One third of children have never climbed a tree by the age of 15. Half have never made a daisy chain. Similar numbers show for experiencing a game of conkers. All of these were common childhood experiences for me. Many went with the changing of the seasons. These worrying trends are not only bad for children’s health, the benefits of outdoor play being well documented, but it is also sad to see such simple joys missed out on. A child is now more likely to be treated for repetitive strain injuries from playing consoles than for falling out a tree.
50 things to do before you’re 11 ¾ is a lovely little book aiming to address this imbalance. As the title cunningly suggests it lists 50 nature activities. It was put out by the National Trust. I originally bought it for some ideas for my work as a teacher, it’ll be a few years until Alice is ready to do most of them. But it is a lovely book for a child and would make a good present for a nature living child of about 4-7 years old. After that I think they might see it as a bit babyish.
The book gives advice and tips on outdoor adventures. Beginning with advice on getting ready, kit and the countryside code. The book is a good quality hardback with elastic to keep it sealed as you add in pictures and a nice size for carrying.
Each of the 50 activities entries has a description and a place to sign off. Many have spaces to draw pictures and tick lists. For example what animal sounds you heard outside. There are facts and advice for grown ups alongside the details. So the whole book ends up personalised by the child.
The activities are mainly things that were common childhood pleasures 30 years ago for me, but increasingly are not experienced by children. Things like rolling down a hill, picking blackberries and flying kites. Others are activities requiring planning and booking, such as rock climbing and horse riding.
At the end of the book there are some puzzles, doodle pages and other parts to keep a child busy if they find themselves stuck waiting for their adventure.
The National Trust also made a nifty little app to go alongside it for the more technology living child. The app suggests activities for the season and keeps track of what they have done. There are also additional challenges to unlock and certificates to earn for the completist.
There are other books in the series such as even messier adventures and night time adventures. The National Trust have done an excellent job encouraging children to get outside. It’s had a good amount of success and hope it continues to