From breastfeeding trackers to cognitive game apps for children, we parents live in a time where a handheld device is all that is needed to elevate our parenting game. These days, the parent app market is heavily saturated with a huge number of quality apps. Hence, smart parenting has evolved from being just a fad for some ‘tech-savvy’ parents, to a cornerstone of achieving important parenting goals in this digital age. However, as a parent, the sheer number of app options to choose from can be overwhelming. Fortunately, we have some tips that can help you choose the right apps that align with your parenting style.

Behind the Screens: Who is the app developer?

Research is crucial when it comes to choosing the right app to suit your parenting needs. For example, educational apps that offer science-based learning objectives should have a team of experts in that particular field behind the app. A simple google search on who developed the app, their motivations, methodology, research and data used can tell you whether the app’s claims are legitimate or if it is just a waste of data and/or money.

You can also check if the app companies are endorsed by government bodies or backed by research agencies. Do not waste your time and hard earned money on apps that are created for the sole purpose of profiting off you!

Take it for a test-drive. Or find out from someone who has.

With so many parent apps in the market, many of the apps that you are eyeing may be free. If they are not, a trial period or a freemium version of the app may be available for you to dip your toes in before making the full commitment. Otherwise, online reviews from fellow parents can help you with the decision.

Look no further than the flurry of activity on Reddit’s AskParents forum (subreddit) everyday, where parents from all walks of life give their opinions on anything and everything parenting. Unsurprisingly, ‘best parent apps’ or ‘parental control apps’ are common discussion topics that crop up every other day, with parents sharing their experiences with apps that they may have found useful or have had horrible experiences with. Like Reddit, there are many parenting forums online on app recommendations that can help you make an educated decision on what apps you should invest in.

Parental control apps: It isn’t just about controlling your child’s device use.

When it comes to choosing the right parental control app, the best ones often offer plenty of features to limit and restrict your child’s device usage, track and block apps and internet usage and are highly customisable to suit different parenting styles.

However, it is important to remember that when using such apps, communication between you and your child is key.If you do not clearly define the rules of device usage and the purpose of having their device time monitored, conflict might ensue as your child might be left frustrated and confused by the restrictive and controlling nature of the parental control app. Hence, always remember to explain the whys and hows of restricting your child’s device use to avoid unnecessary temper tantrums.

Beyond the restrictive elements of a parental control app, there are certain apps in the market that serve to empower and educate children on their device use. Our parental management app, plano was developed to do just that. Plano is a science-based app that has a suite of child safety functions that parents can toggle to restrict their children’s device use. Moreover, it helps children develop a healthier relationship with their devices by rewarding them when they follow good eye care habits, like taking eye breaks and playing outdoors, through its innovative points system.

Such an app not only assists parents to keep an eye on their children, it places the responsibility on children themselves to care for their own eyes and overall well being. Hence, look out for parental control apps in the market like plano, that serve to empower both you as a parent and your child.

Whatever app you choose to help you along in your parenting journey, always remember that apps serve to enhance, not replace your role as a parent. The bottom line is, it is our responsibility as parents to help our little ones organically develop a healthy relationship with technology; there is no app that can do that for us!

Beyond vocabulary expansion, your child can benefit more from reading than he/she knows. Here are 5 more benefits to reading that you may not have known about:

More than meets the eye.

Reading’s just identifying at a bunch of words scrawled on to a page right? What’s so good about that? Well, beyond just being able to recognise words, reading has numerous cognitive and psychological benefits that can help your child:

1. Improved concentration

It’s a crazy digital world out there, and with so many bits of information coming our way at lightspeed, our attention is often divided. For your child, it may be no surprise that within a single 5-minute duration, he/she could swipe through their social media, chat with their friends on messaging platforms, and watch a short video. This behaviour often decreases their attention span, and lowers their productivity. Reading a book however, streamlines their attention on a single activity; a single story. Especially if it’s a book that your child is absorbed in, reading can transport them to an entirely different world. Getting your child to read just 30 minutes a day can improve their concentration tremendously and you might be surprised by how focused they can be.

