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 firstname.lastname@example.org. The inquiry will close on 25 May 2012.