Mother's little tech helpers

Aids to bringing up baby today

November 17, 2005|By NEWSDAY

Until the robotic baby-sitter/nanny/mommy is invented, today's new parents are pretty much stuck with the same old solutions for bringing up baby.

But technology has advanced to the point that it's become harder to lose Junior at the mall and easier to tell if he's crying because he's a) hungry, b) tired or c) just plain aggravated in general. And if he is aggravated, an electronic rocking seat pumping out nursery-rhyme music will surely improve his mood.

In the category of "mother's little helpers," there's a range of new products with innovative features - stuff that's not quite a toy, not quite a utility. A look at some:

Why Cry Crying Baby Analyzer ($135; showeryourbaby.com). Unlike most of us dads, Spanish engineer Pedro Monagas was fascinated rather than frustrated by the incessant wails of his infant son. For three years, he "listened" to more than 100 babies and found that, by examining differences in pitch and volume and frequency of crying spells, he could determine what was "wrong" with the child.

To share his findings, Monagas helped develop the Why Cry Crying Baby Analyzer, which uses frequency tests to determine if the child is hungry, sleepy or stressed. The baby cries into the microphone of the battery-operated device, and the appropriate iconic facial expression lights up in about 20 seconds.

The makers emphasize that Why Cry doesn't want to replace a parent but to "offer guidance in recognizing the messages that our babies convey to us." No word whether Monagas is developing a Why Cry for children to use on their parents.

ionKids Kits ($200; ion-kids.com). When my still-little daughters were even littler, and one would wander away at the beach, I would wander up and down the sand, screaming her name and thinking the worst. She was always found digging a hole.

A better, less-stress alternative to screaming is ionKids, a two-way electronic monitor made up of a bracelet, or Wristag, and battery-operated base station, a handheld gizmo that fits in a pocket. Using point-to-point wireless technology, the system transmits constant signals between both devices (and will accommodate several Wristags) and will send an alarm if the child removes the tag. The Web site says the range as up to 350 feet outdoors, 200 feet indoors.

In a similar but ultra-low-tech vein, Wander Wear, ($3.99; www.wander-wear.com), which develops products for child safety, offers a large, brightly colored plastic tag that identifies the child and gives contact information for returning him to the rightful owner.

Digital Chocolate Babysitter2Go ($5.99, through Cingular, Verizon and Nextel). This innovative company, founded by Electronic Arts creator Trip Hawkins, publishes downloadable software for mobile phones, including programs like Babysitter, an interactive application with music and images to elicit lots of goo-goos.

The program displays four playtime screens, including an underwater seascape and a scene of Old MacDonald's farm, where kids push keypad buttons to see little critters pop up or fish swim past, plus a barnyard scene that's supposed to lull babies to sleep.

Peg-Perego Dondolino Prima Pappa High Chair (starting at $180 from bizrate.com and other major retailers). What a concept. Battery operated rocking-seat functions to calm the child, and there's a speaker that plays six different soothing tunes to keep her calm. Seven different heights and three reclining positions keep the little one comfy.

CoolP3 by TekNek (about $30, from J.C. Penney, amazon.com). At last, a music player both toddlers and my father can figure out. In cool cobalt or red raspberry, the CoolP3 holds up to two hours of music (quality isn't great) and sports an LCD screen with animated characters and an array of buttons to control volume and select tunes. Headphones included.

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