Something I’m prone to do in my spare time is attempt to figure out how to use existing technology in order to make life better, easier, less expensive, or more complicated and interesting if I’m in that sort of mood. The following are both things I’ve done over the past two years with my first baby, and some I’m planning on doing with the second. This is interspersed with stories that will probably bore you.

No, I didn’t sleep late and forget to bring the product I was going to review today in for photos because I was dealing with a grumpy toddler who’s grandparents are in town screwing with her sleeping by feeding her sugar and buying her Frozen dolls… why do you ask?

This is all baby stuff, you can skip it if you don’t have one. I’m not a pediatrician, but I played one in an improv troupe.

The timed playlist

Google Play MusicLittle ones have a need for structure to get to sleep. The same music, the same lullabies, and stories are one part of getting a youngun to sleep.

You can also give a toddler cues by using something such as Tasker to trigger a playlist at the same time every day.

When the music starts, it’s wind-down time. No parent going over and triggering becoming the big bad evil parent to hate.

I used an old EVO 3D, Tasker, a Jabra Solemate Max, and way more Rockabye Baby albums than one should possess.

You could also just make a playlist and include a 22 hour or so blank MP3 if you just want to loop it infinitely.

Music kicks on, you know it’s bedtime, toddler knows it’s coming, resistance is futile, toddler will be assimilated into sleep.

You no longer are required to keep an eye on the time every second as it ticks down to baby down time, and sometimes can get an agreeable toddler to get into gear for bed.

You can also time a wakeup playlist, which I haven’t done yet but I’ve often walked in with my phone and some wakeup toddler music for her.

The night vision camera

Foscam camera I useI’ve played with some of the baby monitors out there, for the most part skip them. They’re expensive and sell you a service that you have to pay for on the back end as well.

If you’re reading on Pocketables you’re probably pretty tech savvy. Go to Foscam and grab yourself a 1mp or higher pan and tilt camera. You’ll usually save about $130 over “baby cameras” which use most (I think all) of the same hardware but different pay-per-use software.

You can see baby, see baby at night, hear her, see baby while you’re on a business trip, and as long as you’re smart enough to change your password and update the firmware occasionally you shouldn’t have to worry about being hacked.

Most of these you don’t want to believe the hype that you can talk back to baby. Audio’s always something to stoke the nightmare fuel.

Do you need 1+ megapixel? Do you want to be able to spot where the pacifier landed and retrieve it like a daddy ninja in the dark or do you want to turn the lights on signalling for your toddler to wake and shine?

With a camera you can see whether baby needs you, or baby is just ticked off, and pacifier location, without opening the door and setting off infant rage.

Breathing monitor

Snuza heroUnless you’re sitting next to baby the entire time she’s asleep, chances are you’ve been scared crapless about SIDS.

Your best bets to combat this are to never ever sleep and never take your eyes off the baby. Unfortunately you’ll go insane in about four days.

An easier solution is grabbing something like the Snuza Hero, which clips on to a diaper, doesn’t send any signals or anything, just “listens” for your baby’s breathing and if it stops too long it vibrates to encourage them to take a breath and stop scaring the Hero.

If they don’t breathe right for a bit, it sounds an alarm.

Remote bio monitor

Heart RateBabies have no way to tell you something’s wrong other than crying. They’ve been alive what, a few weeks? Their memory’s for crap, and everything that happens is the worst thing that ever happened to them. EVERYTHING.

A baby cries, screaming its lungs out, and you go through the soothing routine. Well, what if it’s something legit? What if baby has a fever? Can your hands tell the surface difference between 98.6 and 101.2 on a sweaty infant? Chances are probably at 3am you’re not going to think to check that if baby just calms down when you cuddle her.

If the temperature is coming and going how are you going to tell without poking the baby (entering the area, annoying child with temporal thermometer, and waking her constantly?

Wouldn’t it be nice if you knew walking in that baby had a slight fever, or that baby’s oxygen levels were low, heart rate up, potentially indicating pneumonia, and you shouldn’t be pacifying, you should be taking to the hospital?

I don’t have a remote temperature taker/O2 sensor yet, I’m hoping to try some out as my first born had enough illnesses as a <6 month old to amaze me and everything was the same end-of-the-world cry – from gas, to my head itches, to 102 fever, it was all end of the world type stuff and at 3am woken from an hour or two of sleep Dr Paul could use some help with the diagnostics.

