Apps and Active Play: technology in the playground

27 October 2016

 It isn’t big news to say that technology is becoming an integral part of our day to day lives. As screen time becomes more frequent there have been concerns about the affect this has on the health of children. Many health and play advocates have talked a lot about the extreme negative impacts of screen time and technology on children, but it is interesting to see how others have adopted a ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’ attitude and found ways to combine the two. 


We recently spotted this new Smartwatch for children that encourages outdoor play. Children can use it for interactive outdoor games, sounds, chat and music. It also has a ‘magic beacon’ which can be hidden and tracked for an outdoor treasure hunt game. Parents can use the GPS to track their children’s location and communicate with them whenever they need to. 


This watch is a great example of combining modern technology with outdoor play. There are some great apps, like Pokemon Go and Geocaching, that have been doing this for a while. Even if an I-Spy Book is found on an app, or a compass is replaced with a GPS map, they are essentially encouraging children to do the same thing - get outside and exploring.




Schools and nurseries are also embracing this change. Introducing technology into the playground doesn’t mean that children will be less active, in fact it’s likely to get them more excited about active play. There are lots of ways to combine technology, the outdoors and play, we’ve listed a handful of our favourites:


Step Challenges

Earlier this year we ran the Playforce Challenge with Sports for Schools where teachers were encouraged to set by example and take part in a Step Challenge. Using pedometers or apps, staff and children can be encouraged to log their steps and have a competition to see who can add up the most distance over a certain period of time. 


Green Fingers

There are lots of apps available for children focused on the theme of gardening that are a far cry from Farmville. Some of these are simple puzzles, while others show videos and have quizzes about what you can grow in your garden. Combining these activities with growing your own vegetables in the playground can help transfer what the children have learnt online to the great outdoors. 


Snap Happy

Setting children photography challenges in the playground is a fantastic way to get them to interact with nature around them. Give the students themes or keywords that their photos have to incorporate. These photos can then be brought into a number of lessons - inspiration for English, editing challenges for IT or a base for an Art project. 


Outdoor screenings

Combing technology with the playground could be as simple as taking your typical ‘video time’ or storytelling sessions into an outdoor environment. Using a blank surface (even just a bedsheet) and your school projector, your playground can become an outdoor cinema or stage. For extra outdoor fun, why not show ‘Project Wild Thing’.


As long as we use technology to compliment outdoor play, it will never replace it. The key is to find ways to stay up-to-date and combine the two to make the most of the variety of new activities available to us. 

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