- Family and Parenting
50 things to do before you are 11 and 3/4
50 things to do before you are 11 and 3/4
Do you remember the first time you ever climbed a tree? What about that summer when you built a den or a fort and spent most of your days hiding out in it, pretending you were on a great adventure? For many of us, our childhood memories are full of these wonderful times. Unfortunately, many children today are not growing up with these experiences. That's why the National Trust in the UK has just begun a nationwide campaign to help get children off the sofa, out of the house and into the great outdoors.
In Britain there has been a lot of press coverage recently lamenting the fact that children today all too often do not get to participate in fun outdoor activities, from climbing a tree to building a den and even simple things like skimming stones. So, the National Trust has decided to fight back with its 'Fantastic Five' team, who have come up with a list of, you guessed it, 50 things to do before you are 11 and 3/4.
I think that this is a fantastic idea, as I believe in the importance of letting children have fun outdoors and letting them gain confidence and new skills. It's an unfortunate truth that today, in the UK at least, many parents are reluctant to let their children play outdoors in case they get hurt. This has encouraged what the government are calling a 'cotton wool' culture. Below, you can find the National Trust's list of 50 things for children under 12 to do and some more thoughts on how, as parents, we can help our children get the most out of their childhood.
Read on for the list of 50 things to do before you are 11 and 3/4!
The 50 things to do
The National Trust's Campaign
The National Trust has always been concerned with making sure our children have the best childhood possible - that's part of the reason why they make such an effort to conserve outdoor places. Their list of 50 things to do before you are 11 and 3/4 really brought a smile to my face: not only did it bring back many memories of my own as a child, but it also gave me some great ideas of things to do with my own children. Here's the list of their top 50 things to do:
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.
Read on for the next set of 25!
The Dangerous Book for Boys - By Con Iggulden and Hal Iggulden
I found this amazing book in Waterstones a few years ago and bought it as a Christmas present for my dad. Recently I actually sat down and read it myself - and it's really, really good. Aimed 'at boys from 8 to 80' the book covers a wide variety of topics and traditional activities that boys love to do, from building a treehouse to making a den and how to wrap up a parcel in brown paper. It also includes stories, facts and battles 'that every boy should know'.
What I really love about this book is the level of detail within it. The chapter which shows you how to make a treehouse doesn't just say how much fun treehouses are. It gives you the dimensions of the wood needed, the kind of wood, what tools are required, how to make it safe, and so on. My boys borrowed it from their grandad and ended up fighting over who would get to read it first!
The list goes on...
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.
The Daring Book for Girls - By Andrea J. Buchanan and Miriam Peskowitz
After finding the amazing 'Dangerous Book for Boys', I found this wonderful counterpart for girls. Although I don't have daughters I still found it great fun to read. What I love about this book is that it doesn't stereotype girls into the 'girly girl' category (so it's not all about baking and having tea parties), but it also doesn't presume that every girl should be a jolly hockey sticks, Malory Towers type who love nothing more than jumping into an icy cold swimming pool. (I'm sure fans of Enid Blyton will get that reference!).
There's something in here for everyone and, like its boys counterpart, it is all about having a more traditional childhood, and giving children the tools to make this happen. It's also a great nostalgia trip for adults. From organising your own spy team to pitching a tent and with stories about female heroines throughout history, this is a book every girl should have.
Activities Explained: the list in more detail
When I was reading through this list for the first time, some activities mentioned were wonderfully familiar to me. I spent many a summer afternoon as a child climbing trees, making dams and learning how to skim stones. Other activities, however, were less familiar, and although I was quite an outdoorsy child, I found myself wondering: "What on earth is that?!" So here I've gone into some more detail about some of the items on the list - let me know if there are any on the list that have caught you out!
No. 25: make a grass trumpet
When I read this the first image that popped into my head was of an actual trumpet, but one made out of grass. In fact, a grass trumpet is really easy to make and a fun game to play. Here's how you do it:
Pick a long, wide blade of grass and place it vertically in between your thumbs. Use your thumbs to grip the grass tightly. Then put your thumbs in front of your lips and blow. The grass acts like a reed does in a wind instrument and it will make a wonderful squeaky noise. Your children may need a couple of goes at this to get the hang of it, but practice makes perfect!
