Hello and welcome to the world of technology available every year on April Fools’ Day. Below, you will ﬁnd a plethora of cool and useful parenting gadgets to help you deal with the pitfalls of parenthood.
the cry quasher
Uses: Hushes the baby on those heart-wrenching occasions when she’s still crying even though she’s been fed, changed and cuddled.
Pros: A good night’s sleep for parents and baby alike.
Cons: A baby’s cry is part of a complex warning system. By cancelling her cry, we may be ignoring the first signal that something’s wrong.
A low-tech alternative: Invest in a night babysitter. Sometimes all you need is one night of peaceful sleep for your perspective and good mood to be restored.
the homework detector
Uses: Asks the child that pesky question: “What homework do you have?”. Analyses the answer for fibs and evasiveness.
Pros: While the jury is still out on whether homework leads to better learning, it certainly teaches hard work, responsibility and task prioritisation.
Cons: The child won’t like it …
A low-tech alternative: The teacher can email homework assignments to the parents as a backup option. (Yes, email is already a low-tech solution.)
the self-setting dinner table
Uses: At dinnertime, clean plates, spoons, place mats and napkins appear on the table.
Pros: Saves Mum all the carrying from the kitchen.
Cons: It doesn’t come with ready-made food.
A low-tech alternative: Get the kids to set the table.
the prodigy cot
Uses: Stimulates the baby with a range of sounds, images, textures and smells to enhance brain neuron formation and to provide a better start in life.
Pros: The Prodigy Cot Ultimate model comes with nursery rhymes in 11 different languages, classical music lullabies and an eye-movement tracking device that allows the baby to control a mouse on a tablet computer, pre-loaded with educational games and puzzles suitable for babies aged from 0–2 years.
Cons: The baby will love the cot so much, she won’t want to leave it.
A low-tech alternative: A baby-gym or activity mat.
Uses: A must-have for those sleep-deprived first three months! Introducing a car that will drive from A to B safely, fuel-efficiently and with no supervision from the (tired) driver.
Pros: Use the journey time to catch up on me-time: nap, text or apply make-up.
Cons: The price is at least triple that of an identical conventional car. Heavy on petrol compared to traditional models. Other road users, unaccustomed to this new technology, freak out and drive erratically when they see a self-drive car with driver asleep at the wheel! A low-tech alternative: Take the bus.
Uses: Do you find yourself talking in circles to your children, repeating the same request over and over again? At least three times? In the space of two minutes? If so, the just-released Obedience Booster is a product for you. Simply point the device at your child, press a button and issue a command.
Pros: Removes the stress out of everyday parenting.
Cons: Prolonged use may have a negative effect on the child’s ability to think for themselves. More research is still needed into the unlikely scenario of the children getting hold of the Obedience Booster and using it on the adults.
A low-tech alternative: None.
A recent poll on Facebook revealed the following wish list of parenting gadgets:
- A teenage tracking device, to keep tabs on them when they’re out.
- An alarm that goes off if a toddler has been quiet for too long.
- A soundproof perspex cell. It’s not important who’s on the inside – the parent or the child.
- A pause button so that you can go to the toilet in peace, finish a cup of coffee while still hot, or just have a minute’s peace before tackling dinner.
- An auto-chef (out of the JD Robb books): programme whatever dish you feel like and the auto-chef conjures it up.
- A replicator (like on Red Dwarf and Star Trek): no more cooking, grocery shopping … (even non-parents would love this one).
- A mum clone so that we can be in two places at once.
- A mute switch for when the volume gets too loud (be it music or the child).
- And the trump card: a ‘Go to sleep now’ remote control function.
- STOP PRESS! This has just come in from a guilt-ridden parent: “The kids are perfect but if you could invent the “be a more fun parent who always has stacks of energy and looks like one of those magazine parents with shiny teeth and perfect tanned legs laughing uproariously” gadget, I’d buy it!”
real technologies that do exist
(Now, are they really that much different from those that haven’t been invented yet?)
- The Why Cry Baby Crying Analyser: A device that analyses your baby’s crying pattern to determine whether she’s hungry, tired, wet, or sick. Certified with 90% accuracy, it teaches new parents and babysitters to distinguish between different types of crying.
- The iPotty: It looks like a traditional toilet training potty, with a removable bowl, seat and pee-guard. However, it also features a detachable iPad stand and iPad. This device guarantees to entertain your toddler while sitting on the potty. The iPad has a movable screen guard to protect it from getting damaged.
- The Baby Care Timer: It’s a nursery tool designed to help parents remember the basic details of baby care. It has four timers that keep track of when the baby was last fed, changed, or given medicine. It also has an in-built alarm and a nursing toggle to remind you on which side to feed next. Made with sleep-deprived parents in mind. (It sounds like a don’t-need-this-one gadget, but I still remember the time my 2-day-old son slept for 17 hours straight … at least, I believe he did … unless I fed him and changed him several times and just didn’t notice …)
Yvonne Eve Walus is an education specialist, a senior consultant to Creative Learning Systems in Auckland, and a mother of two primary school children.