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Natural Parenting: There's An App For That

Taylor Hengen Newman

Austin hosted its annual South By Southwest interactive media conference and music festival a couple of weeks ago, and—for a little while—our (semi)-‘weird’ city became a center of cool as creative people descended from all directions upon it. I got to do some catching up with friends from out of town, which is always a pleasure, and since I also happened to be single-parenting while it was also Kaspar’s spring break (now known as Hell Week, 2012), little man came along for most of my catching-up fun. Of course our far-away friends are always excited to hang out with Kaspar-tot (even a year ago, he was still more baby than boy), but he obviously can’t distinguish between play-dates and coffee dates, which means adult conversation isn’t usually in the cards when he’s around. Enter: my friend Megan and her iPhone app collection. Kaspar spent a good hour cutting and coloring a cartoon lion’s mane via Toca Hair Salon while Megan and I enjoyed coffee conversation the likes of which I haven’t known in exactly 25.5 months. I know I’m late to this party and all, but APPS, I tell you, are God’s Gift to Moms. I’ve long-since sacrificed my phone to Kaspar (car rides did me in), but YouTube videos and unintended crank calls (sorry, friends and fam) only last for a few minutes at a time. Apps, however, are where it’s at when you want to keep the kiddos truly occupied until you’ve finished your coffee, gotten through the traffic jam, or whatever. They’re interactive. So are kids. Genius!

Of course, I’m not advocating flaking on one’s own interactive parenting role now that apps are in the mix. Real life will always trump technology, in my opinion, but there’s a time and a place for everything, especially kid-friendly diversions. After discovering the joys of Toca Boca, a la Megan, I also found Sesame Street E-Books (for iPads) and a bunch of coloring apps for Kaspar to groove on. Pretty awesome.

Then, that same week, I blogged about parents seeking eco-family-friendly alternatives in a chemical-heavy marketplace, and I wondered if apps might provide a more convenient solution than even online resource availability for on-the-go green parents. I mean, it does take time, and planning, to find helpful information on the foods and products one plans to purchase… especially when you need to have this information in hand before even arriving at the store. As it turns out, a lot of the organizations that disseminate information natural parents want have created—you guessed it—apps! Users can get customized, targeted, up-to-date info on everything from safe sunscreens to cloth diapering, any time, anywhere. Who knew?

Lots of people, apparently. There are about a bazillion apps out there, meeting pretty much every possible human need (and then some). Since it’s a little tough to tell what’s what, I’d like to kick off a little information-sharing of our own and introduce you to some of the apps I’ve found that make natural parenting easy.

I’d love to know if you’re using any of these already, and if you can add others to the list. What’s in YOUR phone??

I’ll start:

iRecycle: Spring cleaning? Getting rid of stuff? (Your baby suddenly turned into a toddler, too?) Don’t throw it away! This app will tell you where to drop your junk (really, almost anything) so it can be turned into something new.

GoodGuide: The NY Times article mentioned The Good Guide website, where you can search for information on thousands of products. The app does you one better by letting you choose what you want to know (Nutritional info? Safety info? Animal welfare info? Energy efficiency? Human rights? Environmental impact?), and then simply scan the barcode on whatever you’re about to buy to get the relevant deets on that product. Boodbye, late night research. Hello, happy shopping.

Cloth Diaper Resources: A modern parent's guide to cloth diapering. Hold the phone in one hand and take care of (baby's) business with the other. Done, and done.

Super Baby Food: Learn when and how to feed baby solids, as well as how to make her first foods yourself. Which means your kid can eat organic, locally-sourced, fresh and delicious food! You’re the boss, mama. Purée away.


Seafood Watch: Check out this app’s “super green” seafood categorization for fish that’s safe for people and the planet. This is especially useful for pregnant and breastfeeding moms.

Environmental Working Group sunscreen guide: as the weather gets warm, slather your kids in real sun safety, not carcinogenic chemicals. This app makes it easy for make an informed purchase when you’re overwhelmed by the many brands on the shelves.

Mom Maps: Find the best kid-friendly spots in your local area (and add in the ones you discover). Get outside, playground people!

Baby Sign and Learn: Crunchy moms love baby sign. They just do. Good news is that babies love it, too. Kaspar speaks in full paragraphs at this point, but he still signs WHILE speaking when he really wants to make a point. This app will get you and your baby communicating on cute-overload, too.

Okay readers, your turn! What are your favorite apps right now?

Cloth Diaper Resources: Everything a modern mom needs to know about cloth diapering. Hold your phone in one hand and take care of baby’s business with the other. Done and done.

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