Apps Take Kids on Virtual Field Trips
By Tanni Haas
If you want to explore the world this summer but also save some money, why not take virtual family trips? Here’s a list of some of the very best free apps that’ll take you on some amazing journeys in time and space—all from the convenience of your home.
Art Institute of Chicago Available at Apple App Store and Google Play. The Art Institute of Chicago possesses some of the most iconic American paintings, including American Gothic by Grant Wood and Nighthawks by Edward Hopper. The museum’s award-winning app lets kids see these and many other masterpieces. And it offers several audio tours featuring colorful anecdotes about the artists as well as background music from different time periods. Users can also search for information about specific artworks.
Civilisations AR Available at Apple App Store and Google Play. Developed by the BBC, this impressive app uses augmented reality to introduce visitors to some of the world’s most well-known artifacts, such as Egyptian mummies and the Rosetta Stone. Your kids can rotate the pieces, zoom for details, and see what the objects would’ve looked like when they were originally made.
Explorer—American Museum of National History Available at Apple App Store and Google Play. This app from the American Museum of National History shares behind-the-scenes stories about the museum’s displays, fun facts, educational videos, and the opportunity to take selfies with favorite exhibits. Quizzes test kids’ understanding of what they’re learning as they move around the museum.
Google Arts & Culture Available at Apple App Store and Google Play. This app offers an exciting way to experience history and our contemporary world. With artifacts from more than 2,000 cultural institutions in 80 countries, your family can do anything from study Mona Lisa’s famous smile to see stunning images from NASA’s space missions. The kids can search for portraits that resemble them, take all kinds of guided tours, and point their phone cameras at artworks to learn more about them.
National Museum for African American History and Culture Mobile Stories Available at Apple App Store and Google Play. This app from the Smithsonian Institution’s latest addition—the National Museum for African American History and Culture—features stories and videos about the lives of African-American people throughout time. Your kids can share their experiences with other virtual visitors and read others’ reactions.
Nat Geo TV: Live & On Demand Available at Apple App Store and Google Play. Stream full episodes of documentary nature shows, such as Life Below Zero, Secrets of the Zoo, and Wicked Tuna. Search programs based on what’s new and popular among other viewers, or by specific topics.
Newsela Student Available at Apple App Store and Google Play. This app boasts a large library of 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 and Google Play. It can be hard to find a museum that’s equally captivating to kids and adults alike. The Walt Disney Family Museum fits the bill, and, via this app, you can visit it no matter where you live. Take a virtual tour that tells the story of Walt and his most famous creations, listen to exclusive audio clips with Walt, and watch lots of Disney film clips.
Tanni Haas, PhD, is a college communications professor.