I’ve been trying a family management app this week, from a startup called S’MoresUp. The app helps grownups assign and track chores for the children they care for, and last week announced a deal with Bosch that will see household appliances assign chores to kids based on the appliance’s status. So if you have the app and your Bosch dishwasher finishes a load, with your permission it can send a notification — and even assign the chore of unloading the dishwasher — to a kid that you take care of.
The app is free, although there is a premium version as well, that offers the ability to assign more chores and create complex chore rotations. And while this is the app’s first integration with a connected device, it got me thinking about the future of digital assistants and other tools designed to help caregivers of children manage. I don’t have a connected Bosch dishwasher or other appliance so I couldn’t try out the chore assignment feature. But I did have fun choosing chores for my daughter to complete and aligning them to the app’s reward system.
The S’moresUp app lets you choose a select number of tokens for each chore, to which you can ascribe a dollar value. Or you can have the child work toward a reward, like a new toy or a particular experience. (My daughter is currently working toward decor for her new bedroom.) The app itself is full-featured, and in a conversation with founders Priya Rajendran and Sen Reeves Xavier, I was glad to hear they aren’t grabbing data about my family and reselling it. Although I did tell them I would be excited to learn more about what other families “pay” for chores or at what age they start assigning certain chores.
As a family with only one kid, I’d like to say it’s pretty easy to ensure that my kid makes her bed each day and cleans up after dinner, but my husband and I are really bad at it. The only chores my daughter does with any regularity is walk the dog each afternoon and empty the dishwasher when asked. She also is supposed to weed for an hour each week and will…again, as long as I remind her.
Which is where the Smore’sUp app is helpful. It uses a notification to remind both she and I that those chores need to be done. But while it feels like there is an obvious opportunity to bring that feature to the Alexa device in her room or the Google device in my study, Rajendran says the smart speakers don’t allow for notifications yet, just responses to a user’s question.
I understand the rationale on the part of Amazon and Google to not let other apps interrupt my life with pointless notifications (I cursed at Alexa when she notified me to leave a review for an Amazon product), but I would 100% opt in to a notification associated with my daughter’s chores. I’d actually like that option, because when asking a teenager to do something, sometimes a neutral third-party is helpful.
That got me thinking about life during the pandemic, when many parents and other caregivers are missing the relative neutrality of teachers and others who normally help with the task of educating our kids. I’m not just talking about teaching them math and English, but helping with social cues, etiquette, and the basics of becoming a decent human instead of giving into the savage toddler we all have living inside. (Did I mention I cursed at an inanimate object?)
Do I want to outsource nagging about chores to connected appliances, an app, and a digital assistant? How much “teaching” should I let Alexa or Google Play games provide? As our social support networks shrink to pods that might encompass only our immediate family, do we rely on Alexa or an app to act as one of the neutral third parties that raise our kids?
I don’t know the right answer, but I will say having an app that helps all of us stick to our chores has been handy, especially when so much of our ordinary household routine has been overturned. So Amazon, Apple, or Google, I wouldn’t mind if I could get your respective digital assistants to proactively tell my child when to unload the dishwasher or that there are clothes ready to fold.