2. Reduced stress levels

If your child is stressed from school, cosying up to their favourite book can help them to relax. Losing themselves in a great story can help them forget about their stress (momentarily). In fact, according to researchers from the University of Sussex, they found that reading a book for only 6 minutes helped to reduce stress levels by 68% as compared to taking a walk (42%), or listening to music (61%). The authors reported that being completely distracted (even for awhile), can help relieve stress and calm oneself.

3. Mental stimulation

The brain is a muscle, and just like any muscle group, we have to work it to strengthen it. Reading helps to keep the brain mentally stimulated which therefore strengthens the brain. Keeping the brain active and engaged in mentally stimulating activities helps keep your child’s brain cognitively stimulated which helps to improve and protect memory functions.

4. Strong analytical skills

Once your child gets well acquainted with reading, chances are, they will develop the ability to analyse plots and compare them with other books they have read before. They begin to formulate their own views to determine whether they thought it was a well-written piece or not; they begin to form opinions on the characters and the storyline. What’s better is if you, as a parent, join in the fun and discuss the book with them. Varying opinions can help hone their analytical skills and critical thinking.

5. Knowledge and perspective

Reading can present your child new knowledge and a new perspective of the world they had never seen or thought about before. Everything your child reads will fill their head with new bites of information that will stay with them. Moreover, it presents a new point of view that your child may not have known before. An added bonus is if the story is told in a fun manner while imparting new information to your child. The Plano Adventures tells the story of Professor Plano and his two friends, Zed and Zee. The trio go on journeys into the unknown to thwart the evil Lord Myopia. Through their exhilarating adventures, The Plano Adventures teaches its young readers about the adverse effects of excessive device use in this digital world. There are 5 books in the series, and each book has a specific theme; from protecting your eyesight to prevent myopia from progressing, to the damaging effects of cyberbullying. You can buy the whole set of 5 books in Singapore at Kinokuniya, Times Bookstores, and at Popular. Alternatively, buy them online on Amazon or on Book Depository.

With new phone games grabbing our children’s attention every day, it may seem impossible to peel them away from the screen. Take a look at some of these indoor games to help limit your child’s screen time.

Game on.

Taking time to play with your child is a helpful way to manage their smartphone use and also show them the joy of being away from the screen. While smartphone games can take your child on a new adventure, sometimes, all it takes is some imagination and some household items to inject some fun into the everyday and reduce their screen time too:

1. Indoor obstacle course

Create an adventure just for your child outside the virtual world. Gather some chairs, blankets, hula hoops, and anything that you think will be useful in creating an a-maze-ing (pun intended) obstacle course. Set up the obstacle course according to the range of space in your house. You can make as many rules as you want and each obstacle may require different methods to cross over. For instance, you can ask your child to roll over a blanket or crawl under a chair before he/she moves on to the next obstacle. No matter what, just make sure your child has fun.

2. Pictionary

Can’t seem to get your hands on the board game? Well, you can DIY it! Get some paper and pencils then write down different words on pieces of paper and drop them into a hat or a bowl. Ask your child to pick one randomly and draw what’s written on a piece of paper without telling you what he/she fished out. After junior finishes his masterpiece, it’s time to start guessing.

3. Ice excavation

Bring out junior’s inner archaeologist with an ice excavation. All you need is a container big enough to hold some toys and deep enough to fill with a substantial amount of water. Place the container filled with toys and water into the freezer and wait until the water turns into ice. After it has frozen over, gently take the ice block out of the container. Pass your child some ‘tools’, like salt, a towel, water, you name it, to defrost the ice block and save the trapped toys.

4. Sensory box

This box will keep junior entertained and his/her imagination alive. Grab an old shoe box and cut two holes, big enough for your child to fit his hand in, at the side. Place different objects into the box and get your child to identify them using his sense of touch. Some examples of objects may be slime, a feather, or even just a simple stuffed toy.

