Elternguide Logo

Discover nature with apps

3 minutes reading time
6-17 years
Copyright: Florian Gaertner/ photothek.net

“Look dad, a giant beetle!”, “Mom, can I eat this berry?”, “What bird is singing?”. When it comes to nature and the environment, children make many exciting discoveries. Apps can help to explore and more accurately identify animals and plants around us.

Out and about with the smartphone

Children are curious by nature and want to understand exactly what they are discovering in the world. Besides books and encyclopedias on animal and plant identification, you can also use your smartphone to discover the nature around you together! Whether flowers or butterflies, animal tracks or constellations – with the right apps, you can learn new things about animals and plants together with your child. Take advantage of your child’s joy of discovery and combine nature experience in the fresh air with. We present you four selected apps.

Determine plants

What’s blooming by the wayside? Take a picture of a flower, a stalk or a leaf while you’re out walking and find out the answer in seconds – that’s what the app Flora Incognita (Latin for “unknown plant world”) allows you to do. It is easy to use and with it children become naturalists. Thanks to a special algorithm, the app recognizes a variety of flowers, shrubs, trees and grasses and provides information about them. The discoveries can be saved in the app, giving scientists clues about the distribution of plants. “Flora Incognita” is the product of a research project of the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry Jena & TU Ilmenau. The app is available free of charge and ad-free for iOS and Android devices.

More info: Flora Incognita | EN – The Flora Incognita App – Interactive Plant Identification

Recognize bird calls

“Cuckoo, cuckoo, calls from the forest!”. Birds often sit well hidden in bushes or on high trees. We don’t always see them, but can easily hear their chirping and calling. Telling the different bird calls apart is not so easy. The app BirdNET (English for “bird net”) offers assistance. With it, bird calls can be recorded and directly determined. PROFILEs give more detailed information about the feathered animals, the records are used scientifically. BirdNET is a research project of the TU Chemnitz & Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The free, ad-free app is available for both iOS and Android.

More info: BirdNET Sound ID – The easiest way to identify birds by sound. (cornell.edu)

Become part of a nature community

The app iNaturalist is a social platform that connects nature lovers worldwide in a community. Through a profile you can upload and identify photos of all kinds of animals, plants and fungi. The observations are tagged with the location and stored. This allows other users to look up what animals and plants have been spotted in the area and discuss the findings. There are an impressive number of discoveries in the free app. Nevertheless, it is clearly designed and easy to use for older children. iNaturalist is free and available for Android and for iOS.

More info: A community for nature lovers – iNaturalist

Discover the sky at night

Big Dipper, Milky Way, Polaris: that’s how familiar most people are with our night sky. Beyond that, it often already becomes difficult. The app Star Walk 2 offers the possibility to discover the stars and planets around us with the location of the camera function. By clicking on a celestial body, users can learn more about it. Using augmented reality, the app connects individual stars to form beautiful, three-dimensional constellations and accompanies the experience with atmospheric music. In-app purchases provide access to more categories such as satellites and comets. The app is free of charge and advertising in the basic version and available for Android and iOS.

More info: Easily Identify Stars at Night | Mobile Stargazing | Current Starry Sky | Star Walk

What should parents pay attention to?

  • Some apps only work with an Internet connection. In the middle of the forest or in the mountains, you may not have reception. Take photos of your discoveries and look them up together later.
  • Caution toxic! Even nature identification apps do not offer one hundred percent certainty. When in doubt, avoid touching or eating plants and animals.
  • Some apps require access to your location, smartphone camera and other features. Check which app permissions are really necessary for using the app and support your child in using data sparingly.
  • Keep in mind that some apps may allow in-app purchases. Find out exactly before installing an app and limit purchase options in the smartphone settings.
  • Together with your child, consider how you would like to organize media use in the family and how much screen time is appropriate.

Linked topics

Project partners