5 Ways to Explore the Great Outdoors with Apps


5 Ways to Explore the Great Outdoors with Apps|leahnieman.comIt may be summer, but that doesn’t mean the learning has to stop! We want our kids to run, grow, and explore. But, it’s hard when the days get hot and they’d rather play the latest and greatest game on their mobile device. That’s where finding the right app can help!

Use these 5 kid friendly topics to encourage your child to explore the great outdoors with apps!

Let’s Learn to Garden

Get your little ones excited about gardening with The Lorax Gardener. They can design and grow their own flowers and trees.

Plants HD is perfect for older kids (grades 3-5). They will learn about seeds, germination, pollination, flowers, trees, fruits, and dispersal. They’ll gain tons of knowledge so they can head outside and start their own garden, explore plants at a local nature center, or volunteer to assist with gardens in the community.

Let’s Learn about Birds

A Field Guide to North American Birds is perfect for bird lovers of all ages. Think of this app as the original Field Guild book on steroids! This app brings you 3,150 completely new, high-resolution images of birds in their natural habitat, categorized by gender, age, and plumage variations by season. Listening for birds is easy as the app includes sounds for birds. You’ll get insights to where the birds are during any given season with the up-to-date maps. The maps include winter range as well.

BirdLog by eBird lets your kids easily enter their bird sightings into eBird right from the field! Your kids can easily enter bird sightings into eBird submissions to build your own lists while sharing your sightings.  Answers the questions, “What birds live near here?” and “Where can I find new birds to add to my life list?” Here you can create your “Life List” of birds, and receive notification of common “nearby birds” which you haven’t seen yet. Need help identifying a bird? You can get help by seeing what other birds people in the area have been reporting.

Let’s Go Hiking

I don’t know about you, but my son loved watching Bear Grylls in Man vs. Wild. Your adventurous, nature loving kids can now learn all the essential survival skills using Bear Grylls – Bear Essentials. This app has exclusive film, photos, illustrations, step-through-guides, mini-games, quizzes, quotes and interactive tools. So, it’s packed with lots of interactive activities to keep kids engaged and learning.

If you are feeling really adventurous, use Google Maps to chart your way through trails unknown. Or try National Parks by National Geographic and plan an unforgettable trip to one of 25 national parks. You can use Google Earth before heading out to give kids a sneak peek into the natural wonders they’ll be exploring.

Don’t forget to use iNaturalist to log your wildlife sightings along the way. You can document your hike with photos and notes. The app automatically fills in your location and date as you record observations. Volunteers in the iNaturalist community also help you identify species that you don’t recognize. So, you can learn about any new plants or animals you spot on your hike.

Google Maps for iOS

Let’s Explore Plants and Trees

Kids can submit nature photos and contribute to global research missions through Project Noah. Here kids can note their “spottings” and join in missions available in their area. They can also earn badges based on their contributions. The field guide in Noah’s Project has both Local Mode (which shows wildlife that has been spotted nearby) and Global Mode (which shows the latest wildlife spottings from around the world). NOTE: Project Noah covers wildlife and plant life. Although I’ve listed it here under apps for plants and trees, this is one app that will cover lots of nature for kids.

Kids can use Plants HD to learn about the life cycle of a variety of plants. The built in narration is a great feature which can be turned on and off.

Let’s Explore the Sky

The information-packed NASA App will help kids as young as 7 identify springtime stars and constellations. . Kid will also enjoy the Live streaming of NASA TV.

Mobile Observatory is a terrific tool that older kids can use to map the cosmos. The app offers a live, zoomable sky map telling you what sky object you are looking at and provides you with detailed information on stars, planets, deep sky objects, meteor showers, comets, asteroids, lunar and solar eclipses.

Planets provides a 3D guide of the solar system, allowing budding astronomers to identify planets and constellations.

SkyView Free blends your camera view with images of the stars, planets, and satellites visible in your location. You literally point your device at the sky to identify stars, constellations, satellites, and more! This is a fun visual app, however the free one only includes a handful of constellations. Still, it’s perfect for the beginner stargazer.

Planets for Android
Skyview Free for Android

Other Extension Ideas

Create your own Digital Scavenger Hunt – Make a list of items for your child to find in your yard or neighborhood. Send them out, armed with a digital camera or mobile device, and let them take photos of each item on the list. This is a great activity for groups as kids can be divided up into teams. Once kids have their photos, they can create a Powerpoint or movie to show their fun adventure. Best of all, they’ll never know how much learning happened and you’ll win points for being the best mom ever!


  1. Marci@TheHomeschoolScientist on June 10, 2015 at 7:43 pm

    These are fabulous! Thanks for sharing! There are a few that are new to me that I know our kids would like.

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