5. Treasure hunt

Nothing beats a good-ol-fashioned treasure hunt to give the little ones an adventure away from screen time. Simply write some clues on scraps of paper, number them, and leave the first one in an obvious location. Leave the rest of the clues all over the house – from the bathroom to the bedroom to the garden, get creative. Keep junior moving all around the house to find the prize at the end, but don’t forget to leave some random prizes at various points throughout to encourage them.

Fun beyond the screen

Games don’t always have to come from a little screen in your child’s palms. The phone is a great source of entertainment, but it’s necessary to manage how your little one is using it. Excessive screen time can have negative consequences for your child’s eye health. Using your imagination and some everyday household items can go a long way in entertaining your child and keeping their eyes healthy. If you need some help to keep your child busy away from the screen, check out the plano shop for a bunch of different activities your children can enjoy outdoors.

Reading is a timeless hobby and can be done anywhere at any time. But for most children nowadays, they’d rather choose the latest mobile game than pick up a book to read. However, the benefits of reading are aplenty such as vocabulary expansion and memory and concentration improvement. Here are some tips to get your child to read more.

Lead them to the books

When your child reads a book, they enter a portal of adventure and imagination. Opening up a fresh new book is equivalent to opening your child to a whole new world. But children sometimes feel the inertia to even pick up a book, and as much as we want to develop the habit of reading in our children, it can admittedly be a challenge sometimes. Here are some tips that may help your child read more books:

1. Let them have a say

How many times have we gone to a bookstore and when our child finally picks something they would like to read, we reply, “pick something else”. It’s an all too common scenario because we’d like our children to have a wide variety of books. However, in saying so, it takes the fun out of reading for your child. If your child is forced to read something that vaguely interests them or does not pique their interest, they tend to see reading as a chore rather than an enjoyable pastime. Letting them have a say in their choices gives them a sense of ownership and joy in making their own decisions.

2. Build conversations

Reading together with your child can be a rewarding experience. However, you don’t always have to do this in the same room. Take an interest in your child’s favourite books and carve out the time to read them either on your own, or snuggled up together with your child. Be a part of your child’s world and create a conversation around those books. That way, you not only get to bond with your child, but also make reading a social activity where you can build connections outside the books.

3. Let them re-read

If your child gravitates to a particular author or book, don’t stop them from re-reading it. While we want our children to experience reading a variety of books, sometimes we can’t help it if our child wants to read the same book 10 times. Begrudging your child for re-visiting their favourite tales and stories can be discouraging to them. Rather, embrace their passion for a particular book. In fact, re-visiting an old book will help them to absorb the language better and attune themselves to the book’s storyline and major ideas.

4. Get a book with a good learning point 

Books can play a huge role in your child’s childhood and it can be a great escape for them. Give them a good book they like and they’re sure to lose themselves on an imaginary adventure, and it’ll be twice the fun if you join in as well. It’s even better if the book contains a good learning point to teach your child important life lessons as well. Bring your child on an adventure through professor Plano’s world in The Plano Adventures! The Plano Adventures is a science-based children’s book series that brings your child on a wondrous journey through Professor Plano’s world with the aim of teaching young readers the importance of taking care of their eyes. You can buy the whole set of 5 books in Singapore at Kinokuniya, Times Bookstores, and at Popular. Alternatively, buy them online on Amazon or on Book Depository

“Mummy, I can’t see in school.” Perhaps some parents have heard their children talk about how impossible it is to focus in class without squinting. If you have, your child may be experiencing myopia. Besides requesting that your child sits further front, you might want to get your child’s eyesight checked and potentially prevent myopia from progressing.

See it to believe it

Learning in school is largely a visual process – from looking at the whiteboard to reading textbooks, most of your child’s learning begins with his/her sight. Eye strains, constantly rubbing their eyes, or an avoidance of reading are some symptoms that indicate problems with your child’s vision.

When that happens, you’d want to visit an optometrist. At the optometrist, you can expect your child’s eyes to be thoroughly checked for refractive errors such as myopia (more commonly known as nearsightedness), and perhaps receive a prescription for a pair of spectacles or contact lenses to correct your child’s vision and prevent myopia from developing.

