Helen Meech, Assistant Director, Outdoors and Nature Engagement at the National Trust, highlights the importance of getting your children outside and enjoying nature during Half Term.
I’ve got a theory that everyone’s born wild. Deep down, I reckon everyone likes being outdoors.
And nobody likes being outdoors more than children.
My two year old daughter, Ella, recently started going to a forest school. On her first day Ella was hesitant. She didn’t want to join in – didn’t want to get her hands muddy.
But by the end of the session she wouldn’t leave. Mud plastered on her face, her bottom lip quivering, she huffed, ‘NO MUMMY. MORE FOREST’.
Ella’s not an unusual child. I think every child has an innate love for playing in, learning about and exploring nature and the outdoors.
Through 50 things to do before you’re 11¾ the National Trust has been trying to stimulate and grow children’s innate interest in the outdoors and love for nature.
Very simply, it’s a collection of 50 mini-adventures that get children outside. The list has everything: from climbing a tree and swimming in the see through to horse riding, geocaching and looking for crazy creatures in a rockpool. Over 90,000 children have logged their adventures on the 50 things to do before you’re 11¾ website and app.
Our places are bringing the 50 things to life this half term with a fantastic array of family events and activities (check below for a taster).
But the 50 things to do before you’re 11¾ are meant to be things you can do anywhere – not just at a National Trust place.
That’s vitally important because the problem we’re trying to help solve with 50 things is a lot bigger than the National Trust can hope to deal with alone.
Two years ago our Natural Childhood report painted a bleak picture of children become more and more disconnected from nature and the outdoors. The number of kids who regularly go to their local ‘patch of nature’ has halved in a generation. 9 in 10 kids can spot a Dalek when they see one. Yet a third of kids can’t identify a Magpie.
And as children’s contact with nature is slowly exterminated, they’re getting unhealthier, unhappier and less able to take risks.
Spending time in nature is good for children. It helps in making them happier, healthier, more curious and committed to their local environment.
We know that 50 things won’t fix children’s disconnection from nature alone. It’s why we’ve helped set up the Wild Network, a collective of people and organisations committed to joining forces to get children back to the wild.
50 things is our big contribution.
It’s an attempt not only to connect this generation of children with nature – but to connect the next generation of adults, as well.
But it’s also relevant to the current crop of grown-ups.
50 things to do before you’re 11¾ is as much about giving families the permission, confidence and tools to have a wild time outdoors as it is about connecting children with nature. It’s about re-invigorating adults love for the outdoors.
Because being outdoors – whether its bird watching, gardening, cycling or bug hunting – is something that everyone can enjoy.
But don’t take our word for it. Give nature a go at one of our wild half term events. Get the full list and check what’s on near you at the National Trust website.
Our top 6 picks of places to visit this Half Term
Mount Stewart, County Down
Festival of Light, 31 October, 6pm – 10pm
A Magical event not to be missed is returning for a Halloween spellbinding special at Mount Stewart as the woodlands come alive with lights and music. Bring the whole family for an unforgettable, fairy-tale experience with an illuminated lake walk and log fires in the tipis.
Price: Adult £10, Child £7.50 (5-17 years), Family £30 (2 adults and 2 children) (booking essential)
For more information, please call 0844 249 1895
Plas yn Rhiw, Gwynedd
Autumn Adventures, 25 October, 11am – 3pm
Have an autumn adventure at Plas yn Rhiw, a manor house that has views from the gardens across Cardigan Bay. Play Halloween games, explore the woodland and complete some of your ’50 things’ activities by creating wild art and building a home for a wild creature – there’s plenty to do.
For more information, please call 01758 780 219
New Forest Northern Commons, Hampshire
Forest Play, 28 October, 10.30am – 1pm
Spend time in the New Forest with our rangers for a day of lighting campfires, building dens and woodland craft. Foxbury, near East Wellow, is a safe enclosure with space to play and learn and the basecamp is the ideal place for wild play, with rustic seating and a readymade fire pit perfect for marshmallow toasting and hot drinks. Our rangers will show you the best ways to build and light a fire, help build dens, plus there’ll be woodland craft activities.
Price: Adult £2.50, Child £5 (booking essential)
For more information, please call 01794 344020
Eyam Hall and Craft Centre, Derbyshire
Plant it, grow it, eat it, 25 – 26 October, 11am – 3pm
Join the gardeners to harvest the apples and start to prepare the ground for more crops with number 41 on the list: Plant it, grow it and eat it. Lend a hand and plant your own seeds ready to harvest early next year and see how tall they can grow.
Price: £3 (includes garden and craft activities) Normal admission fee applies
For more information, please call 01433 639565
50 Things activity – Hold a scary beast with our bug specialist, 29 October, 11am – 12pm & 1pm – 2pm
Tick off number 30 on your ’50 things’ list at this Victorian Gothic Revival house just outside of Bristol. A local bug specialist will be visiting Tyntesfield with a variety of his creepy crawlies for you to see and touch. Learn about what they eat, where they live and even try holding one if you dare.
Price: £3 (booking essential) Normal admission fee applies
For more information, please call 01275 461900 ext.138
Allen Banks and Staward Gorge, Northumberland
Activity Day, 29 October, 10am – 2pm
Join the Hadrian’s Wall Country Group team as they host a day of fun filled activities for all the family. Join in with pond dipping, mini beast hunts, bush craft, geocaching and much more – it’s the perfect way to work through your ’50 Things to do before you’re 11 3/4′ list.
For more information, please call 01434 321888