IN THE AGE OF iPads, games consoles and mobile phones children have all kinds of entertainment at their fingertips.
But with a new survey warning that today’s youngsters are spending just half the time playing outside that their parents did as children, the National Trust is launching a new drive to get them to reconnect with nature.
And they insist the only handheld device a child needs to unlock their imagination is the humble stick.
While more than four-fifths of the parents who were questioned for the poll thought it was important their children learned to use technology, nine out of 10 would also prefer them to spend more of their childhood outdoors developing a connection with nature.
Almost all (96 per cent) of the 1,001 parents with children aged between four and 14 quizzed for the National Trust thought that it was important their youngsters had a connection with nature and thought playing outdoors was important for their development.
A further 87 per cent would welcome more technology designed to encourage their child to engage with nature and outdoor play.
The research found on average children were playing outside for just over four hours a week, compared to the 8.2 hours a week when the adults questioned were children.
As part of the campaign the Trust has a list of 50 things for children to do before they turn 11 and three-quarters to get them engaging with the outdoors, including climbing a tree, building a den, playing pooh sticks, hunting for bugs and going stargazing. And it is championing a stick as the “must have” toy to inspire children’s imaginations and creative play as they head outdoors.
Musician and Game Of Thrones star Raleigh Ritchie, who plays Grey Worm in the hit television series, has teamed up with the National Trust to help the organisation to promote their new campaign.
The actor has written a rap hailing the things children can do and find outside, such as sticks, which can be anything from a magic wand to an archery bow. He said: “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 all 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.”
Child psychologist Dr Sam Wass said being outside encouraged children to play in a very different way from being inside with computers or TV, making them use their imagination and creativity much more. He said: “Imagination and creativity are vital life skills that will help children stay attuned to nature and to the environment throughout their adult lives.
“Children who learn to love nature at an early age will always enjoy being outdoors, throughout the rest of their lives.”
National Trust ranger Ed Anderson said: “This summer, we want to inspire kids and families all over the country to get outdoors, grab their perfect stick and kick start their story with nature.
“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.
“We hope instilling a love for nature in our children now will help us encourage them to continue to protect the beauty of the great outdoors for years and generations to come.”
The 50 things you must do before you turn 11¾, according to the National Trust
1. Climb a tree
2. Roll down a really big hill
3. Camp out in the wild
4. Build a den
5. Skim a stone
6. Run around in the rain
7. Fly a kite
8. Catch a fish with a net
9. Eat an apple straight from a tree
10. Play conkers
11. Go on a really long bike ride
12. Make a trail with sticks
13. Make a mud pie
14. Dam a stream
15. Play in the snow
16. Make a daisy chain
17. Set up a snail race
18. Create some wild art
19. Play pooh sticks
20. Jump over waves
21. Pick blackberries growing in the wild
22. Explore inside a tree
23. Visit a farm
24. Go on a walk barefoot
25. Make a grass trumpet
26. Hunt for fossils and bones
27. Go stargazing
28. Climb a huge hill
29. Explore a cave
30. Hold a scary beast
31. Hunt for bugs
32. Find some frogspawn
33. Catch a falling leaf
34. Track wild animals
35. Discover what’s in a pond
36. Make a home for a wild animal
37. Check out the crazy creatures in a rock pool
38. Bring up a butterfly
39. Catch a crab
40. Go on a nature walk at night
41. Plant it, grow it, eat it
42. Go swimming in the sea
43. Build a raft
44. Go bird watching
45. Find your way with a map and compass
46. Try rock climbing
47. Cook on a campfire
48. Learn to ride a horse
49. Find a geocache
50. Canoe down a river