However, eye examinations should not stop after getting a pair of spectacles. Research has shown that regular eye check ups help to monitor the development of myopia. In fact, there is a 50% increased risk of having uncorrected refractive error if the interval between your child’s last eye examination was more than 2 years ago. At worse, not attending regular eye check-ups put your child at a higher risk of losing partial or complete vision.

Further vision impairment can be prevented by going for regular and timely eye examinations. Attending eye examinations at an optometrist can help keep your child’s eyesight in check and monitor the progress of their vision health. By doing so, it can help ease your child’s vision discomfort and prepare for the upcoming school year. Your child’s eyes will feel less strain and stress, and he/she will be able to concentrate better in class.

Healthy eyes and good vision are integral to help your child reach his/her best academic potential. But more importantly, your child’s eyes are a window to experience the world around them. Prevent myopia’s progression safeguard your children from other vision health risks by booking and attending regular eye check-ups through the plano app

Your child’s eyes are vulnerable to many ailments and conditions. Just a mere brush of his/her hand across the eye, or staring at a screen for too long can cause serious eye health issues.

Some problems to keep an eye on

Your child’s eyes are new and fresh and should be protected. But in order to protect their eyes, we, as parents, should be aware of the various eye problems that afflict our children and how to treat them as best as we can.

1. Amblyopia

Amblyopia, or more commonly known as ‘lazy eye’, is a common condition that affects children. It has been reported that at least 2 to 3 percent of the U.S. Population has some degree of amblyopia . Amblyopia is caused by the misalignment of the eyes. The best possible way to treat amblyopia is to schedule an appointment with your nearest ophthalmologist. Treatment usually involves covering the other ‘good’ eye with a patch in order to force the ‘lazy’ eye to work and train the eye to see clearly.

2. Conjunctivitis

As your child is constantly exposed to many different irritants in the environment around them, they are also prone to contracting conjunctivitis, or more commonly known as “pink/red eye”. According to the American Optometric Association, if your child touches his/her eyes without washing them first, the bacteria from his/her own hands can contaminate the eye and cause bacterial conjunctivitis. Conjunctivitis can also be contracted through allergic reactions. If your child does contract bacterial conjunctivitis, your doctor will prescribe him/her with antibiotic eyedrops. As for home remedies, placing a cold towel over the affected eye will help to soothe the eye. Use a wet towel to gently wipe off any excess discharge that forms around the eye.

3. Myopia

Our eyes are constantly being overworked and with the prevalence of smart devices, it can place a lot of strain and stress on your child’s eyes. This is a contributing factor to myopia, or nearsightedness. According to a report by plano, school-aged children in Singapore from 9 to 12 years of age spend up to 50 hours a week on their smartphone or tablet computers. You may download the report here. Smart device use and screen exposure can cause your child’s eyes to grow abnormally long to adapt to look at near objects. While it is not exactly possible to prevent myopia  per se, you can help to delay its progression by fostering good eye care habits in your child. Remember to remind your child to take frequent eye breaks, go outdoors, and place their screens at least 30 cm away from their eyes.

However, it can be difficult for a child to remember all these tips to delay the progression of myopia. The plano app can help turn these reminders into daily habits that your child can easily incorporate into their everyday smartphone use. That way, they can enjoy using their mobile devices while helping to prevent myopia, and taking care of their eyes too. 

Picking the right sunglasses for a day out should be more than just #forthegram. The best pair of sunglasses is one that protects your eyes while making a fashion statement.

Sun’s out shades on

We’re right in the heat of summer, and the sun could not be more glaring. While it’s all fun and vibrant when it comes to the latest summer styles, our sunglasses should be more than just another accessory piece.

