The beginning of a new school year is exciting but it also can be 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 in hopes of easing some of the stress of school-year planning. The good news is there are a lot of them out there so the key is to try a few and see which ones work best for your family. Here are a few of my favorites:
LALA BREAKFAST & LALA LUNCHBOX
One of the most stressful parts of a new school year for me is meal planning. The struggle is making healthful balanced meals that my kids will actually eat. It is always hard to find a balance between food that is easy and convenient but also nutritious. LaLa Breakfast & Lunchbox makes planning these meals 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 breakfasts and lunches. The app even takes all your selections and puts them into an easy-to-organize grocery list.
Helping your child with homework can sometimes be a frustrating task that requires limitless patience. If you are like I am, this is especially true for math homework. A lot of times the way math is taught now is different than how I was taught leaving us both feeling frustrated and helpless. Photomath is the ChatGPT of math homework and was recommended to me by a math teacher as a great tool for students and parents if used correctly. It can be a support to get over feeling stumped, but parents need to watch to make sure it is being used as a support and not as a shortcut to completing an assignment. The app allows you to scan the problem and get step-by-step solutions to the answer. It is free but there is a subscription for more detailed explanations. The app is great for all levels and has solutions for just about every mathematical question including challenging graphs and geometry.
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 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; 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 is a fee.
If you have older children who have a device and are walking, biking, or driving places on their own, this app is a lifesaver. Life360 is the most downloaded GPS tracking app available on Apple and Android devices. The app allows family members to share their location, and it also tracks driving speeds and allows you to create geofences so you can choose to receive alerts when a member in your network enters or leaves a location such as school or work. So while my children think I use it to keep tabs on them, it gives me great piece of mind from a safety perspective. I also encourage my children to use it to see my location so instead of calling or texting me asking where I am or how long until they are picked up, they can see I am on my way. But, just like any technology we want to use this as a tool and not in place of communication or in a way that breeds distrust by inhibiting their independence. Talking as a family about how and when it is used is a great start.
Getting settled into a new school year is a family affair that requires everyone’s support. 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 the fun and exciting things that go along with the start of a new school year.
Liz Farrell is the mother of three children and the founder of TechTalks, a consulting group to help schools and families have productive conversations around social media and technology. Feedback: [email protected]