It's Saturday afternoon, the kids are climbing up the walls, and you don't have any bright ideas for keeping them busy. You can pull out that lame board game, crack open a bottle of "mommy's special grape juice" -- or use an app called RedRover as a lifeline. It's kind of like Foursquare, in that it lets you make and share plans on the fly -- except instead of being populated with hordes of narcissistic single douchebags "mayor"ing each other, it's filled with things that parents would care about, like kid-friendly places to eat, fun'n'wholesome activities nearby, even tips on the closest clean bathroom. I'm about to become a parent myself, and recently mused that parenting-well-without-going-nuts seems like the ultimate iterative design problem -- so when RedRover's founder claims that she invented the app to "solve problems" that come up in the weekend chaos of child-rearing, I felt a) validated and b) immensely relieved that someone out there is thinking about this. Modern life has eroded many of the classic "it takes a village" support systems that new parents used to take for granted back when kids were raised in actual villages, and RedRover aims to reboot them for our smartphone-connected, always-on era. The interface (designed by Jessica Findley) is no-nonsense but stylish: large, clear buttons invite you to "Make a Plan" for junior (eating boogers is only going to entertain him for so long) or announce "I'm Here" to other parents you know who might be close by (there's
safety sanity in numbers). Once you've roughed out a few broad strokes on the fly, RedRover lets you drill down to make your plans as detailed as you like or keep them fluid. This is social networking with a true purpose -- and not just for your benefit, but "to make my kids' life better: more enriching, more fun, better planned," as Kathryn Tucker, RedRover's founder, says in the video. "It's not just about making these things easier; it makes them more likely to happen." Living the life you want for your family: If design is about solving problems, I can't think of a better one than that.
[Download RedRover for iPhone here; top image by easylocum]