As parents, limiting a child’s screen time can be a difficult task (to say the least). Despite our best intentions most of us have given into a tantrum by turning on cartoons, or allowed a few extra minutes of video game play to keep a son or daughter occupied while we hop on that important call.
While it’s perfectly fine to use technology as a diversion tactic from time to time, it’s important to remember that technology can also provide wonderful learning opportunities for our little ones. But it’s up to us to find a balance between a child’s screen time and time spent socializing with other kids or spending quality family time outside.
This is especially important in the summer months when our children get a break from online research and homework assignments that will put them in front of a computer for many hours during the school year. In addition, during summer we get to take advantage of warmer weather (let’s just hope the rain doesn’t come back) and all of the wonderful recreational opportunities we have in our backyards.
So how can we ween our children off of screens this summer while still using technology for good? Well, how about a compromise? There are several apps that let us combine technology, science and the great outdoors. Below is a list of five of our favorite apps that promote positive learning and family together time outside of the house and classroom.
SkyView: Have you ever looked up at the stars and wondered what exactly you were looking at? Is it a planet or a star? What constellation is that? Simply point your phone at the stars and the SkyView app will tell you what you’re seeing. This is a great app for kids and adults as you explore together what’s out there in our solar system.
Meet the Insects- Forest Edition: We are fortunate to be surrounded by miles of forests and park systems, including the Cuyahoga Valley National Park which is the only National Park in the state of Ohio. This educational app is full of photos, videos and descriptions of the various insects you may encounter during a hike or picnic. Plus there’s an observation journal and quizzes. This is a great resource for making those creepy crawlers seem not so creepy.
Geocaching: Who doesn’t love a good treasure hunt? The Geocaching app syncs with geocaching.com and let’s you go on scavenger hunts using your smartphones. Note that geocaching should only be done when adults are present as caches may be stored in rough terrain or off-the-beaten-path. But that’s just another reason this is a great activity for the whole family to do together.
Audobon Birds: It’s amazing how aware children are of their surroundings and natural world- especially when it comes to birds. The Audobon app lets you identify and keep track of the various bird species you see flying around your yard or park. It also lets you explore nearby hotspots where you may be able to catch a glimpse of a rare species!
Strava: While this isn’t an app for kids, it is a great tool for us adults to log our exercises. As parents, we are often the reason our kids don’t get outside enough. If we aren’t active, how can we expect our kids to be? Set a goal to log a certain amount of time each week to either hike with a child in a backpack, ride bikes, or simply walk around the neighborhood. By setting your our fitness goals, you’ll be able to spend more quality and healthy time outdoors with your children.
What are your favorite apps for getting kids outside this summer?