Smart Living | Digital Parenting

Digital Parenting | 09 Feb 2024

February fun guide: enjoy half-term with nature apps for kids

The winter February school holidays can be full of adventure and wonder, even if you're on a budget, with our guide for inspiration.

The February half term. Everyone’s hard up. Odds are, someone will have a nasty cold and the buzz from the Christmas holidays will have well and truly worn off. If you’re a working parent without a secret ski-holiday fund, or the mega-bucks required for emergency flights to the Maldives, then don’t panic. There is plenty of free fun to be had right here in the UK. And if the kids need a little incentive to see the sunny side of a staycation, there’s an app for that…

Take a hike

In 2021, a Cambridge University study found that time in nature reduced incidences of ‘acting out’ for kids aged between three and seven. “We know that access to and engagement with nature is associated with wide-ranging benefits in children and adults, including lowering levels of anxiety and depression, and reducing stress,” according to lead researcher Samantha Friedman.

This doesn’t necessarily mean an eight hour scramble across fells and up munros. “It doesn’t have to be camping in the woods and foraging for food – it really can be as simple as going for a walk near your house or sitting outside for 10 minutes a day,” says Friedman. So pull on your wellies and head outside, even if your local environment is more high street than highlands. Challenge your kids to keep a tally of the bugs they spot on a stomp round the block.

An app for that…. Seek by iNaturalist allows children to take snaps of the plants and animals they find. Image recognition tech then identifies their finds, and they can earn badges by seeking out different species. The developers of this free app state that it does not collect or share any personal data.

Stretch your legs with these walking and hiking apps

Whether you’re a keen hiker or just want new ideas for leisurely strolls, why not limber up with these useful and inspirational apps?

Go down to the woods today

Around 13% (or approx. 31-32,000 sq km) of the UK is covered in woodland. So, wherever you find yourself, you are never too far from the trees.

An app for that… the name of this app from the Woodland Trust – British Tree Identification – is less than inspiring, but kids can use it to play tree detective. The app can find out exactly what sort of tree they are looking at, climbing on, or building a den around from its bark, twigs, leaves, flowers and fruits. It’s free to download and use.

What a (mud)lark

Make like a Victorian and head down to your local riverbank at low tide to root through the mud. All sorts of treasures lurk within it – from old coins and pottery to pirate treasure (if you’re lucky). There are safety considerations, of course. You must check the tide times extremely carefully, make sure no permission is required, and protect your fingers and feet from any potentially sharp finds. But mudlarking can be a magical way to while away an afternoon, and it is making a comeback.

An app for that… Gain inspiration from mudlarking videos on TikTok.

Stop to stargaze

There are approximately 200 billion trillion stars in the universe. Granted, only about 2,600 – 4,500 of them are visible in a single hemisphere on any given night (assuming the viewing conditions are right). Even so, that should be enough to keep the kids entertained for a few minutes. Just wait for darkness to fall (which isn’t too late in February, with sunset at around five-ish), spread a blanket in the garden or on the balcony, bundle up and lie on your backs. Add hot chocolate to earn serious parenting points.

An app for that… Vito Star Walk 2 is an interactive guide to the night sky and all its stars, satellites, constellations and alien species (okay, not the last one). You can also use its AR mode to overlay information about visible celestial bodies over your device’s view of the night sky, so that identification is easier.

How to take stunning photos of the stars using just a phone

Astrophotography isn’t just for photography experts with expensive cameras anymore – all you need is a recent Google Pixel smartphone, such as the Pixel 7 Pro, some preparation, and this guide.

Give the garden a go

Finnish study suggests that playing in grass and the undergrowth significantly boosts toddlers’ immune systems. So even if the garden is still looking a little gloomy, and nothing’s yet growing, it may be time to open the back doors again, and usher the kids outside for a bit. Especially if everyone is feeling a little snotty and under the weather.

An app for that… the RSPB has a ‘nature on your doorstep’ YouTube channel and a matching area of its website, both entirely devoted to activities that will help the birds and bees in your backyard.

Go go geocaching

If the smol people in your life insist that they are boooooooored, then perhaps it’s time they join the world’s largest treasure hunt! There are currently three million ‘caches’ hidden across the planet, in real locations, just waiting to be found. A cache is, typically, a waterproof container housing a logbook and pen. It will have been hidden in a beautiful or interesting spot by a player who then logs its coordinates, so that other players can hunt it down. It’s totally free to join in. All you need is a GPS device or smartphone, and a sense of adventure. Once you track down the cache you’re hunting, sign and date the logbook to record your success, and leave it for the next player to uncover.

An app for that…. Download the free Geocaching app, create an account, look for geocaches near you, then navigate to its location. When you strike gold, log your find on the app.

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