365 Days of Writing – Day 123 – 50 Things to do before…

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The National Trust in Britain, concerned that kids are spending too much time in front of a computer screen and not enough time outside getting exercise, created a list of activities. The list is called “50 things to do before you’re 11 and 3/4.” Very Harry Potter.

The good news is that they underestimated the enthusiasm of children who quickly ran through those fifty forcing the Trust to go to their enemy, the computer/social media, to get ideas for additional activities.

I love some of the activities, for example – “#9 -eat an apple straight from a tree” and “#33 -catch a falling leaf.” Others leave me scratching my head. I have no idea what it means to “#19 -play pooh sticks” or “#10 – play conkers.” Must be something exclusively English, like bubble and squeak. I love the English but I don’t always understand them. For instance, why would anyone want to eat something called bubble and squeak? I’m obviously not on their same wavelength. I would hesitate to wear a jumper or expect to descend using a lift – things the Brits do daily.

But back to the 50 things. The terrain and climate in England must be more diverse than I realized if children are supposed to be able to both “#20 – jump over waves” and “#15 – play in the snow.” Bit of a challenge if you live in the Midlands to jump over waves but maybe I’m being too literal.

As a parent I would have an issue with “#28 -climb a huge hill”, “#1 -climb a tree” or “#29 -explore a cave.” How many kids had to be rescued from the tops of trees or the dark interior of caves or been injured descending a huge hill? “#34 -Track wild animals” is another that has me wondering, who made up this list? I’ve always told children to avoid wild animals. Maybe “get a rabies shot” needs to be on the list too.

Then there are some things which require families to have a considerable amount of discretionary income. Do they know how much it costs to “#48 -learn to ride a horse” and what if the child decided they liked it? Horses are a very expensive hobby.

I’m giving the Trust a hard time but I admire the effort. They’d never be able to publish such a list in the United States. The lawyers would go crazy. Imagine the liability! What if someone drowned while fulfilling “#42 – go swimming in the sea!”

I do have a fundamental problem with the list. I think we need to trust kids to figure out how to have a good time without a series of boxes to check off.

Where’s the imagination? Where’s the sense of discovery and independence? That’s what we need to give our kids. Playing outside should be fun, not a mini Survivor episode.

If you want to see the entire list go to: https://www.50things.org.uk/media/1235645/English%20A4%20list%20poster%20final.pdf

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