Get help for everything from back-to-school shopping to creating family calendars to planning lunches.
As you run around trying to prepare for the upcoming homework loads, shopping lists, lunches and after-school activities (not to mention your own never ending to-do list), turn to technology to help with the chaos of the back-to-school season.
There are hundreds of apps, devices and online services designed to help organize your life and minimize stress, whether you are a parent, a nanny or an after-school sitter. We narrowed the list down to 12 must-have (and mostly free!) options to help kids, parents and caregivers manage the school year ahead.
Are you a class parent this year? In charge of the team snack schedule? Or did you get roped into organizing the annual carnival at your kid's school? This online service is great for coordinating parent helpers for school or after-school activities. Quickly schedule jobs and items needed, invite parents to sign up and send automated reminders help parents remember when it’s their turn to pitch in.
Join VolunteerSpot -- Free
Shop smart when looking for school supplies -- both before and during the school year. Scan an item's barcode and this app will compare online and offline prices at local stores to find the best deals.
Download RedLaser for iOS -- Free
Download RedLaser for Android -- Free
And once you get your new school supplies home, try these 3 easy ways to organize them.
- Big Tent
Need back-to-school advice or tips from other parents and nannies? Want everything from summer reading tips to holiday events in your area? Join local groups for free and connect with neighbors on matters that affect your family, schools and communities. Members of a group can share, connect and post on their group’s online forum, create group calendars and RSVP for events.
Join BigTent -- Free
Download BigTent for iOS -- Free
Get fridge space back! This app makes it easy to store and organize children's artwork and projects. Take a photo, select the child who created it and the app tags the image with their name, grade and date. You can save it all in one place, share with family and friends on Facebook and order a hardcover book of your kids' work.
Download Artkive for iOS -- $4.99
Download Artkive for Android -- Free
- Teach Me Time! Talking Alarm Clock & Nightlight
Kids can learn how to tell time with this interactive alarm clock, with both digital and analog numbers. Its dual-color nightlight glows yellow in the evening and turns green in the morning when it's okay to “wake up” and go see Mom and Dad (you set the time for this).
Purchase “Teach Me Time!” by American Innovative -- $39.99 on Amazon
And for younger children, check out a simpler model: “OK to Wake” Alarm Clock -- $29.95 on Amazon
- Cozi Family Organizer
Do you and your nanny have a hard time figuring out what child is supposed to be where at what time? Create a virtual shared calendar that the whole family (and any caregivers!) can access. Other features include shopping lists, to-do lists, a family journal, meal planning, reminders and more.
Download Cozi for iOS -- Free
Download Cozi for Android -- Free
Prefer a non-digital option? Watch this video to learn How to Make a Family Calendar.
- Boogie Board E-Writer
This LCD tablet functions as a portable white board, allowing kids to write or doodle and then clear the screen and start over. Practice writing, spelling, working on math problems, doodling on car rides and more! There are different models for every price point.
Purchase the right one for your kids on Amazon: Original 8.5 ($29.99), Original 10.5 ($59.99), Jot 8.5 ($39.99), Jot 4.5 ($18.47) or Sync 9.7 ($99.99)
- LaLa Lunchbox
Work with your kids to plan nutritious lunches with this handy app. Kids can pick fun monsters to represent different lunch boxes and choose healthy foods to add to their boxes. Create lunch menus for the whole week ahead and quickly build a shopping list.
Download LaLa Lunchbox for iOS -- Free
And be inspired by these 4 Easy Lunch Box Recipe Ideas.
- Life360 Family Locator
Keep track of your kids when you're at work or on the go. Download this app, register your children's phones (doesn’t have to be a smartphone) and see their location on a map. If your kids also download the app, they can "check-in" when they arrive at home, a friend’s house or baseball practice, and you'll be notified that they arrived safely. Create a "family circle" so all family members and caregivers can see where each person is and message each other.
Download Life360 for iOS -- Free
Download Life360 for Android -- Free
- Magisto Video Editor & Maker
This app turns your video clips and photos into fun, professional-looking movies. No video editing skills needed. Upload videos from your smartphone and the app splices the clips together and edits them into a movie -- you can even add music. Capture special moments on your child's first day of school and throughout the year, then send to friends and family. Nannies can make memorable little films throughout the day to share with parents when they get home.
Download Magisto for iOS -- Free
Download Magisto for Android -- Free
- The Daily Mom
Online reading is a great way to stay informed, but sifting through social media feeds takes way too long for on-the-go parents. It's not just for moms -- dads and caregivers can benefit too. This app keeps you in the know with organized information that you can scan during naptime or while waiting to pick up the kids from soccer. Categories include: news stories, weather forecasts, trivia, recipes, a blogosphere and more.
Download The Daily Mom for iOS -- $1.99
- iBitz Kids Activity Tracker
Want your kids to be more active, especially after school? Make it fun! This wireless child-friendly pedometer syncs to an app that features a space alien trying to power a rocket -- your child's steps are the fuel. The more active, the further the rocket goes. Parents or caregivers can set goals and rewards to encourage kids.
Purchase iBitz Kids Activity Tracker -- $34.99 on Amazon
Download iBitz app for iOS – Free
Want to make it a family affair? Purchase iBitz Unity Adult Fitness Tracker -- $49.99 (list price)