App, App and Away: Take the Digital Outdoors This Half Term

Parents know that the struggle is real. This half term the challenge will be to tear the kids away from their phones, tablets, and all the screens that steal their attention. There is a whole wide world out there to be explored but they just need to look up!

But maybe a compromise is in order. These days, when there is an app for everything, why not take the digital revolution outdoors. From augmented reality to cosmic guides, the technology on your phone can open up new and fascinating ways to engage with the real world.

Meet the kids halfway this half-term. Download some of these great apps and switch the entire family on to the outdoors.

~Using phone in nature


Gruffalo-Spotter (free)

Minimum requirement: iOS 8 / Android 5.0

This augmented-reality app will blow the littlest trekkers away. Based Julia Donaldson's best-selling book, The Gruffalo, the app creates a treasure hunt for all the family. Follow a self-led trail to find some of the book's most beloved characters, superimposed onto the real world like living cartoons. Along the way you can check out wildlife facts and learn tips for tracking down animals in the wild.

The app is designed to work in 26 different Forestry Commission sites across the UK. Simply visit the website to find your local trail and then let the kids' imagination run wild as they search high and low for Snake, Owl, Fox and the great Gruffalo himself.

~Gruffalo app in action


Nature Cat’s Great Outdoors (free)

Minimum requirement: iOS 8 / Android 5.0

The Nature Cat app is designed to get kids thinking about the outdoors every single day. Each day the app offers a new set of adventure prompts from finding wildflowers to splashing in puddles. Weather needn't be a barrier to the fun as you can filter by rain, snow or sun.

Kids' will enjoy a sense of progress and completion as the journal feature keeps track of their progress.

The app is designed for kids up to 8 years old. Work alongside the little ones to build a shared love of the outdoors. Help them find out that even on a rainy February day, outdoors is where the fun is.

~Nature Cat Great Outdoors app

Geocaching® app (free initially)

Minimum requirement: iOS 10 / Android 4.4

This is one for all the family. Geocaching is an increasingly popular way to explore the outdoors, using GPS devices to locate hidden boxes (or 'caches). There are thousand upon thousands hidden across the UK alone, just waiting to be found by intrepid explorers.

The Geocaching app is the perfect introduction. Use it to ease your way into the sport by giving you all the functionality you need right on your phone, without the need to buy a dedicated GPS device. It connects with the official geocaching database to help you find hidden treasure both near and far. An onboard map gives you the location, with adjustable navigation settings to find caches in your local area.

You can use the app to communicate with other geocachers, so bear this in mind when the kids are using the app. But used for a fun family bonding experience, geocaching is hard to beat.

The core features will be enough to get you started. But if you find that your family gets the treasure hunting bug, you can upgrade to paid versions for loads more features.


PlantSnap (£3.99)

Minimum requirement: iOS 10 / Android 5.0

Bring out the budding horticulturist in the family with PlantSnap. Take a picture of a plant or flower using and the app will immediately identify the plant their huge database and tell you all about it. The database already contains information on over half a million plants, and the list is growing.

You can use PlantSnap anywhere in the world, making it a fantastic way to learn about both exotic flora and the weeds at the bottom of the garden. A local map feature tells you what plants are nearby, so you can create a flowery treasure hunt to liven up a boring half-term day.

~Kid using Plantsnap app


Zombies Run (free)

Minimum requirement: iOS 11 / Android 5.0

Turn a family run into a race for survival with Zombies Run! This story-based running app keeps you on your toes as you take part in an audio adventure where speed counts. Whilst you run the app will put you at the centre of an unfolding action drama in which you are the star – running from outpost to outpost in a post-apocalyptic world where the dead don’t just walk, they RUN ….. and they are right behind you!!

Zombies Run! mission screen

Zombies Run! app

Obviously this is a horror-themed story, so we'd advise against playing it with young children. It's age-rated as 12+ but If you have doubts then maybe listen to a few episodes to get a better sense of the content. If you're happy to proceed then simply gather as a group, plug in your earphones and synchronise your start button.

The only other things you need are your running shoes and a LOT of courage!


SkyView® (£1.99)

Minimum requirement: iOS 10 / Android 5.0

Point your phone at the sky and visit the stars. The SkyView® app makes astronomers of us all, using beautiful augmented-reality graphics to map constellations, planets and other celestial objects, including the satellites and the International Space Station.

~Skyview app

Work together as a family to find all 88 constellations, or find every planet in our solar system (you can argue about Pluto – for me it'll always be a planet) and even jump around in time to see how the stars look in the distant past and far-flung future.

There is no better way to end a day in the outdoors than lying on your back next to the campfire, staring up at the stars. With SkyView® it's even more fun.

~Stargazing on Valentine's Day

So don't be a grouch this half-term. Rather than shouting at the kids to "get off their phone" – download one of these apps and turn the great outdoors into a game you can play together.

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Neil used to be a bookworm, an "indoor" type if ever there was one. After finishing a PhD he writes short stories about spooky places and odd people. Living in Switzerland, the Canadian Rockies and the north east region of the USA convinced him that there was something to be said for this whole outdoor thing. Now he runs everywhere he can, competing in races most weekends and endlessly planning the next great adventure to some far flung part of the world. Recent trips include Costa Rica, where he tried and failed to surf; Vietnam, where he almost got stuck in an underground tunnel; and back to Canada, where he came face-to-face with a bear. Watch this space for further updates on Neil's global bumblings and the occasional athletic success.

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