Notice those wrinkles around the corners of your eyes? Well, they’re a product of spending too much time under the sun. This is because while the sun is a great source of Vitamin D, it also radiates harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays – both UVA and UVB. UVA rays penetrate deep into the skin tissue, while UVB rays are responsible for sunburn. UV rays breakdown the collagen in your skin which help to provide structure to your skin. Unprotected exposure to these UV rays can cause wrinkles to appear. So before you head to the beach for a good tan, besides slapping on your favourite sunscreen lotion, remember to head to the shop to get a good pair of sunnies that block out those harmful UVA and UVB rays from damaging the skin around your eyes.Those UV-protection sunglasses won’t just deter wrinkles from forming, but also protect your eyes from sun damage. If exposed to too much UV rays, you run the risk of developing cataracts, which is a clouding of the eye’s lens, which causes blurry vision.

Other considerations

After you’ve picked out a pair of sunglasses with the best UVA and UVB coverage, you may think about the colours of the lens. Just remember, a black-coloured pair of lenses, it doesn’t exactly equate to complete UV coverage. As your pupil controls how much light enters and exits, when you wear a pair of dark sunglasses, the pupil dilates for more light to enter. If your sunglasses don’t have the best UV coverage, you’d be letting in more UV into the back of your eyes.

Last, but definitely not least, you may want to consider the material of the sunglasses you’re intending to buy. Plastic is a lightweight and break-proof option and hence good for sports. Glass on the other hand is scratch-resistant and considered very clear. Besides these 2 options, you can consider polycarbonate lenses. These are lightweight, thin and inherently block 100% of UVA & UVB rays, though some have mentioned that polycarbonate isn’t as clear as glass. Be it plastic, or glass, or some new trendy polycarbonate material, be sure to buy one that suits your tastes, preferences, and needs best. Whatever the case, remember to protect your eyes from the sun and those harmful UV rays. Happy shopping!

While myopia can’t exactly be prevented, you can adopt some of these tips to help your child keep myopia at bay.

Show them the world

Our eyes are the window to the world, and for your children, theirs are only just opening. The eyes are the most important conduit to experiencing life around them, but myopia can hinder that experience. In an era where digitization is happening at a rapid rate and crawling into almost all areas of life, their eyes will be exposed to numerous sources of strain and stress. According to plano’s latest report, the number of people diagnosed with myopia is increasing exponentially with as many as 80-90% of teenagers and young adults in Singapore, Hong Kong, and Taiwan afflicted with myopia. Here are some daily habits you can include into your child’s routine to delay the progression of myopia.

Tips to keep myopia at bay

1. Go nuts

Almonds, walnuts, cashews, you name it. Eating nuts can benefit your child’s eyes tremendously as they are loaded with vitamin E. As vitamin E behaves as an antioxidant for the body, it promotes good eye health. Pack some nuts into your child’s lunchbox everyday as a snack or maybe enjoy it with a salad. Just incorporating some into your child’s daily routine can go a long way in strengthening his/her eyes.

2. Get your shine on

The next time family-day comes around, slap on some sunscreen, get out there, and soak up the sun. Too much time indoors doing near-work activities such as reading or writing, or using the phone, can cause blurry vision. Spending at least 2 hours a day outdoors and under the sun can help keep myopia from progressing. It’ll also be a good way to bond with junior. If you’ve exhausted all your local parks and gardens, consider signing your child up for weekly sports lessons such as gymnastics or basketball.

3. Keep your eyes in check

To really know what’s going on with your child’s eyes, attending regular eye check ups at an optometrist will help you gain key insights on your child’s vision health. In fact, regular eye check-ups will help monitor the development of any vision ailments your child may be facing and your doctor will be able to advise you how to professionally take care of it.

See the future with clarity

Our children’s eyes are precious, but also vulnerable; they should not be taken for granted. Managing and developing good eye care habits should start from young as their eyes develop the most during their childhood. However, it can be a handful to constantly look over your child’s shoulder to monitor their eye health. Plano helps your child to develop good eye care habits, and should they need some time away from their phones, plano offers a variety of enrichment classes to keep them occupied away from the screen. Optometry bookings are also made easier through the app to care for your children’s eyes. Help your child manage their eyesight, prevent myopia, and safeguard their eyes for the future. 

