August 23, 2015

How to resolve (Kids + School + Chores + Activities = Mayhem)

It's that time again! The time of year that all kids dread and parents rejoice - back-to-school season. Is this really an occasion to celebrate? We say we're ready for them to go back (because we're stressed and our kids are craving structure, are bored at home, or whatever), when in reality the structure and scheduling of all the new activities and responsibilities leaves us just as drained as kids who are whining for the 400 millionth time about being bored.

(Personally, taking all my kids to Wal-Mart (yes, it has to be Wal-Mart because even though we live in a town of 30,000 people we are not cool enough to have a Target *insert sob here*) at 10:00AM on a Tuesday, which apparently was the date and time that everyone else in town decided to school shopping, resulted in enough stress to last me well into October).

During the previous school year, we implemented a few small changes to make life a little easier. The following is a guest post from my better (and much more technical) half:

(please note that this post assumes your kids have their own devices or access to a computer)

Last school year, I noticed that each day Virginia would stress about all the things the kids needed to do after school:
  • Clean out lunch boxes
  • Do homework
  • Practice piano
  • Get ready for gymnastics
  • the list goes on.... and on....
It seemed like she had to continuously remind them to do this, do that. So, I came up with a way to reduce some of the stress on Virginia. Each of our kids have a device of some sort, whether it be an iPod, Android tablet, or even access to a computer. I used a tool called IFTTT (If this, then that). 

IFTTT is a free tool that you can sign up for which will watch for things to happen in many of your environments, or simply perform an action on a schedule. What I did is create an IFTTT account to add specific chores to a list on my kids devices on specific days. For example;

  • Monday-Friday
    • Remind kids to empty their lunch boxes from their backpack and put them away
    • Put away any items on the steps that are yours (Virginia often places the kids items that need to be dealt with on the steps)
    • Complete homework
    • Have mom & dad sign off on school papers
  • Monday, Wednesday, & Friday
    • Kid 1: Practice piano
    • Kids 2 & 3: Practice gymnastics
  • Tuesday
    • Kid 1: Gather items for soccer practice
  • Thursday
    • Kids 2 & 3: Get ready for gymnastics
  • Any day
    • If we receive an email from the teacher about kids homework, add item to the specific kids list so they are reminded
This is a small sampling, but you get the idea. Which 'list' application did you use for the kids, you ask?  I selected Trello for it's cross device usability & it's integration capabilities with IFTTT. Trello gives you the ability to create boards with lists. I created a board for each kid, with two lists in each board; ToDo & Done. When they finished a chore, they could simply drag it from the ToDo column to the Done column.

I've included seven steps below to get you up and running, quickly.


Step 1: Create a Trello Account
If you don't already have a Trello account, go to an create an account for you, the parent.

Step 2: Create a board for each kid
Click the + sign in the top left corner and select Create Board

For the title, enter the name of your child.

Click Create

Step 3: Add the two lists to each board
On the left hand side of the screen in Trello, locate your newly created board and click on it.  Once selected, you will see your board with the option to create lists.

 Create the ToDo list by entering 'ToDo' in the 'Add a list...' field and click Save.

Create the Done list the same way.

Once you've done this for each kid, you are done with the Trello portion of the setup.

Step 4: Create an IFTTT Account
If you don't already have an IFTTT account, go to an create an account.

Step 5: Create a recipes to place an items onto a list
This is where you can use your imagination to add items to your kids ToDo lists.  I'll walk you through one of the examples above:  Place an item on a board at a certain time of day, Monday through Friday

    • Select My Recipes at the top of the screen, then select Create a Recipe
    • You'll be presented with a large If this then that.  Click on this.

    • After selecting this, you'll be presented with all kinds of inputs that can trigger an event to create an item in the list.  Search for date.
    • Select the Date & Time object.
    • Next, select the Every day of the week at button
    • Complete the form, selecting the time of day and days of week to trigger, then click Create
    • Next, select that 
    • Search for Trello and select the Trello object

    • Click on the Create a card button
    • Fill out the form, selecting the board and entering the name of the list where you'd like the new task to be placed
    • Click Create Recipe
    • Once created, the trigger is activated and will execute at the selected time.

Step 6: Install Trello on your child's device
All you have left to do now is to install the mobile Trello app on your child's device and login with your username and email.  When they get home from school, they can go to their board and take a look at the things that they need to do.

Step 7: Dream up other recipes
Like I mentioned earlier, you can set up all kinds of triggers to create items in your lists.  I even set up Siri so Virginia could say a command and it would trigger an event to add what she said to the list.  Go, be creative!


If you've been looking for a better way to take care of those repetitive tasks, I hope this has helped.  If you create other recipes that you like, please comment and let me know about it!