What's '50 things' all about?

Child building a woodland den

There’s a reason birdsong, rainfall and crashing waves are some of our favourite sounds. Nature makes us happy. We know that nature is good for our wellbeing and there’s plenty of evidence to back this up.

And it’s not just for adults; children benefit from exploring nature too. The feeling of a snail’s smooth shell, the smell of damp seaweed and the sound of sticks splashing in a river – it’s moments like this that help children grow and connect with their natural world. That’s why we’ve created our '50 things to do before you’re 11¾'. 

Kids need nature and nature needs kids

We’ve created our list of ‘50 things’ to encourage families to play in nature together and build an enduring connection with wildlife. We want children to explore their senses in the wild, care for plants and creatures, and reflect on their feelings in different landscapes.

It’s not just a case of getting outdoors or learning the names of different birds – we want children to really explore the hooks, nooks and knobbles of nature in all different seasons, and build special memories to last. Research tells us these experiences of connecting with nature boost children’s physical, social and mental development. And it’s lots of fun too.

But it’s not just children and adults that benefit from nature. When we build a connection with nature, we’re more likely to care for it in return. This means children who explore and enjoy nature are more likely to look after it, stand up for it and take action to protect it as they grow older.

" No one will protect what they don’t care about, and no one will care about what they have never experienced."
- Sir David Attenborough

The loss of nature words 

What do you think of when you hear the words: tweet, web, stream, cloud? Do you think of birds, spiders, rivers and skies? Or messaging, data and live video? A new study we’ve commissioned has revealed that our language for the natural world is being lost or overtaken by uses that refer to digital technology, especially among younger generations. 

Evidence from over 25 years shows how the nature-related use of common nature words, such as cloud, net and stream, has fallen dramatically over the last 20 years. The study looked at the use of these words in the UK from the 1990s to 2010s. Instead of being connected with nature, these words are now associated with the digital world. 


Speaking nature's language

We asked kids what they associate with certain nature words. Watch this video to hear their thoughts and see them rediscover the true meanings of these words.

Top results from the study

  • Today only 1 per cent of uses of the word ‘tweet’ relates to birds, with 99 per cent used in a non-nature context
  • Only 7 per cent of the use of ‘web’ refers to spiders
  • In the 1990s, 10 per cent of mentions of ‘stream’ meant ‘a little river’ versus only 36 per cent today.
  • Nature usage of ‘cloud’ is down nearly a quarter in three decades.  

Why before 11¾?

This change in nature language is affecting children too. We’ve learned that nature connection often drops-off when children approach their teenage years. A 2019 YouGov study of 5 – 12-year olds observed that children start to switch away from nature meanings in their language from as young as ten years old. 

But research also tells us that if you can get children engaged in something before they’re 12 years old, then they’re more likely to pick it up again and carry it on as a habit throughout their later life.

We hope that by engaging children in nature during this early age of fascination and wonder, they will continue to discover and explore nature in their adult years. So, it’s '50 things to do before you’re 11¾', but they’re activities that can be enjoyed by the whole family – because you’re never too old to enjoy winning at pooh sticks.

An invitation to play

It’s nice to be asked, isn’t it? We’ve designed our ‘50 things to do before you’re 11¾’ so everyone feels invited to play and explore nature. There’s plenty of space to play at the places we look after. But many of the activities on the list can also be done throughout the seasons in your own garden or local park too.

Whether you’re getting to know a tree, exploring a rockpool or camping in the great outdoors, we hope that our ‘50 things’ will bring you closer to nature and each other.

Children having a snail race on the pavement at a National Trust site.

‘50 things to do before you're 11¾’ 

Get up close and personal with nature by trying '50 things to do before you're 11¾'. Whether it's making friends with a bug or stargazing, there's loads to do, wherever you are.