App-Venture: Apps to help families enjoy the great outdoors

Penny Alexander

13 May 2017

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4 minutes
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I’ve always been keen to avoid apps when outdoors, because as a blogger, walks are my time to unplug with the family. However, a couple of things made me rethink this recently. I was researching for this post about digital resilience, when I read that the Scouts are using outdoorsy apps as a way to model positive mobile technology use amongst their recruits. Apps the whole family can use together are also a great way to create opportunities to talk about technology, and talking is crucial when trying to ensure our kids are using technology safely.

Kids will love exploring the great outdoors with the help of these apps

Also, the older I get, the more I realise the gaps in my nature knowledge that need filling. When out walking with my Dad in the woods, I kept asking him to identify different bird song. I remarked there must be an app, for when Dad isn’t in our pockets, and he laughed and said there was. So I asked on Twitter and Facebook to see what other apps friends with families were using, the result was these exciting apps, to enjoy and learn together outdoors.

OS Locate

If, like me, you sometimes need a little help finding your bearings, use this alongside an OS map and a compass. The app converts GPS location readings from your mobile phone to Ordnance Survey National Grid references, enabling you to determine precisely where you are on an Ordnance Survey map. OS Locate does not require a mobile signal to function – the inbuilt GPS system can be relied upon, even in the most remote areas. 

Geocaching

A friend introduced us to this in a park in London and we were hooked. Geocaching is the world’s biggest treasure hunt. Geocaches are different size, shape and difficulty of hidden boxes of small treasures hidden all over the world. We recently saw someone find one in Vondelpark in Amsterdam. They are discoverable GPS coordinates and are excellent ways to motivate young walkers. Download the app and create a free account, see where there are hidden treasures all round the world, pick one to hunt, and off you go. You can log your finds and see how others got on too! 

Even big kids will love using apps to get the most out of the great outdoors

SkyView

If you have a budding astronomer, or simply want to inspire awe in your kids, try SkyView. You do need an iPhone however, as this app uses the iPhone's camera as its viewfinder, allowing you to see stars, planets, and constellations. You can also see how the sky will look on a day in the future or past. SkyView gives you information about objects in the sky when you click on them. You can also set reminders for events and share images on social media. 

Warblr

If you have ever used Shazam to find out what a song is, you’ll get the idea behind Warblr. Make a recording of bird song with your smartphone, and Warblr will identify the species of bird/s that can be found in that recording, providing you with images and descriptions to help you learn more about our feathered friends. Warblr is also a citizen science project, you could be helping protect birds, as the recordings and the data collected are made freely available to be used for research and conservation.

Identify bird songs whilst out exploring with the kids, thanks to Warblr

Coton

I am forever wishing I could still remember the names of all the cloud formations I diligently coloured in my geography book at school. No need to worry, because Coton can help! Identify clouds by browsing stunning pictures and detailed descriptions of the different genera, species and varieties of clouds you may spot. 

National Trust 50 things

Find ideas for exciting outdoor activities and log them as you complete each task with the app to accompany the National Trust’s classic list of 50 things to do before you are 11 3/4. From damming a stream to building a den, these are the classic adventures every childhood should have. 

Persil Wild Explorers

Persil Wild Explorers is packed with more than 100 fun outdoor activities that will get the whole family outside. Download the app now on iTunes!

These apps make the great outdoors even more fun for the whole family

Banksy Street Art app

If you’re looking for a more urban outdoor adventure, how about a virtual tour of Banksy’s London street art? There are 24 works of art listed across the capital, with insider knowledge from Banksy experts and hi res full-screen photos. The link is for the London version, but there is also a Bristol app.

Gruffalo Spotters App, Forestry Commission

As featured in one of our recent blogs, younger explorers can enjoy pointing this app at special markers on the forest trail and watch the characters from The Gruffalo come to life! Head to one of 26 Forestry Commission sites to search for clues.

The Gruffalo spotter app is a great way to let kids explore the great outdoors

Nature Detectives Family Trail, Woodland Trust

Visit one of the Woodland Trust’s ready-made trails in more than 20 beautiful bluebell woods throughout the UK. Download the Family Trail app and watch fairies Blue and Belle come to life.

RSPB First Birds

This is the perfect introduction to garden birds for younger children, search for the app now on iTunes!

Pokemon Go

I’m on the fence with this, as it isn’t strictly about appreciating the natural world, but after talking to friends who have completed ‘222km with kids while running, climbing, walking and all sorts, in the pursuit of Pokemon,’ I am definitely rethinking. 

What apps do your family use to enhance days out? Leave us a comment below, or let us know on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram

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Penny Alexander

13 May 2017

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Penny Alexander is a multi-award winning travel blogger and writer, passionate about UK travel and loves to help families find their perfect escape.

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