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Games and apps that will encourage your kids to get off the couch and venture outside for outdoor adventures.
School holidays are finally here! While your children may be rejoicing, you might be viewing the upcoming few weeks with a mild (or not-so-mild) sense of dread. How on Earth are you going to keep them happy and busy for so long, without letting them watch cartoon marathons on TV or spend full days on social media?
To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of the most innovative educational apps and toys that encourage outdoor play for kids of all ages. Use them, and your little ones will be getting exercise and fresh air, so they’ll eat and sleep better, and they’ll also be learning new skills and gaining some interesting knowledge while they play.
For travelling (or homebound) treasure hunters
Going abroad this holiday? Lucky you! And lucky kids, because in destinations across the UK and Europe, they can go on treasure hunts using the GPS-based Huntzz app. At attractions including the British Museum, Salisbury Cathedral, the Eiffel Tower and the Athens National Garden, kids can join in a public treasure hunt through the app. It’s fairly customisable, so kids choose between cryptic and simple clues, and can ask for a hint at any time. Along the hunt, they are assisted by the Guild of Adventurers and get the chance to become the Grand Master Treasure Hunter.
Staying home? Kids can use the Huntzz app right in SA, too, because of the cool ‘create your own hunt’ feature. This part of the app works anywhere in the world. Kids follow the guidelines to create their hunt (such as, each hunt must have 10, 15 or 20 clues) and then they can share it with anyone on an Apple or Android device. And that’s when the fun really starts – when they and their friends go on the actual hunt together.
Age: For kids who can read, age 8+
For kids keen to enter a new era of mobile gaming
Using Geospatial Augmented Reality (Geo AR) technology, the game Sharks in the Park uses GPS coordinates to determine the location of a player and then creates an Augmented World around them. This means that when your kids play the game, they interact with life-sized 3D content that looks as if it’s been placed in their physical environment. They move within a new, magical world, interacting with the 3D graphics as they move through their real environment.
Sound too high-tech? All your kids need is a smartphone or tablet. Using the live camera feed, kids hold the screen up to their environment and will see the 3D graphics displayed on the screen in front of them, overlaid on the live video feed of the environment. Sharks in the Park must be played in a large, flat outdoor area with a clear view of the sky – a sports field or a large park.
In Sharks in the Park, kids adventure through an underwater world, attracting schools of fish. The faster they walk or run in real life, the faster they move in the game. The aim is simple – avoid the sharks. Kids get plenty of walking and running in without even noticing.
Sharks in the Park also comes with bonus game Dino Land, based on the same principle.
Age: Kids who are steady on their feet, age 5+
For aspiring astronomers
Want to teach your kids about the universe we live in?
For Apple devices
With the GPS-based Star Walk app, you’ll want to get your whole family outdoors under the night sky for an evening stroll to learn more about the stars. The app will tell you which stars and planets are visible at any given time. You can tap on anything you see in the night sky and get a full report on it. Zoom in and out, and ask the app to show you everything up above that’s not visible to the naked eye. This is a beautiful app and you’ll love learning along with your kids (who will also get a thrill out of being allowed outside after bedtime).
Download Star Walk for iOS.
For Android devices
The Star Chart app for Android works very similarly to Star Walk for Apple, offering a magical stargazing experience. Find out more about the celestial bodies in the night sky by pointing your phone and watching the app calibrate.
Download Star Chart for Android.
For nature lovers
Got an amateur scientist on your hands? They’ll love these apps that help them identify and catalogue the flora and fauna in their garden, at the park, and on a hike.
The Meet the Insects: Village Edition app brings the creepy crawlies that live in urban areas to life. The Observation Journal feature will get kids outside and get them hunting for bugs to catalogue. They take photos of the insects, record the location they found them and make other notes, such as the time of day and weather conditions when they spotted them. The app won Gold in the Parents’ Choice Awards for 2013.
Download Meet the Insects: Village Edition for iOS. (Not yet available on Android)
Age: For kids who can read and write – around 9+
Another cool nature app that gets kids outside is Leafsnap, a plant-identification app that’s only available for Apple devices. It uses visual recognition software to identify tree species from photographs.
Download Leafsnap for IOS. (Not yet available on Android)
Age: Older kids, from around 10+
For teenagers who need motivation to exercise
Zombies, Run! is an apocalyptic fantasy game that encourages teens (and adults) to run faster and further. ‘Run in the real world … Become a hero in another’ is the tagline, and over 1 million people play it, making it the biggest smartphone fitness game ever. You’re one of the last surviving humans after a zombie apocalypse, and you’re running to one of humanity’s last outposts to help them defend their camp against the zombies. As you run, you collect supplies to help you and your fellow humans. It can be played by walking, jogging or running – so even if you just want to get your 16-year-old to take the dog for a walk, this app might help as a bit of a nudge. She’ll need earphones and her phone, and that’s it.
Note that because of the violent content, we recommend this app strictly for older teenagers only.
Note that while these apps may be free to download, the data to do so is not. You can buy data bundles on Vodacom Online by logging into MyVodacom »