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