5 smart, must-have gadgets for parents


Paul Sisolak

Paul Sisolak

Blog author Paul Sisolak

As a personal finance journalist, Paul specializes in financial literacy, loans, credit scoring and the art of negotiation. He's covered some of the nation's most inspiring financial success stories for national publications including CNN, and US News & World Report and has a passion for helping Americans overcome their debt.

Published December 16, 2016|5 min read

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Those bleary-eyed, 3 a.m. bottle feedings. An emergency diaper change in public without the proper diaper change facilities on hand. Bath time becomes super splash time, and the next thing you know, the bathroom floor turns into a minor flood zone.

Yes, no matter what type of parenting flair you may employ, raising kids is a tough job, but somebody’s gotta do it. Just as babies will always be babies, new parents have got their work cut out for them when they bring home their newborn.

But since we’re nearly two decades into the 21st century, that means technology is here to help. Lots of nifty new gadgets and gadgetry can make the job of being a parent easier, including budgeting for a baby. Here are five product picks our on-staff parents found most useful:

1. TrackR sticker

Price: $24.95

Once they’re old enough to crawl or walk, every parent needs eyes on the back of their head to monitor their son or daughter’s whereabouts before mayhem ensues. Unfortunately, this also comes at the expense of keeping track of your own stuff. But the TrackR sticker, a small quarter sized homing device that sticks to easily misplaced items, like your keys or your wallet, can help when items go missing. If lost, pull up the app on your phone and make the sticker beep to reunite you and your belongings. The app and stickers also make use of distance tracking and crowd GPS for zoning in on the exact location of your stuff. (Affixing a TrackR sticker to your kid’s head in the event they go missing is not recommended, however.)

TrackR stickers come in packs of one, two, four and six, and range from $24.95 up to $149.95. Although you’ll be tempted to place one on every single stroller and car toy you own, we’d suggest using it only on the essentials.

2. Nest Cam Indoor security camera

Price: $165

Some of the best products are the multitaskers of the bunch, and the Nest indoor security camera is the perfect example. The hi-def, wide-angle camera is a baby monitor first and foremost, but doubles as a household security device when baby’s outgrown its cribbing days. We’ve come a long way from squelchy, distorted, CB radio-styled baby audio monitors of the old days, but the Nest camera operates on the same principle; simply download the app (iOS and Android compatible), and with 24/7 live streaming, you can peer in on your little one and sing them to sleep, all in HD audio/video. The Nest Cam can be moved to another part of the house, where the 130-degree lens gets all Big Brother on your house, watching and listening for suspicious sounds, alerting you if it sees or hears anything out of the ordinary if you’re not at home. And if you’re ever preparing for baby number two, the Nest Cam easily returns back to original nursery duties, maintaining a watchful, unblinking eye to keep little ones -- and your house -- safe and secure.

3. Baby Shusher

Price: $34.99

You’ve tried the bottle. You’ve tried feeding them. You’ve tried some toys. You’ve tried singing, bouncing and rocking. And they just … won’t … go … to … sleep. How do you quell the crying spell? One more thing to add to your baby to-do list is the Baby Shusher noise machine, which employs rhythmic sounds up to 95 dBs resembling sounds of the womb to engage a newborn baby’s natural calming reflex in baby and help them fall asleep. The speaker comes with a timer and volume control, which the manufacturer recommends setting higher than baby’s crying. The Baby Shusher sells for $34.99, but you can also upgrade to a gift set included a pacifier and cotton swaddles, which can also be purchased separately.

4. BabyNes formula dispenser

Price: $199.99+ $39-$59 for 26-capsule box

Yes, they even make K-cups for babies now, but don’t worry; you won’t be jolting your newborn with a caffeine fix. The BabyNes from Gerber is like a Keurig machine for baby formula. A "smart nutrition" device, it takes the doubt out of preparing formula and getting it just right for baby, since the BabyNes comes with six hermetically sealed pods to give them the right nourishment from birth to three years old. Just like using a K-cup coffee maker, the BabyNes dispenses just the right amount of formula from pod to bottle, at the right temperature, in just a minute. Download the BabyNes app, sync it with the WiFi-enabled machine, and track your baby’s growth timeline, their weight, recent feedings, feeding alerts and other nutritional advice, like an automatic log of each bottle served to baby, plus auto capsule refill ordering to have more formula on hand before running out.

5. Smart pacifier

Price: $8.89

Your parents probably stayed awake at night wondering why your pacifier couldn’t take your temperature when you were a baby, and why the thermometer couldn’t pacify you from crying. OK, maybe they didn’t suffer any sleeplessness, but it’s one of those old school inconveniences you wish technology would just solve already. Parents in 2016 are lucky that tech has evolved to the point of giving us the smart pacifier, which (you guessed it) take a baby’s temperature and keeps them suckling away while staying quiet. This one is made by Summer measures baby’s body temps in both Fahrenheit and Celsius. With a memory feature recall, you can gauge if baby’s temperature has gone up or down, and there’s even a fever alert glow that illuminates when they’ve gone too far past 98.6 degrees -- convenient for sleeptime temperature taking without waking the little one from slumberland. Just be aware that your pediatrician will likely ask you for your baby’s rectal temperature as well if you call her in the middle of the night to report a fever. The Vicks Baby Thermometer is a good fit for that.

These gadgets offer more than just a whiz-bang wow factor. Parenting can be a 24/7 job, but now you’ve got technology to help out without spreading your sleep time, your patience or your sanity too thin. (Plus, it removes the guesswork out of keeping your kids well fed and rested.)

To the parents out there: do you have a favorite modern gadget that’s been a lifesaver in your household. Leave your comments below.

Image: Peter Dahlgren