Posted tagged ‘outdoor nation’

Done the 50things to do before you’re 12 list?

April 19, 2012

On top, behind and going over a waterfall. Parents just look away.

This blog post is by Nicola Baird sharing ideas about thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children. What do children make of the National Trust’s 50 things to do before you’re 11 and three quarters challenge?  For more info about parenting see my book Homemade Kids, or for my website click here 

“I’ve hunted for treasure on a beach so many times!” I’m listening to Lola, 13, running through the National Trust’s 50 things to do before you are 11 and three quarters. She looks so happy remembering some of those activities as she shouts out – “I’ve made a mud pie! I’ve done wild swimming in the Lake District! I’ve built dens! I’ve danced in the rain; did that just a couple of days ago in the hail. My friend Freya taught me how to call like an owl. I’ve never caught a butterfly in a net, but that’s because I didn’t want to do, I know it can hurt their wings.”

Turns out she’d done 47 out of 50. Looks like our summer family challenge will be lighting a fire without matches (baffling though you tube is your friend, along with wirewool and a 9v battery!), going geo-caching (which is an organised form of treasure hunt) and get over our butterfly worries – possibly by raising caterpillars.

The list suggests so many fun ideas including damming streams, camping and looking into a pond. You might want to try it (with or without children):

  • Climb a tree
  • Roll down a really big hill
  • Camp out in the wild
  • Build a den
  • Skim a stone
  • Run around in the rain
  • Fly a kite
  • Catch a fish with a net
  • Eat an apple straight from a tree
  • Play conkers
  • Throw some snow
  • Hunt for treasure on the beach
  • Make a mud pie
  • Dam a stream
  • Go sledging
  • Bury someone in the sand
  • Set up a snail race
  • Balance on a fallen tree
  • Swing on a rope swing
  • Make a mud slide
  • Eat blackberries growing in the wild
  • Take a look inside a tree
  • Visit an island
  • Feel like you’re flying in the wind
  • Make a grass trumpet
  • Hunt for fossils and bones
  • Watch the sun wake up
  • Climb a huge hill
  • Get behind a waterfall
  • Feed a bird from your hand
  • Hunt for bugs
  • Find some frogspawn
  • Catch a butterfly in a net
  • Track wild animals
  • Discover what’s in a pond
  • Call an owl
  • Check out the crazy creatures in a rock pool
  • Bring up a butterfly
  • Catch a crab
  • Go on a nature walk at night
  • Plant it, grow it, eat it
  • Go wild swimming
  • Go rafting
  • Light a fire without matches
  • Find your way with a map and compass
  • Try bouldering
  • Cook on a campfire
  • Try abseiling
  • Find a geocache
  • Canoe down a river

To tick off your own list and info about the National Trust’s campaign see here.

Over to you
Makes me half want to imagine a list of 50 things you should have played with from a toy manufacturer – no doubt all linked to buying something. What about you – how did your children get on with this list?

Let them play – outdoors

March 31, 2012

OK, a picnic isn't roaming free - but it surely seeds the idea of a free range childhood.

This blog post is by Nicola Baird sharing ideas about thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children. All ideas that tend to encourage an outdoor childhood. For more info about parenting see my book Homemade Kids, or for my website click here 

There’s a new shocking report asking us to reflect on how we bring up kids. It’s picking up the concerns first identified by the US’s Richard Louv, who coined the term “Nature Defecit Disorder”. See here or his provocative books Last Child in the Woods or Nature Principle which uses the first book’s theme – nature defecit disorder – and applies it to unhappy adulthoods.

Now in the UK, the National Trust report finds that in just one generation:

  • Fewer than ten per cent of kids play in wild places; down from 50 per cent a generation ago
  • The roaming radius for kids has declined by 90 per cent in one generation (thirty years)
  • Three times as many children are taken to hospital each year after falling out of bed, as from falling out of trees
  • A 2008 study showed that half of all kids had been stopped from climbing trees, 20 per cent had been banned from playing conkers or games of tag

Seems that children are consequently losing the sort of skills everyone used to have:

  • One in three could not identify a magpie
  • Half could not tell the difference between a bee and a wasp
  • But nine out of 10 could recognise a Dalek.

It’s horrible to think how little our children and their friends know about the natural world. Obviously it’s not every child – today my 10 year old and I identified the first flowering cowslip in a flowerbed on the way to Crouch End. Not long after we saw the first suggestion of bloom on the hawthorn tree (loads of people confuse this with blackthorn although once you know, they really are very different). Apparently you can teach nature ID skills so long as you get the child before they’re 12. Rubbish really, I learnt to identify native British tree species only after going on a BTCV course as a 30something.

A dog walking friend told me last week she often asks in writers’ workshops “what’s the most dangerous thing you’ve done?” If my mum was playing this game she could tell the times she and her elder brother flattened themselves against the gale to edge around the lighthouse light, 15m or so up, right over the rocks and terrible tides of Strangford Lough. I cringe thinking about the danger my mum put herself in. But it meant she had no worries about letting me go out riding on a pony (who wasn’t great in traffic, had no brakes and was far too strong for me!)  from eight-years-old onwards. In contrast my workshop writer friend says some of the children accompanying parents in her sessions say they left the top off a pen overnight… Silly? Perhaps. Dangerous? No!

Without understanding risk and danger it is hard to make good judgement calls about what’s safe for either you, or your friends – or your (their) children. Or your career, say, or what level of undress you should post yourself in on Facebook

Getting back to nature. It could be resolved says report author TV’s Stephen Moss:

Let them be free-range kids
“We have all seen the headlines about the decline in children’s play in the outdoors.

“We all know the benefits being outdoors can bring, and as parents we want our children to spend more time outdoors than they do.

“But despite this overwhelming evidence and the different initiatives and schemes run by organisations across the UK, our kids are spending less and less time in the outdoors.

“The time to act is now, whilst we still have a generation of parents and grandparents who grew up outdoors and can pass on their experience and whilst there remains a determination to do something positive in this area.

“Organisations that have an interest in this area, whether working in our towns and cities or in the countryside, have to connect what they are doing and commit to a long-term approach that really makes a difference.”

What next?
The National Trust is planning a two month inquiry – so you can provide ideas, suggestions, or just follow what’s happening as a conversation. See:

More information about the inquiry, including details of how to contribute

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

More ideas
Try looking at the link if you want practical help letting kids Love Outdoor Play, here  - all sorts of ideas and organisations are linked to this fab group.


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