50 Things to Do Before You’re 11¾


Do your kids play outdoors as much as you did as a child? It seems the answer is going to be no as the National Trust has conducted research that has found that fewer than one in ten children regularly play in wild places compared to almost half a generation ago, a third have never climbed a tree and one in ten can’t ride a bike.

Dearne Valley RSPB Old Moor, Yorkshire

It’s true the children of today have a lot more options but that doesn’t stop the fact that getting outside together can be great fun and good for all the family so I love the idea of this new campaign which includes plenty of simple ideas to get you enjoying the great outdoors again.

The National Trust have launched www.50things.org.uk where kids can tick things off the list to gain rewards and get help from a virtual Outdoors Explorer. There’s a parents area too so you can help your family stay safe while enjoying nature time together.

Looking on the website is one thing but we want you to get out and about so the National Trust is having a Free Weekend on 21 and 22 April at over 200 locations. There will be experts on hand and kids can start working towards their first explorer badge immediately. Simply go to www.nationaltrust.org.uk/freeweekend and download a voucher for free admission.

Victoria Park, Merseyside

I live in London with my young daughter yet we still have plenty of places to play outdoors as London has more open green spaces than many major world cities. Without mentioning the Royal Parks which are spread across the city, Kew GardensHampstead Heath, the London Wetland Centre and Epping Forest are fantastic, as is Abney Park in Stoke Newington and Camley Street Natural Park in King’s Cross.

Flying kites in Swindon

When did you last fly a kite? Skim a stone? Or make a mud pie? I love kite flying on Hampstead Heath and always skim stones at Brighton beach. Mud pies aren’t really my thing but my daughter loves ‘cooking’ them in our local park most weeks. National Trust Elite Ranger Captain Skim, aka Mark Astley, says flat stones thrown hard and low produce the best skimming results. His personal best is 27 skims so we can’t deny he knows what he’s talking about.

Brighton Beach

There’s no age limit to enjoying time outdoors so I reckon we should all check the list and see if there’s something we’ve missed doing for a long time. What are you going to try first? I want to try 29 and 37 soon!

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

Laura Porter writes the About.com London Travel site which is an online travel guide for visitors. She fits in further freelance writing while sustaining an afternoon tea addiction to rival the Queen’s. You can follow her at @AboutLondon. See more articles by Laura on the VisitBritain Super Blog.

Images: © Anders_3BauerPhotoMedia, Steve Greaves, The Old Brit via LoveUK Flickr Group.

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10 Responses to “50 Things to Do Before You’re 11¾”

  1. Laura @AboutLondon
    April 17, 2012 at 1:04 pm #

    Tips from @techiefairy on where we can get behind a waterfall. She suggests Ingeton Falls, and
    Malham Tarn and Linton Falls too.

  2. Happy Hotelier
    April 17, 2012 at 1:05 pm #

    #51 Seeing pebbles beach at Brighton: trying to have a flat pebble skid the water more than 5 times;-)

  3. Ross Corbett
    April 17, 2012 at 1:05 pm #

    Growing up I was always out and about, climbing trees and getting up to no good but I see a lot of that has changed with the children today.

    Never mind the kids though, after reading that list I want to be out and about climbing hills and making grass trumpets :)

    Really interesting post Laura.

  4. Happy Hotelier
    April 17, 2012 at 1:06 pm #

    Hm …must be my English #5 the same?

  5. Mar Dixon
    April 17, 2012 at 2:49 pm #

    Ben Pugh asked the question related to arts: http://benpugh.wordpress.com/2012/04/13/arts-bucket-list-for-kids/

    Mine included:
    Roll down a hill in white clothes
    Scream in the woods
    Make a daisy chain
    Finger paint
    Learn at least one piece of classical music (Flight of the Bumble Bee)
    Learn about a fun artist
    Have a fav museum
    Make a snow angel
    Pick up a worm
    Pet a lizard
    Dance in the rain
    Eat dirt

  6. John
    April 17, 2012 at 9:53 pm #

    Managed to do most of the list before 11¾. I’ve never set up a snail race, brought up a butterfly (you mean raise from a caterpillar?). I still haven’t managed to light a fire without matches and I’m guessing that using a cigarette lighter doesn’t count. Not tried taking a canoe down the river either, most of the time it’s slalom competitors at Llangollen. The fishermen ban them the rest of the time.
    I was over 11¾ when I walked behind a waterfall in South Wales. There’s a long list of waterfalls you can walk behind in the Principality: http://www.cavinguk.co.uk/holidays/waterfalls/WalkBehind.html

    • Laura Porter
      April 18, 2012 at 11:31 am #

      I really need to go to Wales soon as I love the waterfall challenge Thanks for the link!

  7. Kerri
    April 19, 2012 at 9:33 am #

    I used to love playing outdoors as a child, climbing trees going fishing and getting dirty! Kids are so obsessed with technology these days that getting outside seems a lost way to spend your childhood. Therefore,I absolutely love this campaign and list :-) I want to go and fly a kite soon!

  8. Matt Davis
    November 11, 2012 at 8:26 pm #

    Hey what cool list. I came across this today after ‘walking behind a waterfall (in Wales)’ for what I figured may be the first time in my life (age 36). I’m a pretty outdoors kinda guy, and also quite forgetful, so may well have done this when I was younger….who knows!

    The list gave me a few ideas about some other things to do with my kids though too.

    Great work

  9. Barry Walmsley
    February 10, 2013 at 5:40 pm #

    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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