No. 46: Try bouldering
Bouldering is a style of rock-climbing where you climb without any ropes or safety equipment. Now, before you think of young children climbing sheer rock faces and cliffs with their bare hands, I'm sure the National Trust don't have this in mind! I think they mean bouldering in the sense of scrambling over rocks, perhaps at the beach or by a river.
If you're hunting for rock pools at the beach then you're going to have to scramble over a fair few rock piles to be able to find them - there are also usually lots of rock piles by rivers which are small but safe and fun to climb over and around.
No. 49: Find a Geocache
Geocache is a new treasure hunting game - perfect for the explorer in every child! Players try to locate hidden containers using a GPS device (or good old fashioned ingenuity) and then share their discoveries with others.
A geocache can be anything, and there are many different cache themes that are listed on their website. To locate the device, it is helpful to have a phone or other device which is GPS enabled, as this helps with navigation. You can also try to hunt things down the old fashioned way too!
If your children are the kind who are glued to the computer screen, then this might be a really good way to help get them out and about, as geocache is primarily a website. With over 5 million geocaches worldwide, no matter where you live there will probably be a geocache near you for you and your children to hunt down!
I've put the geocache link below so you can explore this great project for yourselves. Happy hunting!
Real life quests and adventures across the world!
The National Trust on YouTube
Watch the National Trust's Campaign Video about their top 50 things to do before you're 11 and 3/4.
The best books on playing outside - Nature and the great outdoors resources
I came across some great resources on Amazon to help you get inspired for things that your children can do in the great outdoors, in addition to starting to cross the 50 things to do off your list! My top 5 are below, but hunt on Amazon yourself to find more great stuff!
This is a really wonderful book with all sorts of ways that your children can make the most of the great outdoors.
For those sunny afternoons and rainy days, a book of traditional and modern activities for your children, whatever the weather.
I've always believed in the importance of teaching children how to garden as it's so rewarding. Even if you don't have a garden of your own, you could look into getting an allotment, or simply get some window boxes and encourage your children to plant in those.
A great resource for ideas and inspirations on activities for you and your children that will get you all in the outdoors.
A book that's perfect for younger children that's packed with ideas on games and activities.
These are a few of my favourite things...
Reading over the National Trust's list, it brought back many fond childhood memories for me. When I was little I loved swimming and making dams in streams, and also climbing trees and collecting conkers. What was your favourite thing to do as a child?
What was your favourite childhood activity?
Children really do prefer the simple things
Proving that no matter what you buy your child, they'll always want to play with the cardboard box
The link above takes you to a very sensible article I've just found by Telegraph columnist Judith Woods. In it she explains that, despite parents spending more and more money on children's toys each year, what children really like are simple activities, both indoors and outdoors, where they can use their imagination. I thought I would add it here as it seems to be very in-line with the National Trust's 50 things to do before you are 11 and 3/4 campaign. It shows that you don't have to have a lot of money to spend time and have fun with your children.
How to hunt for treasure - Everywhere is a good place to hunt for treasure!
Meet Midas, the National Trust's expert treasure hunter. Now before you think about golden dubloons and treasure chests, a treasure can be anything and everything! If you do happen to find some gold though, then fantastic!
The changing face of childhood
The 50 things to do campaign is, to me at least, a welcome initiative. I am a firm believer in the importance of letting children 'be children' by playing outside and getting to explore and learn about the world around them. Alas, this is an opinion which many parents do not share. A recent study by Play England found that approximately 1/3 of parents refuse to let their children embark on so-called 'risky activities', like climbing trees. I have even heard of some parents who are reluctant to let their children play in the back garden because of the dirt and the insects that are to be found there. The National Trust, before launching the campaign, ran a study which found that fewer than 10% of children in the UK today spend their time outside or playing in wild places. Instead, children spend an average of 2.5 hours a day watching television.
When I think back to my own childhood, I did watch TV, but I also spent a great deal of time outside. My grandparents had a lovely back garden where my cousins and I used to play, particularly in the summer when the weather was warm. Trips to the park made me obsessed with climbing trees (something I still love doing today!) and I absolutely loved swimming. At home after school I used to play in the street with my friends, playing hide and seek, tig (or tag as Americans would say!) and finding snails to put in snail races. Today, I look around and it is a rare sight in Britain to see children playing outside, something which I think is a great shame.
