13 Ways Technology Can Get Your Kids Outside

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Young boys geocaching
Photo credit: Highwaystarz-Photography/istockphoto

OUTDOOR PLAY 2.0

The abundance of technology available to kids these days — iPhones, iPads, gaming apps, and even televisions — can often be daunting for parents, particularly when it comes to encouraging children to spend time outdoors enjoying nature and engaging in physical activity. Distracting kids from their screens is no easy task. But perhaps some of that dreaded technology can actually be useful in this effort. Consider Pokemon Go, for instance, an augmented-reality game that requires getting outside, exploring real locations while hunting for Pokemon creatures. The wildly popular game is just one example of how technology can actually (shocking as this may sound) help get your child immersed in the great outdoors.
Kurio Watch
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KURIO WATCH 2.0

A smartwatch built for kids, the Kurio Watch 2.0 includes motion-sensitive games, such as Sport Challenge, to keep the wearer moving. Similar to Simon Says, the game challenges the wearer to copy various movements, from running to jumping and crouching. The watch also includes an activity tracker and a front-facing camera that's perfect for selfies and recording videos while kids are out and about exploring the world.
Sky Guide app
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SKY GUIDE MOBILE APP

No need to wait for nightfall to go outside and do some star gazing with the Sky Guide app. Similar to Pokemon Go, kids can download Sky Guide on their mobile devices and use it to find heavenly objects, as long as the device is pointed up at the sky. "It takes the guesswork out of identifying constellations and other celestial objects in the sky," says Morgan Young, author of the tween novel "Lana & The Water Carrier," about a girl and her magic telescope. "And kids don't have to wait for nightfall or a clear sky because Sky Guide works any time of day or night."
Girl taking a closeup photo of a flower
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PLANTSNAP

For aspiring botanists and young, curious minds everywhere, Plantsnap is an app that encourages going on nature walks and identifying everything from plants and flowers to trees, cacti, and mushrooms. Just take a picture of the plant and the app tells you what it is. It recognizes about 90 percent of all known species of plants and trees.
Kids playing on a playground
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BIBA GAMES

Biba is among a handful of companies focused on the "smart playground movement," an effort to get kids outside with digital games designed specifically for playgrounds. "Today's children are less physically active and spend less time outdoors due to the rise in screen time. Biba's mission is to address this issue by reorienting kids' screen fixation through its suite of augmented-reality-enhanced mobile games to get them engaged in healthy, outdoor play," says Matt Toner, Biba CEO. Biba makes a variety of intriguing apps designed to inspire outdoor activity such as Biba Collectobots, which tasks children with gathering imaginary Biblets scattered around playgrounds. The Biblets come to life when collected on a parent's mobile device. Biba Zombot Tag is yet another fun option.
Clandestine Anomaly app game
Photo credit: Clandestine: Anomaly/facebook.com

CLANDESTINE ANOMALY

A state-of-the-art, location-based, augmented-reality game, Clandestine Anomaly comes highly recommended by Samuel Taylor, owner of Games Finder, a video games recommendation website that has reviewed dozens of games designed to encourage kids to get outside. Clandestine Anomaly places the user and their city at the center of an epic struggle for Earth. "It offers impressive augmented reality with a tower defense strategy game behind it that encourages kids to run around outside and actively engage their brain," says Taylor. The game costs $4.
Temple Treasure Hunt app game
Photo credit: Courtesy of play.google.com

TEMPLE TREASURE HUNT

Temple Treasure Hunt is yet another game highly recommended by Taylor of Games Finder. A geolocation game designed for Android devices, Temple Treasure Hunt is based on an interactive map that requires users to follow clues to find treasure. The innovative and creative game utilizes cutting-edge augmented reality and location-based tracking technologies. It can be played alone by auto creating treasure trails or in a group, by sharing trails with friends.

Spectrek Light app
Photo credit: Courtesy of play.google.com

SPECTREK LIGHT

Another augmented-reality game for Android users, SpecTrek Light is focused on ghost hunting. Players walk (or run) around using GPS and a phone's camera to find and catch virtual ghosts. The game starts out as merely a simple navigation exercise, but as it progresses, becomes genuine fitness.
Young girl taking photos of wildflowers with her phone
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PLUM'S PHOTO HUNT

An award-winning app sponsored by PBS, Plum's Photo Hunt is aimed at children ages 6 to 8. Part of the Plum Landing suite of environmental science media designed to get kids excited about exploring the wonders of the planet, Plum's Photo Hunt involves an alien from the Planet Blorb who sends kids on missions outdoors to photograph awesome things they find in nature. App producers worked closely with teachers and advisers to develop its features.
Young boy playing with his drone
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DRONES

The emergence of drones has been a boon when it comes to getting kids outside, says David Olson of PCNation. There is a wide variety of drones on the market in a broad range of prices, too, making this an option for nearly any budget. For instance, the Odyssey Pocket Drone is about $34 and is easy for beginners to fly. A slightly pricier option, the WowWee Lumi Gaming Drone ($76), connects to smart devices to offer app-based game play.
Young boy fixing his remote-controlled vehicle
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REMOTE-CONTROLLED VEHICLES

Remote-controlled vehicles are another technology that's been successful in getting kids outdoors, Olson says. Some of the options include the Hot Wheels Ballistik Racer Vehicle ($104), which has off-road capabilities and offers all-terrain performance, as well as the Odyssey Toys Turbo Runner ($26), which climbs walls, ceilings and more.

Mother and daughter looking at phone and hiking in the forest
Photo credit: Kerkez/istockphoto

WILDTIME APP

From "smell collecting" to "bee stalking" the WildTime app is designed to provide fun, time-based activity suggestions for parents and their kids outdoors. The app offers activities for those with 10 minutes, 20 minutes, 30 minutes, and even one and two hours. It gets rave reviews from parents in search of useful, simple ways to get their kids outside.
Young boys geocaching
Photo credit: Highwaystarz-Photography/istockphoto

GEOCACHING

Another form of treasure hunting, geocaching involves the search for millions of containers hidden in nearly every country on Earth. The free Geocaching app from Groundspeak is a great entry into this world of finding hidden objects. The app walks users through the geocaching adventures with tips and hints and also allows for messaging other players for tips.
Kids playing Roxs interactive game
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ROXS

Think: Super Mario Brothers for your backyard. ROXs is interactive game system created to engage kids in physical activity with the help of touch and motion sensors, wireless communication, speakers, multi-color LED lights, sounds, and more. The game is based on simple run and jump concepts very much like those found in actual video games. The game, which costs about $100, is aimed at children 5 and older.

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