Parenting is a busy, fun, challenging, joyous, emotional, exciting, tiring, rewarding rollercoaster.
To my mind, anything that makes running a family even a little easier is worth its weight in gold.
Now we don't want to be lugging around 1,012 gadgets everywhere we go, but we all have a smartphone in our pocket, so here are my tips for using your phone to make your parenting life just that little bit easier.
1. Learn to love your virtual assistant
Being a parent often means wishing you had eight arms, so hands-free solutions are a life-saver.
If you’ve got a recent Android or Apple device, you should be able to use the virtual assistant for all sorts of helpful, voice activated tasks.
Set the oven timer with hands covered in flour, message your other half to pick up some bread while feeding the baby, add washing tablets to your shopping list while carrying armfuls of laundry.
Just voice activate your assistant and they'll do the rest. Job done. Now if only your smartphone could actually cook dinner.
2. Stock up on new apps and games before travelling
Before a long journey set up a 'kids' folder and choose some new apps, shows and games to download.
All children have certain apps and games they love already, but grabbing a few fun ones that they haven’t tried yet is a great way to fill some time on a long journey.
You can then access the 'restrictions' settings on your phone and make only those apps available, so that you don't retrieve your phone to find they've emailed their high scores to your boss.
3. Use your phone to help you relax
The soothing sounds of nature, rain falling, the crackling of a fire or just white noise can be just a few clicks away, and can help everyone relax in noisy or new surroundings.
There are plenty of apps for this, but I find music streaming services have some great free offerings too.
If you have Spotify here's a great album to get you started.
4. Be prepared with first aid apps
We all hope the worst will never happen, but if you are faced with a medical emergency, your phone can help you through it.
The British Red Cross offesr a fantastic app for first aid, and another one covering first aid focused on babies and children. They cover a wide range of possibilities and include some great videos and guides.
And if you haven’t taken a class on CPR yet, you can learn the basics at home today with The British Heart Foundation’s app. It covers everything you need to know and comes with a timer you can start so you know you're doing the correct number of chest compressions. Download the BHF's app now from either the App Store or Google Play.
What gives me even more peace of mind about having these apps on my phone is it means all the information is carried with me and is accessible offline for those rare moments I don't have an internet connection.
5. Save time and money with a family data plan
Kitting young teens out with a phone can be a fantastic way to give them a first taste of independence and to give parents some piece of mind that they're reachable when they're away from home.
But if you have multiple contracts, bills and providers flying around, things can get messy and costs can spiral.
BT Mobile's Family SIM plan means you only have to deal with one contract and one bill. Even better, the more people you add, the bigger your savings (and you can save even more money if you're a BT Broadband user too).
The control you get as is excellent and centralised making sure you get no nasty shocks as the bill payer. You can set spend caps on each SIM, so if your children go over their data allowance it will cut them off and stop them racking up a high bill.
You can also pick and choose which members of your family are or are not on the plan with 30 days' notice. This means if you’re waiting for your other half's contract to run out before adding them to the plan, or your eldest is leaving home to go travelling, it's no problem.
BT Mobile of course have a huge selection of handsets to choose from too, from top of the range Samsung, Apple and Google phones to a great value entry smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy J3.
6. Make healthy eating choices
Healthy food choices begin at the supermarket, but if you're in a hurry (pretty much always, right?) then pouring through nutritional labels can take time you don't have,
The Change4Life app (App Store / Google Play) can quickly and clearly tell you if a food item contains more than the recommended amount of sugar, saturated fat and salt. Just scan the barcode of the item and get an easy to understand ‘low’, ‘mid’ and ‘high’ rating.
TheChange4Life app already has over 87,000 products in its database, so the majority of brand name items are already there, with more being added all the time.
7. Make use of the calendar you have on your phone
It’s so easy to lose track of who’s where and what they need. To make sure nothing slips, add a new event to your calendar as soon as you hear about it.
And if you don’t feel like going through all the menus then voice commands and your digital assistant can come to the rescue again - "add a date to the calendar: JD and Mark at swimming on 2nd July at five".
Also, check out if your school uses ParentMail (tons of them do), which is an app that connects schools to parents for things like school letters and notices - no more of scrabbling through bags, and you can set a reminder for 'dress as a pirate day' right away.
8. Turn your old phone into something useful
Have an old phone or tablet lying around? Why not turn it into a wireless CCTV camera for around the home, which you can then access from anywhere using your current mobile.
There are plenty of apps to choose from that do the job if you search around, but if you just need to remotely watch something as a one-off, a very simple approach is to just set up a Skype call, FaceTime or private Facebook Live stream, and watch that!
9. Reduce entertainment costs with family sharing
Family sharing is a fantastic way of giving the whole family access to purchases made on a single account. If your family has multiple Android devices you can check out Google’s Family Library, where you can share purchased apps, games, movies, TV shows, and books from Google Play with up to five family members
If you have an Apple device you can check out Apple’s Family Sharing, which has very similar functionality and lets up to six people share each other’s iTunes, iBooks, and App Store purchases.
10. Tap for faster and easier grocery shopping
Most supermarket apps have come a long way in the last few years, so if you haven't tried one in a while, it's worth having a second look.
One feature I really like is being able to simply scan the barcode of something in my kitchen that's running low or finished and it then a single tap adds it to my shopping basket.
No more typing or writing! And, of course, being able to checkout on the sofa in a few clicks after a long day doesn't hurt either.
11. Fuss free days out
There are fantastic apps for every facet of family leisure time, ensuring you have a great day out whatever the occasion.
From weather info, cinema times, trains times, and local public toilet locations, to cash machine locations, discount apps for shops and even tips for the best restaurants in a post code are all super useful.
And if you're stuck for new places to visit there's an app from the National Trust to help you discover great days out, and the Art Fund also have a great app with over 700 museums and galleries listed all around the UK.
I'm a huge fan of technology, so I'm always excited about new innovations, and our smartphones really do get more powerful everyday.
Let me know if you have any tips of your own on ways to use your smartphone to help simplify everyday family life.
Win with BT Mobile
BT Mobile are running a super exciting giveaway at the moment on Facebook, where you can win a selection of 3 Samsung Galaxy handsets to share among your family.
Click here for more info and to enter now!
This is a commissioned post for BT.