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Caring For Our Kids

Back-to-school apps for parents

images: la la lunchbox; school a to z

Heading back to school is an exciting time for children. The backpacks are packed, the new shoes are laid out, and all the pencils are sharpened. It can also feel a bit hectic, especially for parents. There are carpools to organize, lunches to pack, and new homework to tackle. This year I decided to test some new apps for my school-year planning and preparation. I found several good ones that I hope will make the transition to a new school year smooth and stress-free, and the best part is that they are free for both iPhone and Android users. Here are some apps I am testing:

Lala Lunchbox: One of the most stressful parts of a new school year for me is figuring out what to pack for lunch that my kids will actually eat. It is always hard to find a balance between packing food that is easy and convenient but also healthful. LaLa Lunchbox actually makes planning lunches fun — and yes, that is possible. What I like most about this app is it gets your kids involved. It uses cute little monsters and bright colors to appeal to kids. Your children can select from a variety of fruits, veggies, proteins, and healthful snacks to help plan their lunches. The app even takes all your selections and puts them into an easy-to-organize grocery list. The app does partner with a few brands, including Applegate, 18 Rabbits, and Peeled Snacks, so a lot of their products are featured, but this didn’t bother me because all of these brands are organic and nut free.

School A to Z: Helping your child with homework can sometimes be a frustrating task that requires limitless patience. If you are like me and sometimes struggle to figure out an assignment or for an easy way to explain it, then this app is essential, especially if you have school-age children. School A to Z helps parents by providing a refresher course in math and English. Each section has pictures, fact sheets, and even videos to help explain concepts. There are also sections where your child can practice spelling, even allowing you to create your own custom word list, which is ideal for those weekly spelling tests. The app also has math games to help with math facts, especially those dreaded multiplication tables. The last section provides a whole host of ideas and resources for hundreds of different types of projects and assignments. There is enough in this app to give any parent or child feeling a bit stuck a dose of inspiration.

Team Snap: Sometimes organizing your child’s after-school activities can feel like a full-time job. Keeping track of practice times, games, and the related logistics, it is easy for things to slip through the cracks. Team Snap is a great app to help organize your child’s busy schedule. It has contact information for other players’ parents, directions to games, and also enables you to share photos. This app is especially helpful if you are a team mom/manager, because it allows you to monitor who has paid fees, to set up a snack schedule, and it even lets you message your team quickly and easily with text alerts and e-mail. This app isn’t just for sports teams, but it can be used to manage any club or organization, such as Chess Club or Girl Scouts. The app’s basic features are free, but for access to some of the more advanced options there are monthly plans that range from $8 to $18 per month per team. So it’s still a good deal considering all the time it can help you save.

Getting settled into a new school year is a family affair that affects everyone in the household. Whether it is the latest app or just a good old-fashioned family calendar, finding ways to help you save time and keep the stress level to a minimum are key. Having some extra time and feeling like life is somewhat organized will allow you to focus on your child and all of the fun and exciting things that go along with the start of a new school year.

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Liz Farrell is the mother of three young children. She was formerly a television producer in Washington, D.C. and San Francisco. E-mail: [email protected]

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