Hear us out. While we can agree that getting outside is one of those magical (and often elusive) ways to break free from our bad screen habits, there are also some really cool opportunities to lean into tech as a way to enhance your outdoor experiences and maybe even get more of them! If you have a kid or even a teen! at home who's having a hard time peeling away from the screen to get outside, try some of the tech options below to hopefully work some magic in getting them their daily dose of green.
*a bee on a flower in Carolyn's Garden at LeBauer Park
3 Ways to Embrace Tech Outdoors:
1) Outdoorsy Apps
There are some really awesome apps out there to expand your family's explorations of the great outdoors! These all come with the added benefit of hands-on, in-the-moment experiential learning in nature. Here's a list of some of our favorite FREE apps to bring outside:
iNaturalist connects you with a community of over 400,000 scientists and naturalists to help you learn more about your environment! Identify plants and animals by uploading a photo into the app, record your observations, and contribute to research quality data of your local environment for scientists working to better understand and protect nature.
Night Sky (Apple only) brings a personal planetarium right to your fingertips! Quickly identify stars, planets, constellations and satellites above by simply holding your iPhone, iPad or Apple Watch up to the Night Sky. This is all done magically. Whether you’re looking for a constellation or the International Space Station, this app can direct you to it, and then allow you to explore the object in AR!
Plant Snap is the most popular plant identification app out there! Snap a photo and let the app tell you all about what you're looking at. The app identifies 90% of all known plants and trees, and features a catalog of over 600,000 species in a searchable database.
Merlin Bird ID is great for the budding birders in your family! This app gives multiple options for identification, whether you were able to snap a photo of the bird or not. It also features a catalog of 6,000+ birds from around the globe with professional photos, sounds, ID text, and range maps.
2) Try a challenge to make it fun
Who doesn't love games? Technology offers some awesome ways to bring playful challenges to your next nature excursion:
Give Geocaching a try! Geocaching is like the world's largest treasure hunt. In Greensboro alone, there are 2,858+ geocaches stashed in locations around town. This is a great activity to get outside, to test those navigation skills, and to have fun while hunting down a mystery treasure trove. You can download an app and get started today!
Take hide and seek to the next level. ARrrrrgh is a classic hide and seek game that transforms players into modern day pirates! Paired with a parrot that assists players along their journey and a treasure map that leads them to glory. Players can use augmented reality to break open their backyard, neighborhood sidewalk, and more to hide treasure, then watch their pirate companions adventure to seek the gold that awaits - a super fun way to entertain the kids and keep you from having to crawl under a bush to do it!
Upgrade your scavenger hunts with GooseChase. This app is free for recreational use (there are also packages for businesses, conferences, educators, and more) and is the easiest way to organize and run a scavenger hunt. You can mix and match mission types using photos/videos, riddles, puzzles, and surveys, and GPS check-in. Scavenger hunts can be organized by teams or with individuals, offering some awesome options for you to try both with your own household or with friends you're unable to see right now.
3) Do what the kids are doing - a case for TikTok
There has never been a better time to connect with your teenager than right now, and jumping onboard the TikTok bandwagon might just be one way to both bond with the elder kids of your family and to get outside while doing it. If you've only seen the bathroom mirror videos and makeup challenges, your idea of how this app can get you and your kids outdoors might be biased. Teen culture offers a fascinating world of creative opportunity, and if we can get passed thinking of it as frivolous and one-dimensional, we stand to form deeper bonds by meeting our kids on their own terms.
So, how can you use it to get outside? There's one trend on TikTok that you may or may not
have heard of yet: cottagecore. At its root, this trend is about a return to the pastoral, celebrating the beauty of nature and all things cozy. You and your kids can make an aesthetic video of your nature excursions (heck, even just of your backyard) set to music and just like that, you're a cottagecore influencer. In this time of heightened anxiety, the cottagecore trend might just help your teen wind down by appreciating nature and getting creative in the process. Filming in nature allows us to see the world differently, slowing down to observe the wind in the trees, the beauty of our local landscape, and the bee on a flower. You can also dash in a dose of playfulness, too:
And if your family is more of a dance challenge kind of group, you can take those outside, too! Here's a list of some the best (from easy to challenging) for families to try together. And, here's a little info on how best to learn a TikTok dance:
Some TikTok dances have online tutorials, or you can simply find the dance you want to learn and watch the video over and over again until you have it down. But the best way to learn a more complicated dance is by "practicing" it first as a "Duet" in TikTok. Follow these steps:
When you are on dance video that you wish to learn, tap the arrow icon as if you were going to share it.
Slow the video down and practice alongside the original video.
Don't share these outtakes! Delete all that nonsense.
Once you have mastered the dance, go create your Tiktok using the "Sound" for that dance.
Happy dancing! Happy outside time!