Top 10 outdoor activity apps for kids

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Ten fantastic apps to get your children outdoors this summer, courtesy of Park Resorts

While technology can undoubtedly enrich our lives, it is also often blamed for encouraging kids to stay indoors when they would otherwise be playing outside. But smartphones aren’t always a bad influence on play. In fact, there are many clever apps out there that are designed to be used outdoors. From photo hunts and birdwatching guides to augmented reality games, maps and compasses, these apps help teach kids all about the wonders of nature, and in a way that allows parents to join in.

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Some of these apps act as virtual companions for nature walks, providing up-to-date information on the insects, birds and plants they meet along the way. Some, like Geocaching, provide a reason in themselves to get out and about, while others use the smartphone as a virtual lens to enrich the environment with new information. All of these apps are entertaining, educational and designed to go hand-in-hand with your kids’ outdoor adventures.

1. Meet the Insects: Forest Edition (iPad)
Creepy-crawlies are fascinating, and your child can find out all about the lifecycles and habits of these garden friends with this interactive app. It offers plenty of information, videos and photos about common beetles, ants, butterflies and moths, as well as a quiz for them to test their knowledge and even an observation journal so kids can record their own discoveries.

2. Birdsnap (iOS)
Are your children crazy about birds? Help them catalogue and learn more about warblers, swallows and finches with this clever app, which uses image-recognition technology to identify birds from photos with incredible accuracy. The app requires fairly close shots to work well, but that gives them more reason to practise their bird-watching skills quietly!

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3. Star Walk 2 (Android, iOS)
Get kids your excited about the wonders of the planets with Star Walk 2, an interactive chart of the night sky. Point it towards the heavens to get a virtual view of what’s there, along with a galaxy of information on the constellations, stars and other celestial bodies you can see. It’s the perfect late-night activity for camping trips.

4. Plum’s Photo Hunt (iOS)
If you are looking for something to help your child see the back garden in a whole new light, Plum’s Photo Hunt is here to help. Guided by a friendly, animated plum (just go with it), this educational app gives kids 36 ‘photo missions’ to complete, such as snapping leaves and flowers, as well as the chance to get ‘photobombed’ by Plum.

5. Geocaching (iOS, Android, Windows)
You’re never too young (or old) for a bit of geocaching. It’s essentially a giant digital treasure hunt, using your phone’s GPS to locate containers placed by other players. The containers could be in parks, under bridges, or on top of hills. This is a great activity to join in with your child, and provides the perfect excuse for a good walk.

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6. Trees PRO HD (iOS, Android)
Make a walk in the woods a learning experience with this app, which offers detailed information on trees from all over the world, as well as explaining why trees are so important to the ecosystem. Kids can discover names and facts about the trees in the garden or park, and test their knowledge with the in-app quiz.

7. DisneyNature Explore (iOS)
Sure, you might not have a jungle or a wildlife park nearby, but this app gives your animal-loving children a pretty good substitute: a selection of 20 animals that can magically appear on the camera app! As well as having their photos taken with monkeys, bears and lions, your kids can explore a number of fun facts about their favourite beasts.

8. Birds of Britain (iOS, Android)
This birdwatching app doesn’t have the imaging identifier of Birdsnap, but it’s much more UK-centric and provides audio recordings of birdsongs and calls, so even if your children can’t see a bird, they can still identify it. Packed with authoritative information, it’s a great way for older birdwatchers to take the hobby up a notch.

9. Spyglass (iOS)
Are you an outdoorsy type who loves taking your children on hikes? Next time, bring along this clever compass app to teach them all about navigating in the wild. As well as a full-featured compass, the app includes maps, binoculars, waypoint tracker, rangefinder, star finder and more. That way they’ll have no excuse for getting lost.

10. OutDoors GB (iOS, Android)
Probably better suited for older kids, this collection of apps is a great way to encourage any child who has recently taken up running, trekking or cycling. With high-quality Ordnance Survey maps and the option to record routes, view current speed and altitude, and a handy built-in compass, it’s the perfect companion for the great outdoors.

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Watching kids discover the world around them is one of the greatest joys of parenthood. If you’re planning a getaway in the near future, don’t let technology get in the way of that. Instead, turn it to your advantage instead with these great apps.

These innovations will aid your child’s natural instinct to explore and make sense of the world. Next time you’re away on a camping trip, why not take along a smartphone map of the night sky and teach them all about the stars and planets around the campfire? Or bring a tree identification guide for your next walk in the woods and see how many different species you can spot together.

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