Nine apps to explore the world

With family travel on pause, these apps can help kids discover the world by exposing them to art, culture, wildlife and more

Nine apps to explore the world

Photo credit: Getty Images

If you want to explore the world this holiday season, why not take virtual family trips with the kids? Here’s a list of some of the very best free apps that’ll take you on some amazing trips in time and space – all from the convenience of your home.

Art Institute of Chicago App
(Available at: Apple App Store; Google Play)

The Art Institute of Chicago has some of the most iconic American paintings, like “American Gothic” by Grant Wood and “Nighthawks” by Edward Hopper. The kids can see these and many other masterpieces by downloading the museum’s award-winning app. It has several audio tours to learn about the museum’s holdings, with colourful anecdotes about the artists and background music from different time periods. You can also search for information about specific artwork.

Civilisations AR
(Available at: Apple App Store; Google Play)

Developed by the BBC, this impressive app introduces visitors to some of the world’s most well-known artifacts, like Egyptian mummies and the famous Rosetta Stone, and the people who created them. Your kids can rotate the pieces and study them from different angles, zoom in for details, and see what the objects would’ve looked like when they were originally made.

Explorer – American Museum of National History
(Available: Apple App Store; Google Play)

The Explorer app from the American Museum of National History is a great way for you and the kids to travel into the natural world together. Write down what interests you the most and the app selects exhibits that align with your interests. It also features behind-the-scenes stories about the exhibits, fun facts, and educational videos. The kids will love the fun quizzes, which test their understanding of what they’re learning as they move around the museum. They can also take selfies with their favourite exhibits.

Google Arts & Culture
(Available at Apple App Store; Google Play)

This app offers an exciting way to experience history and our contemporary world. With artifacts from 2,000 artistic and cultural institutions in 80 countries, your family can do anything from studying Mona Lisa’s famous smile in the Louvre in Paris to seeing stunning images from NASA’s space missions. The kids can search for portraits that resemble them from museums around the world, take all kinds of guided tours, and point their phone cameras at artworks to learn more about them.

Libby, by Overdrive
(Available at: Apple App Store; Google Play)

Yet another way your family can travel free of charge this winter is by downloading the award-winning app, Libby, by OverDrive. If you have a library card, you can use this app to access millions of ebooks and audiobooks from local libraries all over the country. Travel to wherever your imagination takes you! You can stream the books while you’re online, or you can download them for offline reading later.

National Museum for African American History and Culture Mobile Stories
(Available at: Apple App Store; Google Play)

If you want the kids to learn more about the Smithsonian Institution’s latest edition – the National Museum of African American History and Culture – download the museum’s app.  It features stories of African American history and culture from its various exhibits and has many educational videos. Your kids will enjoy sharing their experiences with other virtual visitors and to read about the reactions of others.

Nat Geo TV: Live & On Demand
(Available at: Apple App Store; Google Play)

Use this app to travel into the natural world. You can stream full episodes of popular nature documentaries and shows like “Life Below Zero,” “Secrets of the Zoo,” and “Wicked Tuna.” Your family can search for programs by what’s new and popular among other viewers, or by specific topics. The app has many shorter clips on animals, nature, and travel-related topics.

Newsela Student
(Available at: Apple App Store, Google Play)

This app is the perfect companion to Libby, by Overdrive. It has a large library of news articles (all searchable by keyword) that you and the kids can use to learn more about your favorite topics. The kids can also take quizzes to track their learning and do writing activities related to what they’re reading. Each article is available at five reading levels, which makes the articles accessible to kids of all ages.

The Walt Disney Family Museum
(Available at: Apple App Store; Google Play)

It can be hard to find a museum that’s equally captivating to kids and adults alike: The Walt Disney Family Museum is one such museum, and the great thing is that you can visit it virtually with the museum’s app. You can revisit the beloved cartoon characters from your childhood and introduce them to a new generation of kids, so download the app and take your kids along for the ride. The virtual tour tells the story of Walt and his most famous creations, features exclusive audio clips with him, and has lots of Disney film clips.

Tanni Haas, Ph.D. is a Professor in the Department of Communication Arts, Sciences and Disorders at the City University of New York – Brooklyn College.

Looking for more  ways to entertain and educate children online? Check out these eight creativity-boosting apps for kids.