As a tech-forward couple in the 21st century, my wife and I have found that our smart home devices have played an even greater role in our journey as parents than we initially expected.
Sure, there’s the obvious stuff, like using an indoor camera (or five—do I have a problem?) to watch your kids hopefully not drawing on the walls in the other room. Or playing lullaby music via a smart speaker to help soothe a baby to sleep. We all knew about those tricks going into this grand adventure (hey, add those to the list below if you didn’t).
But what else can these devices do to help? Plenty, it turns out. As a long-time user of Google’s Nest family of devices, I’m still finding new and interesting ways to smart home tech for parenting, even after four years of fatherhood. Whether you’re expecting your first born, or already have a pack of mischievous monsters running around the house, here are some ways Nest devices—or really any smart home tech—can make your life just that little bit easier.
Let’s start with something I use almost everyday. Setting timers—the simplest of tasks—has been such a useful tool as a parent. Small kids have no real concept of time, so when you promise to let them play for “five more minutes”, that means relatively little to them, and when time is up, tantrums can happen.
But when my daughter hears me ask Google Assistant to “start a timer for five minutes”, I feel like this instills a greater sense of trust in her. She can reliably believe that she got the time she was promised because, after all, why would the machine lie? Timers are also good for timeouts—especially on a Nest Hub, where the child can see the countdown timer on screen (and they might inadvertently learn the concept of seconds and minutes in the process).
Listen to a Bedtime Story
My daughter loves having a Nest Hub on her bedside. The screen offers a subtle glow that I think she finds comforting, and it’s useful for all kinds of bedtime activities. She likes to listen to music before bed, usually from her favorite Disney movie of the moment.
But one of the best features—for those nights when I’m just a little too busy with late work—is the ability to summon a story at will. Just say “Hey Google, tell me a story,” and your child will be treated to one of a selection of classic kids’ tales. If done on the ever convenient Nest Hub, you’ll be greeted to a selectable list of stories to choose from.
My First Computer
My four-year-old daughter has taken a particular liking to interacting with Google Assistant. Being able to control a complex device with speech greatly simplifies use for little ones who haven’t yet gotten far enough in their reading/writing journey to do simple things like search for videos or TV shows.
My daughter has already become pretty proficient at summoning her favorite songs and movie soundtracks on the Nest Audio speaker in the kitchen, or the Nest Hub in her bedroom. It’s a fantastic introduction to computing, using search engines, and may even be a good speech training exercise for younger tots who are still finding their way around their mother tongue.
Know Who Comes and Goes
If you’re a parent of older kids, you will almost certainly appreciate the Nest Doorbell’s ability to identify faces (with a Nest Aware account). Once configured, the Nest Doorbell is able to send you handy alerts to let you know not just when someone comes and goes, but exactly who it saw.
This is perfect for that little extra peace of mind as you can keep track of when your children get home safe from school. And if you have a sneaky teen, it doesn’t hurt that you also be kept in the know when they try to sneak in late. That is, unless they find alternative ways to enter the house (you’ll need a Nest Cam with floodlight to take care of that).
As a parent, it can often feel like you have a hundred and one things rattling around in your head at all times. I, for one, am terrible at remembering simple routine activities, and I lean heavily on my smart devices to help out.
Setting quick reminders for daily tasks, like dinner time, room cleaning, homework, and bedtime, or keeping my calendar updated with special dates like school events, or doctor appointments, has become an essential part of my life. Sure, you can do all this with your smartphone, but I find that the convenience of Google Assistance to be the catalyst I needed to actually use my electronic calendars, rather than putting it off (and ultimately forgetting).
Just say “Hey Google, remind me to…” for a simple daily task, or “create a calendar event for [event] on 2022 and [time]” for more significant appointments. As with many of the points in this article, this is best done on a Nest Hub or Nest Hub Max, where you can view your calendar on screen at will.
Bonus Tip: Flip a Coin
Here’s a neat little bonus to finish; ask Google Assistant to “flip a coin” for a random ‘heads or tails’ result. This is a simple and fun way to settle disputes or help your kids make decisions in a playful way.
My daughter and I have fun using this feature when she’s struggling to pick between two snacks, or when she’s bargaining her way to extra time with her tablet device. Tails, screen time is over. Heads, she gets five extra minutes.
And then, of course, I use the Nest Hub to “start a timer”. Blimey, I dread to think what I would do without that little screen on my kitchen counter.