Perhaps part of the problem is that, in general, families today spend much less time together. As adults our working lives are so busy, and our children have so many extra-curricular activities going on, that finding the time to spend with our children is scarce. Some families have dedicated themselves to one family day a month, where they will go out for the day with their children and make a conscious effort to spend quality time with them. This is a good start, but I feel that more needs to be done. As children, we learn the majority of things from our parents - it is our parents who teach us about the world around us. We also tend to copy our parents - if a child sees their parent reading a lot, chances are they will read too. The same is true for going outdoors. It is important that we regain the sense of our family and make an active effort to take our children outside to explore nature and the countryside, for our children to gain a true appreciation of the world around them.
The National Trust campaign can not only help children to have fun and gain new skills outdoors, but also encourage a greater amount of time spent with your family. By doing some of these activities with your children, it will make for great memories and family bonding time.
How to climb a tree
Watch this video about Tree Man: one of the National Trust's rangers who are determined to help children gain skills in different outdoor activities. This one focuses on how to climb a tree.
Is the campaign a worthy cause?
Balancing the list with society's concerns today
The National Trust Campaign brings to the foreground a much wider social issue: how safe is society for our children today? Many people argue that the reason they don't feel happy with their children playing outside is because they are extremely aware of the dangers lurking outside, particularly with all the media attention on high-profile child abductions and kidnappings. Add to this the increased numbers of vehicles on the roads and in many ways it is no wonder that parents worry about letting their children play outside. Surely, however, the reality is that society has always been somewhat like it is today, with the key difference between less media attention? The media has an incredibly important role to play when it comes to issues of child safety, but at the same time it can also go too far, and is at a serious risk of scaremongering.
Another key difference between society ten-twenty years ago and society day is that children themselves are far more aware of the dangers and problems in society. In many ways, children are not given the chance to be children, but are exposed to the world's problems from the minute they start school. It is debateable as to how much of a good thing this is. On one level it is extremely important to educate your children about 'stranger dangers' - don't talk to strangers, don't accept sweets from a stranger, don't get into a car with someone you don't know, and so on. But perhaps too much emphasis on this is making our children afraid to step outdoors.
For me, the key is compromise. It's good to give your children a little freedom (and as a parent, you know how much your individual child can handle), but it's equally important to know where they are and what they're doing at all times. When it comes to playing outdoors, a great way to help your children explore nature without compromising their safety is to do outdoor activities with them. Go for a walk with the family in the woods on a weekend, or go blackberrying or strawberry picking. Take your children to the beach and let them run around. One of my fondest memories as a child is of my father teaching me how to build a dam; he would spend hours helping me build one, but also would go off a little distance and read while I played in my own little world. At the time I loved being able to escape into my own imagination; now I look back and am grateful for the fact that he was always keeping an eye on me, even though I may have not realised it at the time. You don't have to be holding your child's hand all of the time, but keeping an eye on them is key. The campaign's cause is extremely worthy, but must be tempered by parental responsibility.
Have your say - Is it safe to play outside in this day and age?
During recent years, parents have expressed concerns that it simply isn't safe for their children to play outside. The streets are more crowded, there are more cars around and we are all more aware of the dangers that our children could face outside. But does this mean that we should discourage our children from playing outside?
Is it too dangerous in today's society for our children to play outside?
How to build a den
Video from 'Den Boy' explaining how to build a really great den.
Here are some links to the National Trust's website, inspiration for things you can do with your children and news links about the campaign and child safety in general.
- 50 things to do
The official website of the National Trust's campaign.
- The National Trust
Homepage of the National Trust's website, with a feature on the 50 things for children to do. Also has links to their properties across the UK and great ideas for things to do on family days out.
- The Daily Telegraph
British Newspaper The Daily Telegraph throws its support behind the National Trust's Campaign.
Real-life quests and adventures across the world!
- BBC News
The BBC have produced a short video reporting on the National Trust's Campaign and interviewing young children who enjoy playing outside.
- English Heritage
Fantastic days out for all the family around Britain. Look out for their family activity days too!
- School trips at the mercy of health and safety concerns
I include this link to illustrate the culture of fear that surrounds our children these days. We all loved school trips when we were young, but unfortunately more and more health and safety concerns are making schools and teachers reluctant to take t
What do you think of the National Trust's list? Do you think anything should be added to it? Is it really practical for children today to be doing these sorts of activities? Let us know your opinions!