Fun Apps for Outdoor Family Fun
It seems like summer is fading away already, with the kids having been out of school for weeks now. Swimming, biking and the beach have been done, and finding new ways to keep kids – and adults – outside and active can be a challenge. Don’t worry, technology to the rescue! There’s a ton of cool fun apps that can help get you and your kids motivated for outdoor fun, and enjoying the short summer in Maine.
You may have heard of Geocaching (www.geocaching.com) before, and I always thought it sounded like a fun way to spend a day. Geocaching is a popular activity where you try to locate hidden “caches” using a mobile app and GPS. It’s like treasure hunting, as finding the hidden cache can be tricky and they are geographically spread out – but you have a map showing the locations. The caches are hidden by people like you and me, and the location is shared by the geocaching service. The mobile app has a map displaying nearby caches. Selecting a cache will often give a cryptic description or clue, and let you start navigating to it. Directional indicators help keep you on track, with distance to the object also displayed. Once you find the cache, the container usually has a logbook you can sign letting others know who successfully found it. Some of the locations can be unique, such as underwater or hidden in plain sight. Even in Bath, Maine there are dozens of caches to find.
Fishing app “Fishidy” (www.fishidy.com) shows you nearby lakes, streams and ponds and provides helpful information on the best spots to fish. It’s made up of a social network of other fishing enthusiasts, which helps keep the information up to date. If you’re looking for a good spot, you can login to the app and see a map of the local area, along with public fishing spots. I found it useful to select from the list of nearby waterways, which displays information such as species of fish caught, recent activity, and a link to the location on the map. Once you zoom in, there’s detailed information such as depths, contours and access points. If you catch a fish, you can post a photo within the app to show off. Just don’t give away your secret fishing techniques!
If you find a cool spot near the river on Fishidy, Tides Near Me (www.tidesnear.me) is a free app for determining current and future tide information. It’s also useful if you have a boat, are heading to the beach or like to fish or swim in tidal waters. Using GPS to determine your current location, it then suggests nearby areas so you can get the most up to date and accurate tide values. You can also search for an area if you are traveling up or down the coast and want to know what to expect.
If you’re into astronomy, or just like gazing at the stars, Google Sky (www.google.com/sky/) can guide you. Much like Google Maps but designed for the night sky, you can view a map of the stars with details on planets and other celestial bodies. But for a real trip, Google Sky Map (available for Android and Apple) is an interesting companion app to try. Loading this on your phone or tablet brings up a map of the stars. By holding your device up in the direction you want to view, the planets and constellations are displayed on your screen, which makes picking them out from the night sky very simple. Move the device in different directions, and the map moves to show you an updated view. I know my kids loved this, and they didn’t even realize it’s educational – that’s a great way to learn!
Fun Apps for At Home and On the Road
Instructables (www.instructables.com) is a free website and app with cool do it yourself projects, many of which kids would enjoy. Users submit their own projects which are reviewed and then posted, so there is a never ending supply of cool ideas. Projects have a wide range of categories, from carpentry and crafts to cooking and technology. Submissions include instructions, materials lists, and pictures to help you along the way. I’ve found great ideas for simple storage projects that even I can do – and I am far from a carpenter. My kids enjoy picking out crafts to try, such as bleach patterned t-shirts and giant bubble sticks.
If you plan to travel this year, give Roadtrippers (https://roadtrippers.com) a shot. Roadtrippers is a travel planning app that also gives you some unique search features. Enter your starting point and your ending point, and tick the boxes to display an array of interesting things to do along the way. Options such as hotels, attractions, natural wonders, and my personal favorite “weird stuff” can be selected and displayed along your route. Clicking on the map pin displays information about the attraction, and you can add it to your itinerary. Once you have all your stops planned, your route is created with the most efficient way to go. Another great feature is the ability to share maps with friends, and give them the ability to edit the trip by adding additional stops.
Using technology to keep kids – and adults – entertained without being glued to the screen is possible. Fun apps that pair the real world with a side of technology can help get you excited about the great outdoors, spending time with family and generate ideas for having fun.