The National Trust's 50 things to do … are we all going mad?

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Last week the news was full of the new list from The National Trust; 50 things to do before you are 11 3/4 years old. The media responded with  plenty of “Signs of the Times” doom and gloom about how the Security Services are not allowed to do most of the list due to Health and Safety legislation.

Well do you know what? Both the National Trust list and the Security Services drive me totally MAD! It seems as if nobody has any common sense anymore. Naturally I support the National Trust’s PR campaign – which thinking parent wouldn’t? But equally, which thinking parent who might have the wherewithal to read the website in the first place, is not totally aware of the fact that children and nature go together like hand and glove? But let’s not get too hysterical … the NT press department are just trying to put in a word for their properties across the country and I think most of us could possibly all spend a little more time out and about than we do. Especially those of us with older children who have been brought up with computers and x-boxes, in the city.

Owning a dog, I am forced to get out each day. Equally if I don’t ‘exercise’ my children they get very grumpy (the dog just gets fat). So each day on the weekend or the holidays, come rain or shine, we get some fresh air. This often enforced time outside (in the case of my children, time away from a screen) is viewed as a sort of duty. They moan, cajole and beg to be allowed off. When this fails they start to bargain … “Well I’ll come for a walk if I can have a Starbucks Strawberry & Cream Frappuccino afterwards?” God knows what that is? But it costs a fortune and from my side the investment is worth a pretty long walk. So we do the walk, bicycle ride, mountain climb etc and then head for the nearest Starbucks to pay off the bribe. Thankfully in South Wales, where we are some of the holidays, there is no such thing and they settle for a ginger beer at the local pub.

If you make it through the hefty safety notices on the website you will reach the list. I have removed the ongoing H & S notices for each point – of course some of them are sensible but others make a mockery of common sense. But naturally I am sure you will all want to read them thoroughly – especially the advice on how to allow your child to throw some snow!

1. Climb a tree

2. Roll down a really big hill

3. Camp out in the wild

4. Build a den

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

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

21. Eat blackberries growing in the wild

22. Take a look inside a tree

23. Visit an island

26. Hunt for fossils and bones

28. Climb a huge hill

29. Get behind a waterfall

32. Find some frogspawn

33. Catch a butterfly in a net

35. Discover what’s in a pond

36. Call an owl

37. Check out the crazy creatures in a rock pool

39. Catch a crab

40. Go on a nature walk at night

42. Go wild swimming

43. Go rafting

44. Light a fire without matches

45. Find your way with a map and a compass

46. Try bouldering

47. Cook on a campfire

48. Try abseiling

49. Find a geocache

50. Canoe down a river

Read the full National Trust list at

Oh and just in case you think we are all really going mad – you are right, there appears to be no number 41, 38, 34, 31, 30, 27, 25, 24 ,20, 13, 6 or 5 – I wonder what happened to them? The Top 50 list is really a Top 38 list? Did a lawyer intervene and decide the suggestions were too contentious? I wish I knew what we are all missing? Might have been really fun.


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4 comments for “The National Trust's 50 things to do … are we all going mad?

  1. Victoria North
    26/04/2012 at 11:12 am

    You can see the full list if all 50 here:

  2. Helena
    26/04/2012 at 11:13 am

    Aye to that Laura. I completely agree. My slightly different take on the issue is here

    As to the missing numbers I too am consumed with curiosity – I do hope one of them was ‘whip all your clothes off and paddle in a fountain’ – both of my children have tried to do this at National Trust properties….

  3. Laura
    26/04/2012 at 12:11 pm

    I signed up just to see if I could find the missing activities from the list and managed to work them out!
    5. Skim a stone
    6. Run around in the rain
    13. Make a mudpie
    20. Make a mud slide
    24. Feel like you’re flying in the wind
    25. Make a grass trumpet
    27. Watch the sun wake up
    30. Feed a bird from your hand
    31. Hunt for bugs
    34. Track wild animals
    38. Bring up a butterfly
    41. Plant it, grow it, eat it

  4. 10/02/2013 at 5:18 pm

    It would be a mistake to take this list as a criticism of modern parenting in the UK, or to read it too prescriptively. It is providing a picture of ‘real childhood’ and it is well worth reminding ourselves that virtually every child of that age, in the correct context, would find most of the items on that list exciting and adventurous. It is up to us to make sure that we provide the context within which each child can experience and enjoy at least some of those activities.

    Modern life does tend to militate against this however and many children, for a wide variety of reasons, will not be able to tick of anywhere near as many of those items as they would like to.

    It is a sad fact that, whilst in France, and in the USA attendance on residential ‘summer camps’ for children is common, and the activities listed by the National Trust will play a significant part of their programme, in the UK such camps are virtually unknown, and it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that UK children are missing out on some very valuable educational experiences as a result.

    In the 1960s and 70s, a UK organisation called ‘Colony Holidays’ briefly popularised the French model of Summer Camps with great success, and children were encouraged by trained young adults, working as enthusiastic volunteers, to engage in the sort of activities promoted by the National Trust, and to leave behind the trappings of a modern society for just a short while.

    A much smaller organisation known as Active Training and Education is still doing this with their incredible ‘Superweeks’ and one can only hope that this timely campaign by the National Trust will help their cause.

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