Remember, remember, it’s Bonfire Night tonight, and this week’s guest column from ActiveDad has advice for dads all over the country,heading to organised displays and facing a merciless pester-fest for hot-dog money or change for the funfair. All of a sudden, those free fireworks displays become rather expensive. What’s the answer?
Sparklers are normally banned because of the litter they create, so dads need something new in their arsenal of amusements. Enter a new generation of apps which’ll get you gawping at the sky, rather than staring down at your hands.
With astronomy apps available for Nokia, iPhone and Android, a dad can carry a complete star chart in his pocket. As every parent knows, kids love to play with phones so a star map app allows children to gaze at the Heavens while learning the constellations and planets.
Most of us stare at the stars and wonder if the extra bright object is perhaps a planet and we cringe at the thought that a child might ask us what they are looking at.
The simplicity of these apps is what makes them such a useful tool for educating children in astronomy, without them realising that they are learning something. There is no need for charts and compasses, just point your mobile at the sky and it’ll tell you what’s up there, ripe for identifying!
There is an option in all three apps to remove or add different bits of information while under the bonnet, your phone’s GPS and accelerometer do the hard work of calculating where the phone is pointed. Kids will be able to spot planets, stars, constellations and deep sky objects (we had to look that last one up).
For sky-obsessed iPad owners, Apple’s App Store has a real treat: Star Walk for iPad. It’s a perfect example of what the iPad was designed for. It can only work on a touchscreen and it might help dads justify their shiny toy to doubtful partners. Working the same way as the iPhone apps above, but on a much larger scale, Star Walk is jam packed with information about the stars and as most dads are rapidly realising, information on an iPad screen is much more interesting to children than facts and figures they hear from their father.
Sadly, as all dads know, there is a danger with anything like this: Once a child has a taste for a subject, an enthusiasm takes hold that can only drain an already strained wallet. If these apps whet the appetite, Celestron’s Sky Scout is a logical next step. The Science museum sells them for £200 so it is really a gift for a child who has exhausted the potential of the mobile apps.
Launching your own fireworks at home? Make a game of it with Firework Battleships! Watch ActiveDad‘s video tutorial below to find out how.
Photo credit: Pni