers because they naturally work with a child’s developmental logically fallacy that big is more.
A bigger surface area of colour means more time, a small area of colour means less. It makes sense to them.
One of the bonuses of the app in particular is that you can have multiple timers.
You can save timers that you use frequently.
I have a 5-minute warning timer saved on my phone. I have a 45 minute timer saved because that’s the length of my younger son’s swimming lessons, and my older son hates having to wait around for my younger one to be done.
Instead of answering “is he done yet!?” over and over, I use the timer so he can see it.
You can also change the colours of the timers and you can choose between an entire clock face, like you would have on a physical timer.
You can choose what they call “full circle” mode, where no matter what length of time you choose it always starts as a full circle, and the circle disappears faster or slower based on how long the timer is set for.
If you set it for 5 minutes it diminishes over 5 minutes, but if you set it for 2 hours that same circle takes two hours to disappear.
It can be really helpful for long periods of time that are over and above what a physical timer can do.
It’s available on iOS and Android.
Second is an app called First & Then.
This is a digital First/Then board maker, and I find it really helpful for making unpredictable situations predictable for young kids.
Sometimes, you’re out and about, and something unexpected comes up.
Often with little kids it’s something they really want to do, or it’s something they really don’t want to stop doing like take one more slide and then get in the car or they really want to go to Grandma’s house and this pit stop at the grocery store is the end of the world.
A First/Then board makes the plan predictable for kids.
They can see what we’re doing now, and what we’ll do when we’re done. Little ones under age 6 are extremely present little people.
Whether they love what they’re doing or they hate what they’re doing.
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They genuinely believe that that we’re doing right now will last forever.
If they love what they’re doing they will convince themselves that they are going to be able to stay in this ball pit till they die.
If they hate what they’re doing, they will convince themselves that they are stuck in this doctor’s office forever.
Sharing the plan with them helps them conceptualize that okay there’s an activity after this one.
The beauty of this app is that you don’t have to plan ahead.
It allows you to use pictures from your camera roll, take photo, or grab photos from Google Images to use in your first/then board.
It makes setting boards up very quick and flexible. It also allows you to save boards which I find really helpful.
At this point I have a whole library of boards that I can pull up like first car/then Nana’s house.
First eat, then soccer practice. First slide, then car. First pay, then eat.
The more you use it, the easier it gets to set up, the more useful it is and you’d be amazed what a little bit of predictability like this does for a child’s stress and their ability to navigate unexpected situations.
This one is also available on iOS and Android.
Next we have Too Noisy Pro.
I originally came across this app because I was working with a kiddo who did a lot of vocal stims very loudly.
While it was fine when he was at home, when he started kindergarten it became quite disruptive.
At home we had a device called a Yacker Tracker that his parents had purchased which is basically a big stop light that has a microphone on it, and you would set a decibel threshold.
When the noise was approaching the decibel threshold, it would turn yellow, and when it went over the decibel threshold, it would turn green.
This was how his parents had decided to allow him to do his vocal stims, while still keeping it within reason for the other people living in the home but a Yacker Tracker is like- $200 and it’s not portable.
It wasn’t super helpful like in the car, or in the classroom.
I went looking for an app and low and behold there’s an app for that, and it’s called Too Noisy Pro.
It does the same thing as a Yacker Tracker, only it’s an app and instead of a stop light it has a noise gauge.
You can customize the background, and some of them will change colour along with the noise level.
You can customize the gauge- I really like the ones that go from green to red because it builds off that same red means stop concept most kids learn very early on.
As an adult I love that it has presets that you can customize so I can, for instance, set lower presets thresholds in quieter environments and louder ones in busier ones.
When I worked with this kiddo, I had different presets for the car, the library, his kinder classroom, and this indoor playground we used to go to frequently.
You can attach an external microphone to it or use the build-in microphone.
In kindergarten, we put a wireless bluetooth lavalier microphone on his shirt collar so that it was primarily picking up his personal noise level, not the noise level of the class as a whole.
For instance, during the pandemic when I used it for my kids at home, I just used it with the device microphone because I wanted it to assess the general noise level in the room.
You can use it with screen mirroring, casting, and on iOS devices, Airplay.
Which is really helpful at home, I will often Airplay it from my iPad to the TV in our rec room so that the kids can see it easily, and then I can put the iPad on the coffee table so the microphone is in a central location.
When people ask how I managed to work through lockdown with two very busy little boys at home, Too Noisy Pro is it.
I set up a preset for the noise level while I was in meetings, put it on the TV with the device sitting on the coffee table, and with a bit of practice they were able to keep it in the green.
Also available on iOS and Android.
My final can’t-live-without-it app is a web app. (Meaning you don’t download it to your device, you access it on the internet- but it’s designed to work on tablets.) And that’s LessonPix.
LessonPix helps you create printable visuals in record time.
All you have to do is search their vast library of images, and then tell it what format you want those images in and it spits out a PDF you can print and use right away.
All the visuals I create for ParentAbility, I use LessonPix.
You’ve heard me talk about visual schedules, first/then boards, choice boards I have several episodes on visuals. You can create all of them with just a few clicks in LessonPix.
My personal favourite format in LessonPix is the flap schedule because it takes your images and formats them so that all you have to do is cut down the dotted lines for perfectly aligned flaps, throw some velcro dots on it to hold the flaps closed when the task is complete, and you’ve created an interactive checklist for your children to follow and check tasks off as they complete them.
I use this format for getting ready for school checklists, we have one near our front door with everything my kids need to take to school every day on it so they don’t forget anything and I don’t have to nag them.
It’s truly life changing before LessonPix I had to use a program called BoardMaker that came on multiple CD-ROMs…remember those?
It was so slow and expensive, BoardMaker was designed for schools and institutions, so a copy ran like $400.
Even their online version they came out with later ran for like $100 a year.
LessonPix, by contrast, is like $36 a year. In fact I love this app so much that I’ve negotiated a ParentAbility only discount with them for our members which makes it even cheaper.
It’s a steal!
Those are my ride-or-die apps that actually make parenting easier.
I encourage you to check them out!
Again, these aren’t affiliate links and none of these apps have sponsored me, these are apps I’ve used for years and that I go back to over and over again because they are genuinely useful and enhance my existing parenting and behaviour management efforts, rather than try to distract my kids.
Now I’d love to hear from you, what are your favourite apps that make parenting easier?
Come join us in the Parenting Posse and let us know!
We have over 10 thousand parents in there to support you and we’d love to meet you.
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