50 Things to Do Before You’re 11 3/4 – National Trust launches campaign to get children outdoors

The National Trust has today launched a nationwide campaign to encourage sofa-bound children to take to the outdoors and enjoy classic adventures from skimming stones to building dens.

The 50 Things To Do Before You’re 11¾ initiative is in response to a report commissioned by the National Trust which highlighted research 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.*

The charity’s 50 Things To Do Before You’re 11¾ campaign provides a checklist for under-12s (and those who are young at heart) including everything from running around in the rain and bug hunting, to setting up a snail race, damming a stream, flying a kite and making a (delicious) mud pie.

To help bring to life these simple pleasures, the Trust has formed a group of Elite Rangers who will share their expert tips on enjoying outdoor adventures and their enthusiasm for encouraging children to play alfresco.

The five rangers, all Trust staff, come from across the UK and range in age from 29 to 49. They include a 6ft 3” tree climbing expert, who has scaled 50 metre-high trees, (a.k.a. Tree Man), Captain Skim who can skim a stone over 26 times and Midas the treasure hunter. The other rangers are Den-Boy, an outdoor hideaway-building champion, and a minibeast expert (aka The Bug Catcher) who can name over 300 varieties of moth.

The fantastic five will be offering top tips on their chosen skill to the nation’s children over a Free Weekend (21st and 22nd April) when the National Trust will open up over 200 of its houses and gardens for free over the weekend, as well as all the countryside spaces it cares for, which are always free access.

Kids can pick up a free 50 Things To Do Before You’re 11¾ scrapbook from participating properties – and start ticking off their outdoor adventures to do list. Plus, the fun can continue at home by visiting nationaltrust.org.uk/50things where children can fill in their completed activities and earn points towards their very own explorer badge.

Tony Berry, Visitor Experience Director of the National Trust, comments: “Our Elite Rangers are a fantastic bunch, with bags of enthusiasm for the outdoors and what it can offer kids. We’re hoping that the nation’s children will embrace the 50 things and start having their very own outdoor adventures with their family, with our Free Weekend the perfect opportunity to get outside in the fresh air.”

National Trust Elite Ranger Captain Skim, Mark Astley comments: “My top tips for stone skimming are to find some flat water, like a lake or sea on a calm day. Choose your stone carefully – the smoother, rounder and flatter the better. Next perfect your stance, bend your knees into a squat position with one foot in front of the other about a foot apart. Steady yourself by putting your non throwing arm in front of you and point your finger in the direction you want the stone to travel. Hold your stone throwing arm behind you and then bring forward – throw hard and low so it spins quickly across the top of the water. My personal best is 27 skims and I’m still trying to beat that. ”

The 50 Things to Do Before you’re 11 ¾:

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


The National Trust Elite Rangers are:

1. Tree-Man, Des Cotton from York, Yorkshire, aged 38

2. Den Boy, Andrew Hunt from Dorset, aged 30

3. Captain Skim, Mark Astley from North West, aged 49

4. Midas, Nigel Stannett from Norwich, East of England, aged 29

5. The Bug Catcher, Laura Broadhurst from Bromsgrove, Midlands, aged 31


About the Free Weekend:

The National Trust is holding a Free Weekend over the 21-22nd April. There will be a number of excluded properties, which will be detailed at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/freeweekend. To enter a property all you need to do is show your Free Weekend voucher which can be downloaded from the website

Over 200 properties are taking part, in addition to the swathes countryside spaces The National Trust cares for which are always free access


About the National Trust Nature Childhood Report:

* Statistics from Natural England (2009) Childhood and Nature: a survey on changing relationships with nature across generations. http://www.naturalengland.org.uk/Images/Childhood%20and%20Nature%20Survey_tcm6-10515.pdf

And Play England: August 2011 (a third have never climbed a tree and one in ten can’t ride a bike)

The Trust has launched a two-month inquiry taking evidence from leading experts and the public to look at how we can reconnect this and future generations of children with the natural world.

The National Trust is working alongside Arla, the NHS Sustainable Development Unit and film-makers Green Lions, to organise a summit this summer to bring together a range of experts to develop a roadmap for reconnecting children and nature.

There are many ways that people can get involved in the inquiry. More information about the inquiry can be found at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/naturalchildhood including details of how to contribute to the inquiry.

There will also be a twitter feed @outdoor_nation, where we will be using the hashtag #naturalchildhood to keep the debate and ideas flowing and an email address outdoor.nation@nationaltrust.org.uk. The inquiry will close on 25 May 2012.


National Trust comment on the ‘Give it back, George’ campaign

A National Trust spokesman said: “It’s clear that these proposals could have an impact on the charitable sector and need a serious re-think. On one hand the Government is keen to encourage philanthropic giving, but, on the other, these proposals seem to work against that.

“The National Trust has several major donors but they, like the hundreds of thousands of people who donate small amounts to our appeals every year, are motivated by the cause they give to.”

Full campaign info is at: http://giveitbackgeorge.org/