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12 Apps That Encourage Kids to Get Out and Explore

Kids get out and explore

As a mom or dad, you probably grumble sometimes about how much time your kids spend in front of one screen or another. And it’s true that kids spend way too much time in front of screens. However, there are some apps you can put on your smartphone that will encourage your kids to get out and explore.

Obviously, you need to decide how much supervision your kids need with each of these apps, depending on location and your child’s maturity level. Some of the apps mentioned here are free; others you have to buy.

1. Geocaching

If you haven’t heard of geocaching yet, the idea is simple. It’s called the world’s largest treasure hunt. The app helps you find geocaches in your area and navigate to them. People hide small things in the cache, and if you find it, you can take it and put something of equal or greater value in, or put the item back where you found it.

Geocaches are all over the place. The website tells me there are more than 8000 geocaches near my town. That’s not just in my town, of course, but in areas surrounding it. Still, I looked at the map and could see quite a few within a few miles of me, and a huge number along a popular local hike.

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2. iNaturalist

Share your observations of plants and animals you observe to contribute to biodiversity science. You can use crowdsourcing to identify plants and animals you don’t recognize. You’ll connect to other naturalists who share your interests in the world around you.

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3. Audubon Bird Guide

Do your kids love birds? Make it easier to identify them as you wander outdoors with this guide. You can log sightings and share with the community, as well as get help identifying birds you can’t quite identify on your own.

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4. Nature Cat’s Great Outdoors

Based on the PBS Kids character, Nature Cat’s Great Outdoors offers daily adventures for kids. The app may have the kids use the compass, camera, microphone or sketch as they create a nature journal.

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5. DIY Lake Science

DIY Lake Science is helpful in learning about lakes and freshwater ecosystems. There are hands-on activities, requiring supplies that are generally easy to get. There is also an “Under the Lake” simulation which allows students to explore what happens as temperatures change for different lakes.

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6. Star Walk 2

Build an interest in astronomy with Star Walk 2, a stargazing app which helps you identify objects in the night sky where you are. Move your device around and it updates as you go.

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7. Redshift

Redshift will also help you identify astronomical objects in your area, and guide you to ones you’re trying to find. It also offers 3d “flights” to go to the surface of other planets and moons in the solar system.

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8. Pokémon Go

Pokémon Go hit it huge when it came out. There have been problems with people not really watching where they’re going as they seek Pokémon. Some have played the game in inappropriate places, although the developers have put in some effort to keep the game out of such places. You have to walk to hatch your Pokémon eggs, guaranteeing that the kids will get some exercise.

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9. Ingress

Before the Pokemon Go app, there was Ingress. Like Pokemon, you will need to be aware of the potential safety risks as kids visit waypoints and how they chat with other players. Forming alliances with other players is a part of the game, so that your alliance can control more areas.

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10. Zombies, Run!

This app will encourage walking and running. You start out on your walk or run, your music playing as you get your mission. When the zombies start chasing you, it’s time to run. It’s a fun story combined with exercise.

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11. Fit For Battle

Another app that makes walking or running into a game. Shia the elf and Keg the dwarf will let you know when to speed up or slow down as they take you through the game.

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12. Monkey Spot Scavenger Hunts

Make exploring your area more interesting with photographic scavenger hunts. The first four hunts are free, then you have to buy further scavenger hunts. Sometimes you can get an addon hunt free.

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