01/15/2015 04:46 pm ET Updated Mar 16, 2015

The Best Outdoor Apps for Kids

I'm pleased that this piece which I published last month has sparked considerable conversation about the potential for smartphones to encourage outdoor play. Many people have since asked what specific apps I have in mind. Here's a list of my favorites (most are available free to download):

  1. Geocaching - is a high tech scavenger hunt, using your phone's GPS to find over 2.5 million hidden spots around the globe.
  2. BirdsEye - allows you to create your "Life List" of birds, and then will notify you of common "nearby birds" which you haven't seen yet.
  3. iNaturalist - lets you log your wildlife sightings with photos and notes. It automatically fills in your location and date, as you record observations. Volunteers in the iNaturalist community also help you identify species that you don't recognize.
  4. MapMyHike - uses your phone's GPS to track and log your hikes. It allows you to view elevation info and create an online journal of your past hikes. A live tracking feature lets you see where your hiking companions are on a map.
  5. Leaf Snap - is an interactive field guide that identifies plants by applying facial recognition technology to photos of plants you take with the camera on your smartphone.
  6. Bird Snap - is a similar interactive field guide that uses facial recognition technology to identify your photos of birds. You can also reference an image library and playback recordings of the 500 most common North American bird songs.
  7. Planets - provides a 3D guide of the solar system, allowing budding astronomers to identify planets and constellations.
  8. Project Noah - allows you to share your photos of plants and animals within a larger community. You can join "missions" such as National Geographic's Great Nature Project, whose goal is to compile the world's largest collection of nature photos.

The next time you and your child are playing on a smartphone or tablet, consider using one of these apps to drive the fun outside. Do you have a favorite kid-friendly nature app that deserves a mention? Please feel free to share it in the comments section below.