Creative Family Activities with Smartphones

Every day I see more and more children using their parents smartphones as a technology ‘toy’ to keep them busy. Besides fun games, smartphones are a great resource for learning that can be used with your children.  They are small, portable, constantly connected, and have a variety of pre-installed resources that can be used for fun learning activities.  Instead of just having the child play with the smartphone, it would be great for parents to interact with their children while using this new technology.


Maps & Compass

Most smartphones come pre-installed with a map and compass apps.  The maps feature on an iPhone can show street level features like roads, intersections, and stores or it can be shown in satellite form where it would show what the map looks like in real life, similar to Google Maps.  Other options include calculating distances by car, bus, or walking, pinpointing locations, or viewing traffic.  The compass app indicates which cardinal direction you’re facing with the degrees, along with the coordinates of your location.

For younger children, maps can be used to teach children cardinal directions, names of streets and directions in your neighborhood, or about land features like lakes, rivers, oceans, mountains, or forests.  The maps and compass can be used in conjunction to go on a family scavenger hunt around a local park or downtown area while trying to find ‘clues’ to the next location.

A great idea for older children would be to have children guess how long it would take by car, bus, or walking to get from one location to another.  For example, if you had to walk from Miami to San Diego, how long do you think it would take?  A follow up question could be how many miles do you think it is from the one location to the other?  This idea can be expanded to include multiple locations or stops.


The camera ability and app on a smartphone is another great resource for learning activities for children.  Typically, the camera can be used as a still camera or a video camera.  The photos are then stored in the phone and can then be e-mailed, printed, uploaded to photo sharing sites, or shared on social networking.  There are also many free inexpensive apps that allow you to edit photos and video to create a finished product for an activity.

Younger children could be challenged to take photos of shapes or colors that they see in their everyday life.  For example, ask your child to take a photo of different objects while on a walk like red (fire hydrant), yellow (stop light), and blue (water).  They could then transform their photos to have a water effect with animated water ripples using an app like WaterMyPhoto.

Older kids love to take photos family, friends, and nature.  You could challenge them to take a photo a day as part of the 365 Project.  They could then take the photos and transform them into postcards through Postagram Postcards.  To send your postcard by mail it only costs 99 cents.

Other Ideas

  1. Using the Voice Memo feature to record sounds of nature.
  2. Using the Clock as a stopwatch or a timer to time a relay race.
  3. Using the Notes app to jot down ideas for future fun phone activities!

Article By Laura Ketcham

Picture By katielips

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