Long hot days, graduations, BBQ’s, vacations, bug bites, bored kids, and amusement park crowds…all a part of our love-hate relationship with the summer season. For Moms (and Dads or any caregiver), summer means that the kids are "free" from the day-to-day structure of schooling, sports, after-school lessons, etc. While a great time to be a child, it is also a potentially stressful time for parents. It starts off with graduation, then vacations, camps, and inevitably ends with back-to-school shopping. Here are a few apps to make getting through the summer heat a breeze.
First, before you start fearing the month of June, check out iCounselor: Anxiety ($0.99; app2.me/2340). It just may help you curb some of that stress without the need to pay dearly for a therapist. When you feel anxiety washing over you, simply open this clever app and choose your stress level. It will take you through four calming steps and a chance to reevaluate your stress level. So, when closing your eyes and counting to 10 doesn’t work anymore, download this app.
Preparing your kids for the real world
If you are like me and have kids graduating high school or college, it’s time to shuffle them out into the real world. They’ll fly better with some of today’s useful applications. If they are ready for a job or career, there are apps to help them become a self-sufficient, tax-paying citizen.
Do your kids know what questions they will be asked at a job interview? The app, Hire Me! ($0.99; app2.me/2341) will run them through 300 potential interview questions such as, "What do people most often criticize about you?" or "What’s your greatest weakness?" The kids that think they know everything won’t see those questions coming, and this app will prepare them.
Two unavoidable summer time questions for parents are, "I’m bored! What can I do today?" And the dreaded, "When are we going to be there?" Well, good news: Renting movies from the iTunes store runs from $0.99 to $3.99. You have 30 days to watch any rental and only 24 hours once you open it. Movies to buy run from $4.99 to $19.99.
You might also download a couple of iPhone/iPad games to keep them busy. My favorites are: Wurdle ($1.99; app2.me/2339), an educational word-search game; Trism ($2.99; app2.me/2342) and Tetris ($4.99; app2.me/2343), two great spatial puzzle games; Monster Pinball ($3.99; app2.me/2344), a pinball game; and Rock Band ($6.99; app2.me/449), music match and mashup game. On road trips, if you have an Audio/Visual input in your entertainment system and an A/V adapter, you can hook up your iPhone/iPad and play your downloaded video content or watch YouTube videos.
General travel apps
Summer time is vacation time, and there are a number of apps that can make your travels more enjoyable and some of them are free.
AccuWeather (free; app2.me/2373) gives you current and forecasted weather information from all over the globe. Included are live animated Doppler Radar images and broadcast video reports from AccuWeather.com.
Evernote (free; app2.me/130) is a virtual holding place for travel notes, your itinerary, confirmation e-mails, a travel journal, Web pages, etc. All your information is synced to the Evernote site and accessible from the app.
My Vacation ($2.99; app2.me/2374) lets you create a digital scrapbook of your trip. Input your information, type in your thoughts and experiences and add your photos. The end result is a delightful interactive memoir of your journey.
Sit or Squat (free; app2.me/228) helps you find a restroom when you’ve "gotta go!"
iSpy Cameras ($0.99; app2.me/2375) is a great way to check the weather at your destination or back at home, to see if the lights are still on at the Eiffel Tower, or scope out the surf in Hawaii. This app lets you see live Web cam shots from around the globe and even control some of the cameras!
Facebook (free; app2.me/260) When my son was backpacking through Europe, he was able to take advantage of the various free Wi-Fi spots in hostels and cafes to keep his friends and family updated on adventures. With the Facebook app, he could add a quick post to his wall or upload a picture taken with his iPhone. Usually it just said, "I’m alive, send more money."
Keep in mind, if you are traveling in another country, roaming charges can incur if using 3G and not Wi-Fi.
World Customs and Cultures (free; app2.me/2376) helps you avoid embarrassing and sometimes insulting actions. Before crossing the border, find out what is customary or verboten before you make a blunder.
Skype (free; app2.me/2378) helps you stay in touch around the world without racking up large phone bills. With Skype, you have the ability to call, text, or chat for free with anyone that has Skype on their iPhone or computer. You can also call landlines or other mobile phones for a fraction of what it would normally cost you.
Going camping this summer? Check out these apps:
MyNature Animal Tracks ($6.99; app2.me/2377) helps you identify animal tracks. Is that a wolf or German Shepherd leaving tracks around your tent at night? Are you tracking a house cat or a bobcat? It’s helpful to know these things, and this app does the trick. It also includes audio files of animal calls, a journal, and other information.
Survival Pocket Ref ($0.99; app2.me/2379) can help if you get lost in the woods. It shows you how to build a shelter, a fire, find food and water, know what plants are edible, and more. Every camper should have this!
If you are sending your son or daughter off to college (or taking some college classes yourself), you know that text books can be very expensive. Fortunately, the popularity of the Kindle and the release of the iPad have encouraged the offering of many college and university texts in eBook formats. Check to see if your required reading is available in digital format first. Try the Digital Book Index (digitalbookindex.org/logina.htm) which provides links to more than 148,000 full-text digital books from more than 1,800 commercial and non-commercial publishers, universities, and various private sites. More than 120,000 of these books, texts, and documents are available free, while many others are available at a very modest cost.
If you can’t find a digital copy of your book, the app iBookStore (free; app2.me/2355) will help you find the best prices and will also help you sell back your books when you’re done with them.
Another great app for getting started at college in the fall is Rate my Professors (free; app2.me/2356). With this app, students can find out more about potential professors, seeing what past students had to say about them and how they rated the classes they teach. You’re less likely to get stuck in a boring class.
Keeping the kids' minds from going mushy
Educational apps will entertain the kids and keep their minds sharp. They also refresh their skills and prepare them for the next school year. Apps vary from pre-school to med-school.
Pre- & elementary school
Dr. Seuss’s ABC ($2.99; app2.me/2345) is a great way to teach your 4-year-old the alphabet. Cat in the Hat ($2.99; app2.me/2346) is the classic Dr. Seuss book with "read to me" and "read it myself" features that will help develop reading skills. Diving for Colors in Hawaii ($1.99; app2.me/2347) teaches young children color identification using animated pages, text, and narration. Site Words (free; app2.me/2348) teaches young children to recognize words by sight. Finally, Zoo Spelling ($1.99; app2.me/177) helps your child recognize and spell the names of animals.
Lola’s Flag Adventure ($0.99; app2.me/2349) teaches kids to recognize and name world flags. Although the interface is oriented towards younger children, the app is suitable to elementary school children. Math Flash Cards ($0.99; app2.me/2350), Math Magic ($0.99; app2.me/2351), Mental Math Tricks ($0.99; app2.me/223), and Trade-First Subtraction ($0.99; app2.me/2352) are all great ways to strengthen basic math skills.
And when the hustle and bustle of the summer season is coming to an end, your iPhone/iPad will definitely come in handy balancing all of your back-to-school shopping lists. There are some great to do list apps in the app store like Todo ($9.99; appigo.com/todo) which can synch with iCal and Outlook.
For all the college students in your family, an iPad will make an excellent back-to-school or graduation gift. The potential of the iPad for the college student is tremendous. With the iPad, users will be able to download textbooks, research the Web, take notes, and write reports and essays—all from a single device. No more sore backs from a 50 lb backpack.
Finally, when all the shopping is done and the kids are sitting at their desks, it’s time to relax. Pick up your iPhone and book an appointment at a local day spa with the help of iLocate Spas ($0.99; app2.me/2357).