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3 times an iPhone app has saved my parenting soul

AppIt's easy, I know, to have good intentions about monitoring TV time and computer time and then hand off a phone to keep a kid entertained every time they have to wait four minutes for a meal or their turn or class to start. I've been guilty of averting a meltdown (mine, theirs) and savoring silence with my phone. Even so, most days, most moments of boredom or chaos, I try try try to stick to my guns about limited screen-time. That includes all shows with whiny teenage girls and doofy, singing boys with floppy hair and skinny jeans, zombie games and math games, movies we've seen a thousand times and those we're paying a gazillion dollars to see in the theater. 

As often as I do say "no", and given the moments I say "oh, OK," there have been a few instances when I say an emphatic "YES!" when I offer my phone to my son. There are rare but hallelujah opportunities for apps to save the day. Here are a few Lil E and I've had in the last few weeks:

1. Travel mayhem. We spent 10 long, emotion-packed hours in the airport recently after our flight was cancelled and we tried to go standby on four different flights. We waited in line after hour-long line to rebook, finagle seats together, get meal vouchers for the inconvenience. And through it all, Lil E, who is normally a great traveler and in this case was amazing, was positive, calm and flexible. When the lady behind us complained incessantly about the airline, Lil E responded sweetly, "It will hopefully all be OK soon!" Once we were fed and booked on a flight and only had three more hours to wait at a gate, we were both delighted when I handed him my phone. "Get away from all this noise and chaos," that's what I thought as he escaped into pirates and kiddie Sudoku and any game he could eek out of the airport wi-fi.

2. Dinner with adults. Lil E is an only child and can entertain himself with one tiny Lego guy for hours. At dinners with adults, he'll breeze through the kid's menu with waxy crayons, completing the mazes and crosswords and connect-the-dots and practicing the riddles. And then three minutes later, he's out of activities. If it's just us, I insist on real, live, "one day you'll have to converse for a job interview or on a date" talks. But when he's along for the ride with four or more adults, I'm absolutely fine with him commandeering one of his games on my phone for the time before and after the meal. We could pack books or toys, I suppose, but this works and that's our strategy for contentedness for now.

3. Visitation transitions. Before Lil E leaves for weekends with his dad, we often have a few moments to snuggle and plan for the time we will be apart. I love this mama-boy time to soak up the sweetness before he heads off on his adventures. When he comes home, though, he's tired and needs downtime before we talk about all the details of his time away. There will be more snuggles, I know. But first he always needs some time to himself. Sometimes, he spends it drawing pictures in a sketchbook or sorting toys from his Daddy Bag. This week, after seven days and lots more flight-time away, he spent that transition time on an app. No talking, no schedule, no worries. Ten or fifteen minutes later, he was ready to curl up on the couch and debrief. 


I'll keep monitoring the time my kid's eyes are on screens big and small. But that doesn't mean I won't be thankful for the resource -- for distraction or fun or even winding down -- in critical moments. 

Are there times when you are grateful you have a good app on your phone to capture your kid's attention?




This post has been sponsored by Disney, creators of these two new (and free) cute kid apps and free, full-length episodes of popular TV shows at Disney Junior WATCH. Join us August 8th at 9 PM EST for a Disney Junior Twitter party! You could win an iPad. RSVP at and use the hashtags #spon and #mackidtips

A big thanks to Disney Junior for sponsoring this campaign. Click here to see more of the discussion.


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Reader Comments (1)

While on a twelve hour, cross country car ride, it was nice to have an hour of quiet time while our son watched Doc McStuffins on the Disney Jr. app. It was nice to have another tool in the arsenal.
August 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSeth

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