Apps to get your kids outside this long weekend

Yes, it’s true; the days of family getaways – free of electronic distractions – are long gone. But don't worry; there's an app for that!.
Yes, it’s true; the days of family getaways – free of electronic distractions – are long gone. But don't worry; there's an app for that!. Hilary Brodey/Photodisc

TORONTO – Another Canadian long weekend is upon us and as families pack up their cars and hit the road to the cottage or campground, some parents are undoubtedly struggling with separating their children from their devices.

The days of family getaways – free of electronic distractions – are long gone.

But, if you are having trouble prying your kids away from their devices and enjoying the great Canadian outdoors, don’t worry – there’s an app for that.

So break out your smartphones, put on your best adventuring gear, and get the kids outside with some of these app suggestions.


Curious is an app that allows kids (and adults) to learn a variety of topics through interactive video tutorials.

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The app offers more than 15,000 lessons on a variety of topics, taught by more than 1,500 experts around the world. While Curious includes great lessons in technology – such as HTML, Python and Javascript lessons – it also features lessons on things that kids can take outside to experiment with, including crafts, sports and even photography.

Curious is available for iPhone and online.


Whether in the backyard, or at a provincial park, the Geocaching app turns the ground at your feet into a treasure hunt.

Using your smartphone’s location services GPS, the app allows you to enter your postal code (or the postal code of the nearest location to you) and start looking for a hidden “geocache.” Once found, take a picture and log that you’ve found the treasure to earn points.

Geocaching is a real-world treasure hunting game that has users navigate to various GPS coordinates to find “geocaches” – which can range from large plastic containers, to film canisters and even face rocks with secret hiding places.

Want to take it a step further?

Try laying out your own Geocaching treasure hunt for another user to test out. The hunts themselves are created by members of the Geocaching community, as well as other users.

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Geocaching is available for iPhone, Android and Windows Phone for $9.99.

Parks Canada Learn To Camp

What better way to get tech-loving kids excited about camping than an app that teaches you all the must-know basics about camping, such as building a campfire and making smores?

The Parks Canada official app gives users access to a wealth of information about camping essentials, including a camping checklist that parents can use to ensure they have everything they need for their trip.

But, for kids, the app has some fun features and interactive videos that give demonstrations on how to light a fire (so long as they are old enough and parents are present), setting up a tent and information about wildlife. The app also includes park information for all of the provincial and national parks in the country.

Even better – the app downloads all of its information the first time you use it, so it can still be accessed if there is no cell service on your campsite – just make sure you download the app at home first.

The Parks Canada Learn to Camp app is available for iPhone, Android and BlackBerry for free.

Seek ‘n’ Spell

Perfect for the kids who need to blow off a little steam, this treasure hunt-like game sends users on a race against the clock to collect virtual letters via your phone’s GPS.

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Similar to Geocaching, users are encouraged to find a large outdoor space and run around following the letters displayed on their phone – the more letters you collect, the more words you can spell and the more points you collect.

Because the app relies on a strong GPS signal, users will have to have a good 3G connection to play.

Seek ‘n’ Spell is available for iPhone and Android users for free.

Star Walk

Perfect for those heading north of the city where light pollution can interfere with beautiful night skies, Star Walk lets kids see the universe in a whole new light.

Using your iPhone’s camera, the app acts as an interactive astro-guide, following your movements to reveal what constellations and celestial bodies you are looking at. The app has a database of over 200,000 celestial bodies.

A cool feature even allows you to travel through time and take a look at the map of what the night sky looked like years into the past.

Star Walk is available for iPhone for $0.99.