Get kids physically active with apps part 1

How to use apps to get kids physically active part 1

The benefits attributed to physical exercise are numerous and proven. It reduces the risks of illness, extends our health span, and protects our mental health. Appropriate physical exercise is vital for kids as childhood habits and health patterns will impact their lives.

Sadly, many things we enjoy in the modern age encourage us and our kids to stay indoors, sitting with a screen. The comfort and ease of staying at home and the magnetic pull of computer games and media make going outside seem like an effort.

You could order your kids to join you for a walk, but what if you could take what they enjoy and adapt it to make going out something they want to do?

Gamification is a technique used by educational apps to motivate and engage kids. It is not the same as gameplay and often does not feature any. Instead, it uses things that games typically employ to reward players, such as badges, challenges, and league tables.

We can employ the same techniques to hook into kids' interests and get them active. We will use two types of apps to describe one way to do this.


The following guide is from the point of view of a parent. You might want a family activity on the weekend or be a homeschooling parent looking to enliven science learning for your kids.

School teachers can also adapt many ideas here for student nature walks.


Using apps to get kids to join you on a healthy walk.

Kids love technology

Rather than battle to get them to leave their screens behind, use them to give the walk a tangible purpose.

There is something about building a collection that motivates all of us. Whether that is collecting baseball cards, every Pokémon, or every book by an author. Identifier apps are a great way to link going for a walk with this collecting instinct.

We have lists of the best apps for:

Bird Identification Apps

Rock Identification Apps

Plant/Tree Identification

And more. 

They all work in a very similar way. Take a photograph and let the app's artificial intelligence match it to a name and other details. They take the hard work out of naming their subjects.

Suddenly, a wood is not just a bunch of trees but a mix of species to name and distinguish. Rocks are not just stones underfoot but minerals that display the process of their formation within their characteristics.

With one of these apps, you can turn any walk into a science project where kids identify and log every item of interest.

Your app or an online search should provide you with a list of all the examples you might find in your local area, and the challenge becomes finding them and confirming their identity using the app. Learning about the most likely locations or giveaway features becomes part of the challenge of collecting them all.

Kids respond to seeing progress

Finding is only one part of the collector's instinct; building a visual record is the other.

Capture a record of what kids find using their device's camera. Depending on their camera app's permissions, these photos will include the date and location information. They can also use their device's audio recording functions to keep any extra notes they want to take.

Kids enjoy being creative

Many notebook apps have a free version. These often have the functionality kids need to make a digital scrapbook and the trees, plants, insects or whatever of their area.

Dragging in photos, writing the names and locations of the items and embellishing them with diagrams and other notes can result in a detailed and attractive scrapbook, which reflects a huge amount of gained knowledge.

Completing this notebook becomes a fun activity for when the walk is over and identifies the gaps in the collection to motivate the next.

What will kids have gained from this?

Health. The most immediate impact is the health benefits of all physical exercise. Research has also shown that contact with the natural world benefits everyone's mental well-being.

Learning. Kids will have practical experience in carrying out science fieldwork. They'll have learned the names and characteristics of their subjects and how to research them to make finding them more likely.

Record Keeping. Kids won't want to write detailed notes while out walking, so they'll soon learn how to make short but decipherable notes or recordings to access later.

Presentation. Kids will think about how to present their records in a way that makes the most sense. This will include laying it out on each notebook page and categorising which items go together. Should they link them by the day they find them, by type, season or something else.

Whether you choose Plant/Tree/flowers, birds, or rocks, get the whole family more active by finding and learning about them.

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