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Why it's time to get kids to branch out

Get kids off gadgets and playing in the great outdoors, say the National Trust and musician Raleigh Ritchie, who are championing the new initiative 50 Things To Do Before You're 11 and three quarters

By Lisa Salmon

In homes across the country, children rely on electronic gadgets to get them through the potential boredom of the long summer holidays. But the National Trust is urging kids to put down their gadgets and pick up a much more versatile tool - a stick.

Research for the conservation charity found that children today spend half as much time playing outdoors as their parents did - just over four hours a week, compared to 8.2 hours a week for parents when they were younger.

Yet 90% of parents want their children to develop a better relationship with nature and believe this to be a priority over using technology. And 84% of mums and dads believe the stick is the perfect catalyst for inspiring their children's creative urges.


Indeed, the humble stick is one of the key implements in the charity's new 50 Things To Do Before You're 11 and three quarters initiative, to encourage families to get out and enjoy nature over the summer and beyond.

"This summer, we want to inspire kids and families to get outdoors, grab their perfect stick and kick-start their story with nature," says National Trust ranger Ed Anderson.

"With so many adventures to be had right on your doorstep, there's no better way to start a meaningful relationship with the natural world. With the natural environment under pressure, we hope instilling a love for nature in our children now will help encourage them to continue to protect the beauty of the great outdoors for generations to come."

Ideas for making the most of sticks include building dams and dens, playing pooh sticks, laying a trail for others to follow, or using them to help make mud pies.


The National Trust, which aims to protect and provide access to the outdoors and special places, has partnered with musician Raleigh Ritchie to help celebrate the stick and encourage families to get outdoors this summer.

Ritchie, aka Jacob Anderson, who also plays Grey Worm in Game Of Thrones, has penned an exclusive rap about sticks.

He says: "For some people, a stick is just a stick. However, I want to encourage young people to see that actually the possibilities are endless. It can be a pen, a sword, a witch's broom, a dragon's bone ... anything!

"That's what childhood should be about - getting outdoors and going on adventures, using your imagination to customise the world you see and feeding that appetite for fresh air and fun."

He adds: "That's why the 50 Things To Do Before You're 11 And Three Quarters campaign really resonated with me. We're all big kids at heart, and it's never too late to have some fun and start your story with nature."


Child developmental psychologist Dr Sam Wass explains that being outdoors with space to run around benefits all children.

"One of the main benefits is that it encourages children to play in a very different way - they have to use their imagination, and creativity, much more than they do when they're indoors watching screen media.

"Imagination and creativity are vital life skills that will help children stay tuned to nature and the environment throughout their adult lives.

"Children who learn to love nature at an early age will always enjoy being outdoors."

n For more on 50 Things To Do Before You're 11 And Three Quarters, visit n To view the rap and video created with Raleigh Ritchie, visit

Things to do before 11 and three quarters

  •  Roll down a really big hill
  • Camp out in the wild
  • Catch a fish with a net
  • Set up a snail race
  • Pick wild blackberries
  • Go on a walk, barefoot
  • Hunt for fossils and bones
  • Explore a cave
  •  Track wild animals
  • Bring up a butterfly
  •  Plant it, grow it, eat it
  • Go swimming in the sea
  • Build a raft
  • Find your way with a map and compass
  •  Cook on a camp fire
  • Find a geocache
  • Canoe down a river

Belfast Telegraph


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