Where has the time gone? Your baby is reaching his or her half-year mark, and life has been nothing but a jarring blur. Well, you’re up for more. 

Starting from now, your baby may start crawling anytime and making a go for it! Once your baby is in motion, expect him or her to explore anything and everything within his or her reach. If you haven’t done a full baby safety check around your home, now would be a good time to do so. 

We’ve collated a set of reminders for you – from sleep safety tips to house safety tips to bathing safety tips – we got you covered:

When your baby is fast asleep:

1. No Mobiles 

Not your mobile phones, but rather the hanging toys that hang above your baby’s crib. Remove these mobiles from your baby’s crib when he or she is able to reach for it to avoid strangulation. 

2. Get rid of wires or cords

Another way to avoid strangulation or to prevent your baby from getting caught in knots, ensure that wires or cords are out of reach from your baby’s crib. It would also be good measure to tie up all curtain cords and out of reach from your baby. 

3. Bedding

The bed is probably where your baby spends most of his/her time in dreamland. However, as much as you want to create the most comfortable environment for your little bundles, pillows, quilts, comforters, stuffed toys, sheepskins, and other soft surfaces should not be in your baby’s crib as this can potentially lead to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) according to American Academy of Pediatrics.

4. Just the right temperature

Just like how you probably don’t like to sleep in a room that’s too cold or too warm, your baby probably has the same preferences too. The ideal room temperature for your sleeping baby should be kept between 20–22.2°C (68–72°F). As a general rule of thumb, keep the temperature comfortable for a lightly-clothed adult. If it’s too cold for you, it is too cold for your baby. 

5. Sleeping position 

Babies spend most of their time sleeping, and unlike us, they cannot control their sleeping positions. As suggested by the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendations for infant sleep safety, an infant should sleep on his or her back for all sleep times and on a firm surface. This is to reduce the risk of SIDS as your baby could roll over and sleep on his/her stomach if he/she sleeps on her side. By rolling over onto his/her stomach, this could hinder your baby’s breath and cause SIDS. Also, as much as you love cuddling with your newborn, it is highly recommended not to share beds with your baby as this can also cause SIDS by strangulation and suffocation

A safe home for a safe baby:

1. Small objects

Paper clips, coins, pen caps, and anything small that present a choking hazard should be kept away. As your baby is a curious one, he/she may be tempted to pick up these small objects and eat them. A good rule of thumb: If something is smaller than a D-sized battery, it is a choking hazard, so keep it out of sight and out of reach from your little one.

2. Sharp and toxic objects

It goes without saying that razors, small choking hazards and other dangerous items such as cleaning products or pet food are a definite no so put these far away in a box and out of your baby’s sight.

3. Chargers and electronics 

To prevent strangulation and any electricity risks such as electric shocks, make sure to remove chargers that are not in use and coil up the wires. Also remember to stow these away and keep them out of reach. 

4. Tablecloths

That beautiful tablecloth that you lay everyday for meals will not only catch your guests’ attention, but your baby’s too. If your baby is extra curious, there runs the risk of him/her pulling it down and hurting him/herself. 

5. Windows 

Lastly, remember to keep windows locked, and use window guards to prevent your baby from falling out should they climb up the windows. 

Scrub-a-dub time:

We all love a good bath at the end of the day, so it’s necessary to take some precautions when showering your baby to give him/her a comfortable one. The water temperature should be 37-38°C (98-100°F), which is around our average body temperature – so, it’s not too cold, or not too scalding. But just to be safe, always add the cold water first into the tub, then the hot water so that the tub won’t be boiling hot when you lower your baby in. Once your baby’s in the tub, switch off the water to keep your baby from drowning. For added precaution, add a rubber mat at the bottom of the tub to prevent your baby from slipping if he/she can stand. Most importantly, never leave your baby in the bath unattended. Even if the phone starts to ring, or if a delivery man arrives, never leave your baby alone in the bath to prevent drowning or other accidents. 

Home is where your baby can find a shelter and safe arms. It is our wish that your baby has a safe and secure home for him/her to grow up happily and healthily.