National Trust campaigns to connect 200,000 kids with the natural world

National Trust/ MischiefPR, Andy Fallon

Hugh Dennis lends his support to the 50 things to do before you’re 11 3/4 campaign

The National Trust is aiming to get 200,000 kids playing outside this summer as part of its commitment to connect the ‘cotton wool generation’ with nature.

By September the UK conservation charity hopes to have helped one in twenty of Britain’s 7-12 year olds (five per cent ) break their reliance on gadgets and computers for entertainment, and experience the simple pleasures of outdoor adventure.

Comedian and actor Hugh Dennis who is lending his support to the campaign says: “My most treasured childhood memories are of being in the outdoors so it’s a sad thought that kids today aren’t enjoying the experiences which we remember so fondly. There are so many simple delights to be had – and it doesn’t have to be a chore or ordeal to do either. Back gardens can be as much as a treasure trove for kids as the seaside or a local park.”

To mark the official start of its annual 50 Things to do before you are 11¾ campaign, the National Trust is hosting more than 1,000 activities and events over the school holidays to encourage families to experience nature. Showing the nation that getting outdoors doesn’t mean getting in the car, Rangers from the charity have also identified the top ten activities on the bucket list that can be done in a garden or local park.

Top 50 Things activities to do in a garden or local park
1. Climb a tree
2. Hunt for bugs
3. Create some wild art
4. Fly a kite
5. Play pooh sticks
6. Plant it, grow it, eat it
7. Build a den
8. Set up a snail race
9. Explore inside a tree
10. Make a daisy chain

The initiative follows new research commissioned by the charity showing that children aged 7-12 spend less time playing outside compared to any other generation. According to the findings, over half of today’s children (54 per cent) spend less than an hour outside each day, whilst one in four (25 per cent) get less than 30 minutes a day in the outdoors. This compares to their parents who spent an average of 2 hours 34 minutes outside each day as children. More than half of grandparents (53 per cent) spent over three hours playing outside when they were aged 7-12, compared to just six per cent of children today.

Despite this, a massive 85 per cent cite playing outside as one of their greatest childhood memories with 91 per cent admitting these experiences have nurtured their love of and need for green spaces in their lives.

Proving that 50 Things is and can make a difference, recent independent data commissioned by the Trust has revealed that half of kids (48 per cent) who have tried an outdoor activity on the list such as climbing a tree, building a den or flying a kite have a greater connection and bond with nature. Children who enjoy the simple pleasures of outdoor adventures are more likely to develop long lasting relationships with the natural world and care about protecting these special places for future generations.

To help families nationwide get involved the Trust has lots of tips and ideas for activities to do over the school holidays on its website as well as an app launching mid July, which will indicate activities on the list that can be done in the surrounding area.

Helen Meech, Assistant Director, Outdoors and Nature Engagement at The National Trust commented:

“We really want kids to enjoy being in the outdoors and to care about nature, so it becomes part of their life as they grow up. The memories made as a child stay with you forever, and if outdoor places are part of these memories then hopefully children will grow up wanting to protect these special places for years to come. I’m sure if nature had a voice it would say that it misses today’s children and wants to be part of their childhood adventures.”

The 50 Things to do before you are 11¾ campaign was first launched in 2012. To date over 90,000 of the nation’s youngsters have signed up to tackle the list. Children who complete all the 50 Things on the bucket list will receive a unique visit pass that will enable them and a parent to access over 200 National Trust places, helping them to develop that long term connection to the natural world.
To find out more about the 50 Things visit https://www.50things.org.uk/

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Watching Project Wild Thing from Britain's highest peak - Ben Nevis to mark National Children's Day. Credit Tom Seaward

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