All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Never in my life did I think it would be important for me to know when someone else had pooped, but then I became a mom and here we are. The amount of stuff that mom’s need to keep track of is, in a word, immense. Since I brought my twins home from the hospital, I’ve used an app to note every bottle, diaper change, nap, medication, bath time and more. That’s worked well so far, but now that my kids are older, I’ve had a harder time immediately logging their events. That’s partially because our routines were interrupted with a recent move and partially because they really want to play with my phone every time they see it. Regardless, I’m trying to get us all back into an established pattern of meals and nap times so I’ve been wanting to re-establish my habit of logging all their details.
Talli sells a $99 physical gadget for this purpose: a single-touch tracking device that lets busy, sleep-deprived parents push a button to log activities like bottle feeds and bedtimes. The Talli Baby one-touch tracker includes seven pre-assigned buttons and a miscellaneous eighth, and it pairs with an app to provide you the best of both worlds. A single-function device to track kids’ care may not sound like a big deal, but if you’ve ever tried to operate a touchscreen with diaper cream all over your hands, you may be able to see the utility here.
The Talli is a white and faux-woodgrain box with rounded edges, roughly the size of a small but stuffed wallet. It has two rows of four activity buttons with icons to indicate which action the button is assigned to: bottle feeding, solid food, wet diaper, dirty diaper, sleeping, nursing, pumping or “miscellaneous,” which can be customized within the app. Events that happen at the same time — say, a wet and dirty diaper — require simultaneous button presses. There’s also a small WiFi button on the lower right that’s used during setup, and the company says that WiFi is only used when the device is transmitting an event. The rear contains slots to wall-mount the Talli using the included hardware.
Setting up the Talli is fairly uncomplicated and follows the same steps as many other app-connected devices: download the app, create an account, add a device, connect to a WiFi network and you’re done. When I first set up the device, it kept flashing an error message, which the included start-up pamphlet instructed me was a WiFi connection issue likely due to an incorrect network name or password.
Only I hadn’t gotten to that step yet, I was only trying to sync the device. I contacted Talli support and tried again and was able to connect and set up the device without any further issue. It’s worked normally since then so I’m not certain what the issue was, but it did make me realize that adding a hardware device to my tracking process meant there would be another potential point of failure. Since Talli pairs with an app that can be used independently to track what you’re doing with your kids, it wouldn’t be the end of the world if the hardware wasn’t working. However, it would detract from the main advantage of the system: the convenience of pressing a button on the tracker and continuing with your day.
Taking out my smartphone, opening an app and typing in an entry isn’t exactly heavy lifting, but doing that while two toddlers wind themselves between my legs, grab at my phone, whine, harass the cat, throw everything out of the kitchen drawers and try to climb over child gates is another story. Being able to press a button and be done was an unexpected relief: My kid’s data was logged, so I knew when they were last changed and I could always flesh out the entries with more detail in the app later (though I’ll admit that rarely happened). It was extremely easy to use the Talli instead of my previous app, and it was oddly satisfying, too — not unlike crossing something off a to-do list.
Because Talli runs on four AA batteries, it has a portable design allowing it to be moved anywhere or handed off to any caretakers or babysitters. It can also be mounted on a wall, which has advantages and disadvantages depending on how you’ll use it. I kept my Talli untethered because my changing table area doesn’t have the best WiFi coverage, so I kept it on a nearby shelf where I could touch the buttons on my way in and out of the room.
Frankly, I would have preferred to mount the thing; when grabbing for the device, I would often accidentally hit a button and register an incorrect event, which I would then have to remember to delete later. But I also often had to move the Talli out of sight, because my son is particularly enamored with pushing buttons and things that light up, so the Talli was like forbidden candy to him. It was hard to find the perfect location where the device was connected to my WiFi network, easily accessible to me and didn’t draw his attention.
Each Talli device gets assigned to one child, that is to say you’ll need one Talli per child. But you can assign multiple devices to the same child if you end up getting more than one for different areas of your home. And Talli works with Alexa, so you can have the assistant log events for you if you say “Alexa tell Talli Baby that Sam had a dirty diaper.” You can also request that Alexa read you the most recent activity reports. I don’t currently have an Alexa-enabled device, so I wasn’t able to test this out yet. The company says Google Home compatibility is coming soon, too.
Much like the device itself, the Talli app is simply designed and straightforward to use. The home screen contains the same icons as the device; when a button is active — it turns green for a pumping session or a nap time, for example. Near each button is a date and time stamp for the last logged event and tapping on the icon brings up an entry page to edit and add details. I sometimes had to tap commands a few times — say, to pause or start a sleep timer — but this otherwise worked fine.
The rest of the app is organized into a Daily List, which is exactly what it sounds like: a list of your child’s daily events. There’s also a Details view which provides an hour-by-hour graph of events and can be toggled to show any of your child’s metrics over a time period. My favorites were the Averages view, which shows totals for each event, and the More tab, which has selections for account sharing, reminders and children’s profiles. I’m trying to switch the twins over to all solid foods and being able to track what they’ve eaten, how much and when has helped me establish routines and menus. And because it was easy to press a button on the way in or out of the room, Talli made it possible for me to log how often my son woke in the middle of the night and how long before he went back to sleep.
However, the app frequently (albeit briefly) flashed a “Refreshing your data” screen when I navigated around the options. I had to wait an extra beat or two for the data to refresh when I did almost anything in the app: changed screens, edited data, deleted an event and the like. I’m hoping this is due to my satellite internet connection, because it was one of my biggest pain points with the Talli system. I will say I appreciated that there was no subscription component: Talli offers all its information and your data without any additional fees, whether you purchase the tracker or simply use the free app.
The Talli device offers something that isn’t otherwise available: a hardware device dedicated to tracking everything you do with your child on a daily basis. It’s nicely designed, easy to use and has an app that charts and graphs the data for you. I liked using it a lot more than I expected to, given that tracking all my kids’ various activities through an app had become a bit of a chore. But using the Talli tracker wasn’t a chore — and having a physical device (even more, a single button) that I could tap and walk away from did indeed help me stay more consistent with tracking habits.
I only wish that I had found a better location for the device in my kids’ room — and I wish that the app didn’t lag so much — but otherwise I was pleasantly surprised at how well the Talli Tracker fit into my lifestyle. I can see it being particularly useful for those who have family or multiple caretakers tending to children or for people who prefer physical logging methods like calendars or notebooks. But it’s also a $99 gadget — and when a free app just requires more work but will ultimately do the job, it makes the Talli a bit of a luxury.