As Joe Scarborough recently reminded MSNBC’s Morning Joe viewers, there’s no shortcutting your children’s need for both quality and quantity of time. It’s popular among parenting sites to decry our digital age’s assault on each. But for many of us living in the year i009 (i.e., year nine of the iPhone), evading smartphone dependency is as futile as running from the sun.
None of these hold a candle to an old-fashioned game of yard baseball, but here are five apps I count on to help minimize interruptions, constructively entertain, and compartmentalize so I can be fully present with my family.
1. Google Sky Map.
I’d be lying if I said this were only for my kids. For them, Sky Map is dad’s key to unlocking the mysteries of the galaxy. For me, it’s a mind-bending cheat sheet that identifies every star, constellation, and planet when you hold it over your head against the night sky.
2. PBS Parents Play & Learn.
Forget Angry Birds. In addition to providing games, this app justifies each one with parenting tips, resources, and related activities. For instance, before “At the Zoo: Feeding Time” starts, parents are given 12 bullet points explaining skills your child will hone, tips for playing the game with your kid, and ways to learn more in the real world.
3. Kindle, Nook, Google Books, etc.
If I’m going to read on my phone, I want the headlines. But talking heads and disaster journalists deserve zero attention when I am rocking a newborn at 1 a.m. This is quiet time; download a classic (my only digital book is Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath), dig in, and drift off.
4. Dragon Mobile Assistant.
Newer smartphones now come with Dragon or similar dictation software. Whatever your speech-to-text equivalent, use it no matter what you’re “typing”—texts, emails, blogs, to-do-lists, etc. You’ll get off your phone faster for your kids.
Gmail users, if you haven’t switched to Google’s new Inbox app, I recommend it. This fully integrated interpretation of Gmail organizes your email beyond the “old” Inbox/Social/Promotion tabs, and treats each email as a to-do item. You don’t mark them “read,” but “done.” Done.
Your turn: for the good of the group, what are your family’s favorite “dad apps”?