Quick — who’s the most important person in your life? The one who brought you into it, obviously. Also, probably the one who brought your own children into it. And if you didn’t remember that Sunday is Mother’s Day, this is your fair warning.
Photo courtesy of Mothership Hackermoms, Berkeley, Calif.
So what does Mom really want for her day, besides chocolate, champagne, and a foot massage from Matthew McConaughey? Apps. Specifically, apps that help make her life easier. Isn’t that what Mother’s Day is all about?
Here are nine of the best. Some are classics that have stood the test of time; some are brand new. All will bring a smile to her lips and more sanity to her life.
Getting your kids to help out around the house is usually such hard work that you often end up doing it all yourself. Before you know it, you have a 26-year-old living in your basement who’s never washed a dish or changed a bed sheet in his life. ChoreMonster is your ticket out of this dystopian future.
The app lets you create accounts for your kids, assign them chores like “clean your room” or “set the table,” and assign point values to each. When they rack up enough points, they can trade them in for gifts, like an Amazon Gift Card or a specific toy. You can get alerts on your phone and track which chores are overdue; if your kid has her own smartphone, she can tick off the chores as she does them.
There are only so many times Mom can play “Marco Polo” or sing “The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round” before she starts hitting that bottle of Old Grand-Dad she’s got hidden in the laundry hamper.
When you’re stuck for something to do with the wee ones, let RedRover take over. This app and Web site serves up scores of activities curated specifically for younger kids, from amusement parks and museums to playgrounds and zoos. You can get hours of operation and directions, purchase tickets, and invite other kid-crazed parents to come join you with a few taps on your iOS or Android phone. RedRover is available in five major U.S. metro areas so far (Atlanta, Boston, New York, San Francisco, and the Hamptons), with another 10 big cities coming soon.
3. Life360 Family Locator
This classic app is the glue that holds tech-savvy families together. Create a “Family Circle” by sending invites to each member of your family; once the app is installed, you can locate your loved ones no matter how far from home they roam. If your child’s in trouble, she can hit the panic button, which will send an email, text, or phone call to everyone in the circle. You can also get alerts when your kids enter or leave a prescribed area, as well as create shared to-do lists, and engage in group chats.
The base app is free; for $5 a month, you can subscribe to Life360 Premium, which gives you 24/7 access to live operators, emergency roadside assistance, and the ability to locate any phone, even the dumb kind.
4. GreatSchools Finder
You’re relocating and you want to check out the neighborhood schools before you go all in on a mortgage. Or maybe you’ve had it with your kids’ current educational environment and want to find a better one across town. Let GreatSchools be your guide.
The iOS app version of the popular Web site lets you search by the name of the school, or plug in a city and state to view all the facilities in the area. You can see how both GreatSchools and members of the local community rate the school, see how well the students perform on standardized tests, and read reviews written by students and parents. It’s like Yelp for education, only more reliable.
5. SitOrSquat: Restroom Finder
You’re out in public with your newly potty-trained toddler when nature calls — loudly. This cheeky little app from the makers of Charmin toilet paper helps you find a bathroom faster than you can say, “Can’t you just hold it until we get home?”
Just tap the down arrow to get a map of nearby facilities, or plug your location into the search window to view a list. Once your little one has achieved her goal, you can then rate the facility as either “Sit” (acceptably hygienic) or “Squat” (eww), take pictures, and leave comments. You can also filter for bathrooms that offer changing stations, or tell the app to only display the “Sit” venues.
Now that the kids have gone potty, they’re probably hungry again. This iOS and Android app helps Mom feed the little monsters and save a few bucks in the process.
Search by your location or day of the week to get a quick list of nearby restaurants that offer discounts for kids — they can usually eat free with the purchase of an adult meal — along with contact info, maps, and directions. You won’t find any four-star Michelin restaurants on the list, but you will see familiar chains like Applebee’s, Denny’s, and TGI Fridays, as well as local eateries.
7. ScreenDoor: Who’s Free to Play?
The best Mother’s Day gift of all may be just getting the kids out of your hair for a few blessed minutes. This iOS app makes it easy to find parents in your circle of friends who are just as desperate for a playdate as you are. Just connect it to Facebook and invite your neighbors to join you, then tell your circle when your little munchkins are free for a play date, or search for others whose kids are driving them crazy.
8. Story Bug
Is Mom always on the road or in meetings when it’s time to put the little ones to bed? Story Bug lets you read picture books together even when you’re apart. Install the app on your iPhone and your child’s iPad, then invite them to read along with you.
Story Bug synchronizes your devices: As you flip through the pages on your phone, they flip on the iPad; your faces appear in video windows on each screen. You can also record a reading so they can watch it when you’re not around. The first three books are free; access to dozens of others cost $5 a month or $25 per year.
9. Smile Mom
This Pinterest-like mobile social network is like a 24/7 coffee klatch without the fattening pastries. Here busy moms can get and give advice, share photos of their darlings, swap stuff their kids have outgrown, arrange meetups, and find actual adults to talk to when they’re not changing diapers or shuttling the kids to soccer practice.