Friday, 13 April 2012

The National Trust: 50 things to do before you're 11 3/4 years old

We have enjoyed some of our best days out at National Trust properties.  And my favourite memories of childhood are set outdoors; so I was really pleased to see that the National Trust's current campaign aims to get children back outside.

Climbing trees; building dams; making mud pies; digging for worms; these are activities that were pretty much all children did in the 70s, but which, in today's technology and health and safety obsessed age, seem to have disappeared, victims either to the lure of the DVD and games consoles, or to the wrap-in-cotton-wool mentality of parents.  According to the report commissioned by the National Trust three times as many children are taken to hospital having fallen out of bed, compared to falling out of a tree.  A third have never even climbed a tree and a shocking one in ten can't ride a bike.

You can pick up a scrapbook from any National Trust property and start ticking off the activities; then continue the fun at home; visiting the 50things website and earning points towards an explorer badge.  Although it would be slightly ironic if all the children simply 'logged on' to earn their badge, instead of actually getting outside!

This is a great idea; and if you want to get started; here's the list:
Sudbury Hall & the National Museum of Childhood, Derbyshire

1. Climb a tree
2. Roll down a really big hill
3. Camp out in the wild
4. Build a den
5. Skim a stone
6. Run around in the rain
7. Fly a kite
8. Catch a fish with a net
9. Eat an apple straight from a tree
10. Play conkers
11. Throw some snow
12. Hunt for treasure on the beach
13. Make a mud pie
14. Dam a stream
15. Go sledging
16. Bury someone in the sand
17. Set up a snail race
18. Balance on a fallen tree
19. Swing on a rope swing
20. Make a mud slide
21. Eat blackberries growing in the wild
22. Take a look inside a tree
23. Visit an island
24. Feel like you're flying in the wind
25. Make a grass trumpet
26. Hunt for fossils and bones
27. Watch the sun wake up
28. Climb a huge hill
29. Get behind a waterfall
30. Feed a bird from your hand
31. Hunt for bugs
32. Find some frogspawn
33. Catch a butterfly in a net
34. Track wild animals
35. Discover what's in a pond
36. Call an owl
37. Check out the crazy creatures in a rock pool
38. Bring up a butterfly
39. Catch a crab
40. Go on a nature walk at night
41. Plant it, grow it, eat it
42. Go wild swimming
43. Go rafting
44. Light a fire without matches
45. Find your way with a map and compass
46. Try bouldering
47. Cook on a campfire
48. Try abseiling
49. Find a geocache
50. Canoe down a river

I'm afraid I'm fast approaching 40 years old and there are still 7 things on this list I haven't done yet.  I'll enjoy discovering those with my children.

Can you guess which ones?  Which have you done?


  1. Oh I love that! Must show the boy, in the hope of inspiring him to do something outdoors this weekend! There are sitll 5 things on that list I have never done and I'm much older than 11 and 3/4! :-)

    1. You did better than me then! I hope you have fun outdoors. Let me know which he tries. :)

      By the way... does any know what a geocache is 'without' looking it up?

  2. I only knew what a geocache was because a friend of mine does it, but I still looked it up just to find out exactly what it is. I showed the boy, who read the website and declared that he had no interest in finding a 'treasure' if he didn't get to keep the treasure and it wasn't valuable or edible. Kid's got a point :-D

    1. Not for the joy of discovery then eh?! Never mind; there are another 49 activities to go at. :-)

  3. It would be a mistake to take this list as a criticism of modern parenting in the UK, or to read it too prescriptively. It is providing a picture of 'real childhood' and it is well worth reminding ourselves that virtually every child of that age, in the correct context, would find most of the items on that list exciting and adventurous. It is up to us to make sure that we provide the context within which each child can experience and enjoy at least some of those activities.

    Modern life does tend to militate against this however and many children, for a wide variety of reasons, will not be able to tick of anywhere near as many of those items as they would like to.

    It is a sad fact that, whilst in France, and in the USA attendance on residential 'summer camps' for children is common, and the activities listed by the National Trust will play a significant part of their programme, in the UK such camps are virtually unknown, and it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that UK children are missing out on some very valuable educational experiences as a result.

    In the 1960s and 70s, a UK organisation called 'Colony Holidays' briefly popularised the French model of Summer Camps with great success, and children were encouraged by trained young adults, working as enthusiastic volunteers, to engage in the sort of activities promoted by the National Trust, and to leave behind the trappings of a modern society for just a short while.

    A much smaller organisation known as Active Training and Education is still doing this with their incredible 'Superweeks' and one can only hope that this timely campaign by the National Trust will help their cause.


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