These days, kids are totally switched on to how all manner of tech gadgetry works, but how much do they know about the world around them? Experts argue that kids don't get outdoors as much as they should these days, and that they're more interested in watching cartoons than studying insects and learning about how the Moon orbits the Earth.
Fortunately, technology and nature don't have to be mutually exclusive options for kids. There are a whole range of apps out there that can help children explore, learn about, and have fun in the natural world, both physically and virtually.
The following is a selection of our most favorite apps for teaching your kids about the world around them, and getting them excited to explore the great outdoors.
The beautifully designed official WWF Together app brings an amazing interactive experience, taking you up-close with 70 endangered animals like tigers and pandas. Learn about all the animals via engaging stories, play games, discover more about the fantastic work of the WWF, and find out how to do your bit for the planet.
Are you ready to be mesmerized by a world of nature that you create? In Toca Nature, you get to shape what happens on the land and interact with cute animals as you play world creator. It's a calming experience and represents fun for all ages. Plant trees, raise a mountain, collect berries, and feed the different animals. An immersive adventure for all ages.
The National Trust 50 things app is specially designed for kids (and their parents) aged up to 12, encouraging them to get outdoors and enjoy nature. It has a bright and colorful interface, and suggests loads of fun (and in many cases) free activities for them to do outdoors. Once they complete an adventure, from going on a bike ride, to discovering what's in a pond, to making a daisy chain, they can write all about it afterwards.
As well as having a brilliant name, Captain Plop's water-saving mission from the South Australian Water Corporation, is a fun and free ebook for kids, teaching them the whys and wherefores of saving water. This fun, read-along story follows the adventures of Captain Plop, water-saver extraordinaire, as he journey's through the underworld of Emily and Luke's house.
Star Walk Kids is a really interactive learning tool for introduction kids to astronomy and the mysteries of the cosmos. With colorful images and friendly narrators, even pre-schoolers have the chance to recognize constellations, planets of the solar system and grasp the fundamental principles of astrophysics.
MarcoPolo Weather is an app that aims to teach kids about the weather in a fun and enjoyable way. By playing about with its interactive interface, kids will learn everything there is to know about the sun, clouds, wind and temperatures. The design is just fantastic and kids will love its graphics and colorful animations, which are a real pleasure.
Tailor-made for young children aged 6 to 8, The Earth by Tinybop helps kids understand geology without only using the boring terminology. Providing colorful visuals and fun animations, children can see how the Earth is made up as well as the forces behind it. One example is a volcano. This app shows an active volcano erupting, and breaks down what each thing is, like the lava, the crust where it comes from, the magma, and the surrounding gas.
Want to give your kid a huge playground to explore? How about the whole Earth in beautiful 3D, as well as other planets and constellations? Google Earth gives your kid access to an almost unlimited amount of imagery and knowledge, and they’ll enjoy discovering new countries, cities, buildings and landmarks as they roam around the globe.
This beautifully inspiring and quirky game is the 3rd in the Tree Planet series and is loaded with a very real social aim. In TreePlanet3 your mission is to protect the baby trees from being kidnapped by the 'Disaster Monsters' in each of the forests. For all the trees you successfully save, the creators of the app, Tree Planet, will plant a real tree in a real forest!
In The Wild! Learning Library Collection (Dr. Seuss/Cat in the Hat)
In The Wild! Learning Library Collection, from the ever popular Dr. Seuss/Cat in the Hat franchise, is an interactive storybook application for kids to explore about the wild, as well as learn new words and improve their reading skills too boot. They can pick to have naration or read along themselves, and then choose their favorite tale ("Safari, So Good", "If I Ran the Rainforest", "On Beyond Bugs", "Miles and Miles of Reptiles").
BrainPOP Jr brings an innovative and constructive style of learning to your child's mobile device. They get a different animated movie every week, with related quizzes and educational activities to test what they have learnt. The Science and nature categories are particularly brilliant, and will definitely make learning feel more like a game.