By Tracey Dowdy
After what seems like forever, the weather here in the mid-Atlantic and much of the rest of the country, it’s time to move your little ones from “screen” to “green” – in other words, let’s go outside and play!
Don’t panic, I’m not suggesting you try to force your kids to go “cold turkey” and drop their devices altogether, but these free apps will show your kids what’s offscreen is just as magical as what’s onscreen.
Wondering what kind of bird is perched on your porch? Merlin Bird ID can help! Simply answer a few identifying questions or snap a quick photo, and the app will pull up a list of possible matches based on your region. Once you’ve identified your feathered friend, the app helps them learn more about how the bird sounds and where it lives with easy-to-read facts and information.
Photo Stuff with Ruff is a camera app complete with a photo gallery and built-in selfie moments, because what self-respecting Gen Z or Gen Alpha isn’t obsessed with selfies? Based on The Ruff Ruffman Show, the app encourages children to explore science in the world around them by taking photos of different natural and man-made items to complete silly scenes.
If nature isn’t really your child’s “thing,” perhaps the fun of a scavenger hunt will be enough to lure them outdoors. Monkey Spot Scavenger Hunt has a host of different hunts, each with unique tasks, even in the free version. The app is more than just an outdoor adventure. For example, there are art museum and zoo adventures that will make your family field trip more exciting as well as storytelling hunts they can create with their friends. Each hunt features a list of clues to find and solve by taking and labeling pictures. Get ready to discover, create, perform, personalize, and inquire with clues like “Ask the favorite food of someone at your table,” or “Find a machine that uses gears.”
The Play and Learn Science app was developed alongside early childhood experts to provide families new ways to explore science together through play. The app includes fifteen games and activities like playing with shadows, choosing the best materials for an umbrella, and controlling the weather. The helpful parent section provides you with tips for parent-child engagement and activities for extending the learning into the real world.
Plum’s Creaturizer is based on PBS Kids’ Plum Landing. The app encourages kids to dive into their imagination by creating their own creepy-crawly creature. Kids can then go from screen to green and back again by taking their creature outdoors to explore habitats where they think they might live. Kids can even take photos of their creatures superimposed onto real-world scenes within the app.
Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.