Life is sometimes unfair. Life doesn’t always go your way. You don’t always get what you want.

Those are the truths that we have to learn from a very young age. They are also those of which we are reminded more often than I deem necessary. But there is no doubt that they cannot be avoided.

I see Katie’s frustration with the world on almost a daily basis as she struggles with not getting her way. She has to get out of bed. Wear clothes. Eat nutritious food. Not have sweets on a daily basis. It’s tough from her perspective.

But it’s times like these that I’m reminded of the importance of developing resilience. Kids need to be equipped with the skills to be able to cope when things don’t go to plan. They do need to get up when they’ve fallen and carry on.

Whilst I’m not about to advocate not comforting children when they’re upset. I do think it’s important for children to struggle and to be able to overcome problems themselves. I would argue that they are far more likely to gain a sense of achievement by not being helped every step of the way.

I’m also not about to propose that children should be out trying to dodge traffic. I do think however, we’re more likely to do harm by continually bubble wrapping them. Or shouting out warnings to be careful.

In my mind, children are going to be in situations where they need resilience. They may find school work difficult. Perhaps they may not get the part in the school play. They may not get invited to the birthday party. As parents, we can’t always magic those problems away and our kids need to be able to cope.

My husband and I, realised his more than ever when Ben started school (many years ago) and his teachers were frustrated at how dependent he was. If he fell down in the playground we would still be hearing about it a week later. He couldn’t start tasks or actually get on with things by himself. By trying to be there for him and protect him from struggles, we had in fact created them.

It’s for that reason I’m hugely grateful that we discovered the National Trust  scheme for children:

50 things to do before you’re 11 and 3/4s.

Whilst on holiday in Devon we discovered this whole list of things that Ben had not done by the age of 7. He had never climbed a tree, played out in the rain, made mud pies… the list went on.

I guess I had thought that all kids did these things. But then I realised we didn’t have a garden with a mud patch. There were no trees to climb. Ben had never been left in such an area to explore himself and it hadn’t been on our agenda. Life wasn’t quite the same as it once had been – and it had an impact.

At first we thought it just looked like a fun list of things that kids typically would have done. But as we began to work through the list with Ben it became apparent how valuable it truly was.

I can vividly remember standing at the foot of a tree and telling Ben he could climb it. He did not have a clue. Eventually I boosted him up the thing and told him he would have to climb down it if he wanted to go home that day. His sense of joy and achievement when he did finally make it down was immense.

Playing out in the rain

That summer saw him ticking task after task off the list. He went horse riding, tipped mud over his head in the garden, and swam in the sea. He set off geocaching, and flew a kite. All in all, he discovered a great love for the outdoors that remains to this day.

Mud pie creation/bathing in mud!

More important than all of that, he discovered he could do all of these things himself with minimal help. Some of the things were difficult. Some of the were terrifying for him. But all of them were achievable. On his return to school that Autumn his teacher noted the change. He was far more ready to take risks, to put his hand up and dare to try on his own merits.

Attempting to fly kite without my wind. Queue LOTS of running.

Ben does not always succeed. He still finds school very difficult. But when he falls off his skateboard, he gets up. He keeps trying at school and finds positives. I can say with total confidence that facilitating him to complete the challenge is the best thing we have done for his education. More over, his happiness and self-esteem increased tenfold – which is more important than anything.

Wildlife sculpture

Although I have learned my lesson to an extent about not being overly protective, I still see it as a valuable scheme. I have workbooks for both Katie and Thomas to complete in the future. The activities remind us to go on adventures. To discover to places and to try different things. I cannot wait to watch them discover the outdoors as they grow.

I recently flew a kite with Katie in our front garden; and watched as she worked out how the wind blew. She pointed out the colours of the kite against the sky and problem solved as it got stuck in a tree! Although she is a bit too little to do this entirely independently, I’m confident that she will be equipped to do this herself in years to come.

Whether your child lacks resilience or has bags of it, I could not recommend this scheme more highly. National Trust membership is not required and activities are entirely free. I hope that you can make memories as valuable as the ones we have.

14 thoughts on “Activities: 50 things to do”

  1. Wow, this has really made me think! I guess when we grow up we were outdoors a lot more? There weren’t many other distractions. My son is 3 but I’ll definitely be making sure he ticks these things off as he gets older. Mud pies he’s definitely a pro at making already aha. Great post x

    1. I had a much bigger garden growing up that had trees, loads of mud, a couple of ponds etc. I just never had really stopped to think. Ben hadn’t really discovered things like frogspawn or newts before but of course, I saw it every year growing up. I really do think it’s a great scheme.

  2. All my memories of growing up were running around playing games. I love to get my youngest kids out every night for about 20 minutes running around, it makes them feel loads better after being sat around all day at school. The kite flying looks like fun 🙂

  3. I love that National Trust list of things to do. We discovered it while on holiday in the Lake District years ago and i realised there were loads of things on it I hadn’t yet done! Must remedy that. 🙂

    1. We kept a record in their journal thing – they do a free paper back version but I’m glad we spent a bit on the hardback one. They’ve relaunched the book since Ben got his and I would say it’s even more kid friendly.

  4. I love this post! It’s so important to let our kids learn by mistakes and by challenging themselves. I have to remind myself of this quite a lot as I have a 21 year old and I need to remember to step away and not be tempted to interfere with her decisions.

  5. We’ve really enjoyed working through the different tasks and have made all kinds of memories. It’s not just a case of abandoning them as obviously things have to be organised etc. but getting to observe has been amazing too! x

  6. I love the NT 50 things kids can do, it’s so good to get kids out and about, messy, muddy and stuck up a tree, so much better than being plugged into a screen. So you get a scratch and a scrape it’s all part of growing up!

    1. Totally agree. I remember Ben being utterly gobsmacked when I told him to get out in the rain as he would ‘get wet.’ Had to point out that skin is waterproof and he could just get in the shower afterwards if he was that cold! It was July, huge blob like rain – utter bliss!

  7. Have to agree with you on building resilience – although I find it very hard with my little girl – I want to fix everything and make her happy straightaway. But of course -our aim as parents is to ensure she’s well rounded, not spoiled. Great list.

    1. I’d love it if I could ultimately solve all my kid’s problems but sadly, I’m not always going to be there. Resilience is so key – and like you say, being well rounded is a great outcome!

  8. You’ve made me think about how inclusive the list is. I don’t know the extent of your son’s disabilities but I wonder how many of the things he would be able to at least take part in. Thanks for reading and commenting.

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