Skip to content

What’s ‘50 things to do before you’re 11¾’ all about?

Close up of a little girl playing with a kite on the beach
Youngsters having fun on Wembury Beach, Wembury, Devon | © National Trust Images/Megan Taylor

The feeling of a snail’s smooth shell, the smell of damp seaweed or the sound of sticks splashing in a river: it’s moments like these that help children grow and connect with nature and the natural world. That’s why we’ve created ‘50 things to do before you’re 11¾’. Find out more about this project and the study underpinning it.

Kids need nature and nature needs kids

We created our ‘50 things’ list to encourage families to play in nature together and build an enduring connection with the natural world. We want kids 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 memories and experiences 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 kids and adults that benefit from this. 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

An invitation to play

We’ve designed our ‘50 things’ so everyone feels invited to play and explore nature. There’s plenty of space to do so 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 rock pool or camping in the great outdoors, we hope that our ‘50 things’ will bring you closer to nature and each other, and make memories that will last for years.

Family sat in the early evening June sun at Sheringham Park in Norfolk
Family enjoying the early evening sun in June at Sheringham Park | © National Trust Images/Rob Coleman

The loss of nature-related 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 online media?

A study we 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 the study, which looked at word usage in the UK from the 1990s to 2010s, shows how the nature-related use of words such as cloud, net and stream has fallen dramatically over the last two decades.

Key results from the study

  • Today only 1 per cent of uses of the word ‘tweet’ relates to birds, with the other 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 ‘little river’, versus only 36 per cent today.
  • Nature usage of ‘cloud’ is down nearly a quarter in three decades.

Video: speaking nature's language

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

Children looking through binoculars outside
Getting back to nature at Shugborough Estate, Staffordshire | © National Trust Images/Annapurna Mellor

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 drift 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 it 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.

Two girls exploring the woodland trails at Quarry Bank Mill, Cheshire

‘50 things to do before you're 11¾’

Have fun exploring nature and the great outdoors with our list of ‘50 things to do before you're 11¾’.

You might also be interested in

Children playing at Brimham Rocks, North Yorkshire

Top ‘50 things to do before you’re 11¾’ activities to do in winter 

Winter is the perfect time for many of the ‘50 things to do before you’re 11¾’ activities. Wrap up warm and go welly wandering, fossil hunting or stargazing.

Two children in coats and wellies walk along the path with umbrellas up towards East Riddlesden Hall, Yorkshire

Top ‘50 things to do before you’re 11¾’ activities to do when it’s raining 

We've compiled a selection of items from the ‘50 things to do before you’re 11¾’ list that are perfect for rainy days, so grab your waterproofs and get involved.

Visitors exploring the parkland in winter at Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden, Yorkshire

Safety information for ‘50 things to do before you’re 11¾’ activities 

To ensure you can complete your ‘50 things to do before you’re 11¾’ activities safely, here are some top tips to help you complete your challenges with safety in mind.

A family in the Lower Garden with tulips at Quarry Bank, Cheshire

Family-friendly places to visit 

There are lots of things to do when you visit one of our family-friendly places. Find inspiration for days out and discover a range of activities for everyone.