Are you always trying to get your kids to put down their gadgets and go outside to play?  What if you were able to combine the two by using their gadgets to get them out the door and experiencing nature like never before?  

In an earlier post, I shared tips for helping to get kids (and their gadgets) outdoors.  And now that you've got them out there, I've got more tips on fun apps and ideas - courtesy of Christina Fecio, director of education and training for Doodle Bugs! Children’s Centers - to help your kids use their gadgets while they are outside so that they can play and learn in a whole new way.  

Here are Fecio's tips for tips on combining technology and fresh air:

Go on a scavenger hunt. In the “notes” section of any device, create a list of items (stick, stone, leaves, flowers) that children will find outdoors. Kids can use the camera function to take a photo of each item found.

  • Preschoolers: Keep it simple with the number of items.
  • Early elementary: Make the list a bit longer and add in a few “tricky” items, such as an “object that looks like a letter in your name.”
  • Middle schoolers: Consider widening the search area to a neighbor’s yard or park, or allowing them to create a list of their own for a sibling/friend.
Explore nature.
  • During the day: At your local park or nature preserve, look for animal tracks and use the” iTrack Wildlife” app to identify them. The Lite version is free and allows you to identify up to 5 species.
  • At night: Use “The Night Sky” app ($0.99) to identify planets and constellations. Both apps are fairly intuitive so even young children will be successful with adult support. 
Get fit.
  • Fitness fun: Challenge children with the “workout of the day’”– a list of outdoor activities can range from “6 times down the slide, 3 tries at hula hooping, and one game of hopscotch” for younger kids and get more elaborate for older children (shooting hoops, rollerblading backwards, or practicing new yoga poses). Children have to use the camera or video option to record evidence that the challenge is complete. 
  • Family fitness challenge: Make fitness a family affair! Based on your child’s interests and abilities, consider using Pedometer, Couch to 5K, or RunKeeper to meet your activity goals. 
Get creative.
  • Bring your tablet to the park, the waterfront, or just the backyard and use an app like "Doodle Bugs" to challenge kids to paint what they see (or whatever inspires them).
  • Challenge older kids with an art contest. One person or team “paints” 3-5 images of things they see and the other team has to find (and take photos) of those actual objects. Repeat and the team with the most correct photos in the shortest time wins.
  • Have children use sidewalk chalk to create large, life-size scenery, then lay down on the ground to insert themselves into the scene.
  • Children can make comics by taking photos of your neighborhood or an excursion, then use those images to make comics using “Strip Design” or another kid-friendly app.
How to use your kids' gadgets to get them playing outdoors
Kids glued to their iPods? Here's how to use their love of technology to enjoy the great outdoors.