A temperature monitor doesn’t even have to be attached to a baby these days as heat can be read across the room (some webcams can even do this) although O2 levels can’t be checked from a camera as far as I know. Pulse can be obtained with a camera and an app on your phone, although you’ll probably get an ad with “Toenail fungus symptoms” over your infant’s face.

Baby translators

Something I did with Maggie was I played with every available baby translator software on the market. They’re all complete garbage as far as I can tell. Even the one that points to all the press it’s had is just pointing to the press it had, which generally also mentions that nobody thinks it works.

Seriously, read the reviews and be aware you can purchase thousands of reviews but you can’t purchase thousands of written reviews.

I’m just mentioning these scamwares because I don’t want any of you buying into a garbage product. Even the one, and you know which one you are, on iTunes is currently rocking a one-star rating from many many disgruntled parents who turned to them at 3am paying for a junk product as a last resort.

The entertainment/book-on-phone

You’re at a restaurant, there’s a table with toddlers, one is very bored. You know what’s about to happen. A toddler riot culminating in a parent you want to strangle.

As a last resort I’ve got some toddler videos and books on my phone. I try and save it for emergencies as my goal in parenting is to not shove a screen in front of a toddler every time there’s an issue. But over the past year at least I haven’t been that parent with a melting down toddler at dinner in public.

It does save on the number of stuffed animals, books, and annoying squeaky toys one needs to bring if one wants to ever be seen in public again. Also as meltdowns from boredom are random, it saves you having to pack an arsenal every time you go out.

As an emergency backup for when there’s no WiFi signal, I’ve grabbed a couple of toddler crack videos for the phone, probably violating Google’s TOS and the DMCA in the process but unfortunately YouTube’s offline play seems to have gone away on most videos, most likely due to advertising concerns.

Skype/Google Hangouts

When the person toddler desperately wants to be with is away, doing something like picking up groceries, pooping, or stuck at work a little late because their building’s phone service is down, a quick remote view can get you a “Daddy!” and diffuse the toddler abandonment feeling situation 20 miles away.

Also works great for introducing the cousins who are 17 hours away.

For when you can’t be there for another half hour but your toddler thinks you’ve died and wolves are eating your still-warm body, video conferencing can buy your partner some time until you get home.

The toddler tracker

You’ve got a toddler, they demand to walk… and they walk so slowly it kills you. You’re at a mall, browsing clothes with your toddler right by your side and suddenly you realize they’ve gone from slow poke to Usain Bolt and have moved out of your line of sight, or worse yet someone grabbed ’em.

With a Bluetooth proximity alarm, you can know the instant your kid gets more than a few feet from you.

My personal moment of terror came in the form of a toddler deciding to play hide and seek four feet away from me after I turned away to look at a shirt for three to five seconds, and while proximity alarm wouldn’t have gone off, I’d at least not have walked away from her hiding spot while looking for her.

Alternately you can attach the tracker to dolly and when it gets inevitably put down in the middle of J. Crew you’ll know before you get too far.

Judgemental parent is judgmental

In the end, everything I use and plan to use I try to keep it to “minimizes stress and makes life better for everyone without totally checking out on parental responsibilities,” but in the world of parenting you probably have run across the Judgy McGhees, the people with very little grasp of cell/WiFi radiation levels, and the people who believe that once you use anything electronic with your child you’ve abandoned paying attention to them.

So do what works, don’t strap a 1980’s cell phone to your two month old’s head, keep WiFi transmitters over two feet away, don’t run ethernet within five inches of the reach of a toddler, and seriously ignore 90% of what baby blogs tell/sell you.

My cell phone’s going to be in my pocket at all times unlike my toddler who is asserting her independence and wandering around saying “mine,” and “no!” to everything. Might as well use it to help out rather than just being another thing I have to carry.

I filmed the first minutes of my baby’s life on my old EVO 4G LTE, uploaded them to YouTube a few hours later so the relatives were able to meet their new addition, and I’ve used those videos and pictures to explain a little bit to my toddler about what to expect in the coming days as baby #2 was due last week.

I don’t think she quite gets it yet as she jumped on my lap, slapped my belly and screamed “sister!” – yes, I need to lose a few pounds.