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The Best Apps for Kids who Love Animal Facts
I want my kids to have screen time that is ideally connected to increasing their creativity. As a wildlife conservationist, I would also love it if they learned something about wildlife.
I want apps with the following qualities:
- Appealing to my kids – They want to interact with it.
- Appropriate reading – The reading level works for a six-year-old and a nine-year-old.
- Good wildlife content – After they play, they have new information about wildlife.
- Inspirational – After they play, this app comes up in conversation. They build on the concepts they learned either in their art or creative play.
We tested apps on an iPad2.
Meet Nora and Russell
Their profiles might help you know which games would appeal to your kids.
Nora is nine. Nora enjoys playing outside. She knows every inch of the stream behind our house. She wants to be a marine biologist when she grows up. She has phone calls with her cousin where they exchange interesting fish facts. In Ranger Rick and Ranger Rick Jr. magazines, she wants to read the animal articles and jokes. Nora prefers apps where she learns about animals and creates a world for them to live in.
Russell is six. He does not go outside to play on his own steam, although once he is outside, he loves to climb trees and act out dramas with his sister and friends. In Ranger Rick and Ranger Rick Jr. magazines, he goes for the games and jokes. Russell prefers apps that test his skill with the device, such as how fast can he move through a virtual world. He is a good reader for his age, but would rather explore a game through trial and error than by reading. He likes learning the rules and explaining them in detail to the rest of the family.
Even though they have different interests, they often like to look at apps together. So the best apps make sense to both their learning styles and reading levels.
Our Favorite Kid-Friendly Nature and Wildlife Apps
I searched for “best kids nature apps” and most apps I found did not teach about wildlife or nature. Most had a cute animal as the main character teaching how to read, do math or make art. While those are great goals, I was looking specifically for apps that increased my kids’ knowledge of wildlife and nature.
These apps reward you for learning facts about animals or nature. They usually require the ability to read.
These apps are listed in alphabetical order.
Click the Birdie – This is a National Wildlife Federation app where you take photos of birds in various habitats to fill out your scrapbook. I don’t feel I can rate this app because it was made by my family! I say my family because my husband coded the app, and kids tested it every step of the way. Of course we love this app, but check it out for yourself! The little girl in the Southwest habitat is named Nora in honor of our Nora. This app costs $0.99.
Creatures of Light: Nature’s Bioluminescence – I thought my fish-loving daughter might enjoy this app, even though it is not particularly designed for children. It is about a exhibition that was at the American Museum of Natural History. My guess was correct. The subject matter caught her attention, and while slideshows or video of typical animals would not interest her, we are talking about species that glow in the dark! She also liked the video about how they made the models for the museum exhibit. This app is free.
Meet the Insects: Forest Edition – Did I mention how much my daughter loves bugs? This app looks quite formal and a bit like a text book, but I have a daughter whose favorite books are field guides, so she loved it. We joked that most of the videos show males fighting over females because hey, what else could you videotape about an insect’s life and keep audiences interested? We loved the style which is a mix of cartoon and realistic art. Nora commented more than once, “These are really nice pictures.” She made the insect videos more exciting by adding her own dialogue. Russell was not interested in this one. This app cost $3.99.
Nature Tap – You are shown four species. Then you hear a bird call and you guess which bird is making the sound. With the insect module, you are shown the name of an insect, and you have to guess which insect matches the name. My daughter loved this app and wanted me to buy a lot more modules. The bird module is free and the insect module is free if you register. Other modules cost $1.99 or $2.99 each.
Ranger Rick’s Appventures – What I find with most kid-oriented apps is that they contain one game or one concept, and so the kids “get it” quickly. What’s different about Appventures (and Tree House, below) is that they are multi-layered apps. It takes time to find all the parts. So the first time they each visited these apps, they looked around quickly, played one game and left. But what I found was each time they opened this app, they discovered a new thing. My son’s favorite parts were the puzzle utility, where you can put together simple or complex puzzles made from animal photos. He also liked the game which was like Photo Safari where you look through a habitat for animals and take photos of them. You hold your iPad with two hands and tilt it to see all sorts of nooks and crannies in the lion’s habitat. I won’t spill the beans, but make sure you look up in the sky when playing this game. Nora’s experience was different because really this app is designed for children younger than her. But what I found was that she enjoyed this app when playing with her brother. She would make him laugh by acting out dramas on the Sticker page or adding color commentary to the music area (where the keyboard keys sound like a lion, elephant or baboon.) This app brought my kids together. This app costs $4.99. This app is made by National Wildlife Federation.
Ranger Rick’s Treehouse – Nora liked the dolphin book where she could learn facts and get more wildlife jokes. She also liked the outdoor time journal in the backyard area, recording all her outdoor time with the goal of earning a badge. She liked that at the end of the leopard game, the leopard finds its kitten. My son liked the dolphin flip game, especially when it got up to the two and three dolphins at one time. For some reason, my son found the video of the “dancing wallabies” to be completely hilarious and proceeded to watch it about twenty times. There is a free version of the app as an intro. Then this app costs $4.99 for one issue or $19.99 for an annual subscription that sends new content quarterly.
Survival – There are a lot of apps called Survival, so when you are searching, look for the one with the icon of the orange frog. You answer quiz questions about animals in rapid succession. The longer you “survive,” i.e. answer correctly, the more photos of an endangered species you get to see at the end. It takes practice because the method of answering the questions changes from one question to the next. At first, it was too difficult for my son, but he liked the bright colors and competing against his dad to survive longer. My daughter struggled with the “pinch” feature which is one way of answering questions, but figured it out. You really learn a lot about wildlife facts with this app, and you learn to answer fast! This app is free.
Tick Bait’s Universe – I would not have guessed that my kids would enjoy this app because it seems like too simple of a concept. However, it was recommended by Warren Buckleitner who reviews children’s apps, so I downloaded the free version. The app starts with a dog named “Tick Bait” and you can zoom in on his skin or out to outerspace. In the free version, you get to zoom about 13 levels, and with the paid version, you get more levels. The graphics are all hand drawn, not photographs. My kids got really excited about this app, even though it required lots of reading. This app is free and the paid version costs $4.99.
Weird But True – Not all the facts in this app are about wildlife or nature, but many are. You are shown one interesting fact after another, and you rate how weird you find the fact. One bummer about this app is that every time you start it, it shows you the same facts. It is free and made by National Geographic.
Which Wildlife and Nature Apps Does Your Family Enjoy?
We’d love to hear about your experiences with these apps or others. Of course nothing connects children with nature and wildlife more than time outside, so be sure to balance your screen time and green time today.
Update on March 7:
Check out our next app review blog – Apps where you get to pretend to be animals or naturalists – LIVE like wildlife in these apps!