50 things to do before you’re 11¾!


How adventurous was your childhood?

Was every day an action packed bonanza of thrills and spills, exciting expeditions into caves, lakes, rivers, forests? Did you catch frogs? Make dens? Build dams across streams? Climb trees? Play outside until it was too dark to see without a torch? Or did you spend too much time indoors, watching TV, playing video games and avoiding the evil out-door monster?

Take a good look at the image above. Don’t worry if you can’t read the text, you’ll find the list further down, along with a little game!

The article of the same name as this post found on the Daily Mail website caught my attention for a simple reason: I get the feeling kids today don’t understand (and probably never will) what being OUTSIDE really means.

Modern life seems hell-bent on anchoring people in place, more often than not inside. A bit like the wobbly people glued to their floaty chairs in Wall-E. Computers, games machines, phones, tablets – you name it, they’re not really made to encourage physical adventure are they?

And before anyone starts on about APPS that promote things like nature, walking, hiking, outdoor pursuits and all that, do you honestly believe that for the average kid they can have more pull compared to Angry Birds, Facebook or slouching in front of the goggle box with a gazillion HDBTRL (High Definition Better Than Real Life!) channels to choose from?

Humans are creatures of habit, but more importantly most of us are like water – we’ll choose the path of least resistance.

Xbox V Life.

We’ve had 2 beautiful sunny and warm days here in Cambridge. Yesterday I overheard a familiar conversation in a supermarket between a mother and her son, who I reckon was around 9 or 10 years old. It went something like this:

Son: “When are we going home?”
Mum: “In a bit. After we’ve done the shopping.”
Son: Hand in his pockets, head down. “When?”
Mum: “Soon honey.”
Son: “Now?”
Mum: Laughing but already looking stressed. “Not yet. Look. Mini burgers. We said we’d have a barbecue today didn’t we?”
Son: “Do we have to?”
Mum: “It’s nice and sunny. You like barbecue burgers.”
Son: “Like from McDonald’s?”
Mum: “Sort of. But better.”
Son: Perking up. “Are we going to the drive-thru?”
Mum: Testing the firmness of the burger buns. “Not today honey.”
Son: Absently kicking a stand of DVD’s. “Oh.”
Mum: “Besides we can’t be too long. Didn’t you say you wanted to play with Jack (sounded liked Jack) later?”
Son: “Yeah. We are.”
Mum: “I bet he’d like a barbecued burger.”
Son: “His Mum cooks his dinner.”
Mum: Looking confused. “So he’s not having dinner with us then?”
Son: Staring at his Mum in exasperation. “How can he do that?”

It’s at this point I lose interest in the cheese counter and listen intently to the conversation, knowing where the Son is coming from and wanting the Mum to understand they have their wires crossed.

Mum: “When he comes to play?”
Son: Now looking angry as if his Mum is trying to wind him up on purpose. “Never said he was.”
Mum: “I didn’t say you could go to his. His Mum never said anything to me.”
Son: “I know.”
Mum: “But…”
Son: “We’re playing FIFA.” Son waits for the penny to drop. “On Xbox.”
Mum: “Oh. So he’s not coming to ours then?”
Son: Stopped kicking the DVD stand. Picks up a DVD, Life of Pi. “Can I get this?”
Mum: “Not now. I thought it would be nice to have a barbecue. You said the other day you wanted to wear that funny chefs hat I got your Dad got for Christmas. You could flip the burgers.”
Son: “Yeah but not today. Please can I get this?”
Mum: “No. Put it back.”
Son: Big sigh. Puts DVD back on the stand.
Mum: “Maybe Jack can come the weekend then. If the weather’s nice we can have a barbecue. Maybe put up the tent you got for your birthday.”
Son: Vague interest. “Where?”

I get the impression he wasn’t overly thrilled with a present that couldn’t be inserted into his beloved Xbox or readily “Liked” on Facebook.

Mum: “In the back garden. Like a mini camp out.”
Son: Considers the idea. “But then we won’t get to play FIFA.”
Mum: “I’m sure you can live without your Xbox for a few hours.”
Son: “Could Dad put the TV in the tent?”
Mum: Laughing. “No. That would be silly.”
Son: Angry. “Why?”
Mum: Floundering for a good answer. “Because…it’s camping.”
Son: “So?”
Mum: “It’s supposed to be like an adventure.”
Son: Hands back in pockets, head down. “Doesn’t sound like no adventure if I don’t have my Xbox.”
Mum: Now losing her temper. “There’s more to life than your (I’m sure she wanted to say “…fucking…”) Xbox.”
Son: Puzzled. “Like what?”
Mum: “Like being outside. Having an adventure. Watching the stars. All sorts.”
Son: “It’s cold outside.”
Mum: “Not when it’s sunny.”
Son: “At night it is.”
Mum: “When the Summer comes it’ll be lovely at night. Like in July and August.”
Son: “Till then can I stay in my room and play FIFA?”
Mum: Opens her mouth but can’t seem to find the words.
Son: “When are we going home?”
Mum: “Soon.”

Son 1 – 0 Mum?

The conversation tails off around here as the Mum leads her Son away. And whilst I was smiling at the conversation I did feel a bit sad for both the Mum and the Son. I sympathise with her efforts to lure her kid away from any sort of screen and enjoy that part of life beyond the comfy confines of the great indoors. As for the Son, I felt sorry for him because he doesn’t know how much he’s missing. The same goes for a great number of kids these days, at least that’s how it seems from my bubble.

It’s not a nice feeling, knowing so many kids will grow up never having experienced the joy of doing the things on the list at the top of this post. It’s as if part of the story of humans is coming to an end. As if our evolutionary history is closing the cover on a book that has so many experiences and memories never to be fulfilled.

Instead they’ll be replaced with online high scores, Facebook Likes, Friends made with people never met in person, the same old texts LOL’d at over and over again and endless YouTube viral clips watched simply because you have to keep up with your mates or you can’t join in with the conversation.

It’s not really the same is it?

If you’re not online you’re a nobody.

The online world has now merged with that of real life. It happened without any big bang or sudden flash. It sort of crept up quietly and slipped into our lives.

It’s like that strange cat that lurks in your back garden, seemingly a stray. You feed it a couple of times out of pity. It comes back more frequently, not one to pass up some free chow. And when you start to question how you both became such good pals, you’ve bought it a collar, bowl, fluffy toy to chase and it’s sleeping on your bed.

Funny thing is that you’d never considered buying a cat, but now you’ve got one you don’t want to get rid of it. You couldn’t do it. Both lives are entwined now.

Exactly how our online digital lives are entwined with our real ones.

The problem is that for some there might never be a time where there wasn’t a cat around. The cat has been there since you can remember. And now you have no idea what feels like to be without the cat. For some the cat IS the adventure, whereas those who remember a time before the cat also know there’s a lot more to life than a cat – the cat in this strangely twisted metaphor is the online world.

Now, who’s been on an adventure?

Okay, dear blog reader, time to find out how adventurous you’ve been! Here’s the list for you to check. How many can you tick? Be honest!

  1. Climb a tree.
  2. Roll down a 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 stick trail.
  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 in the wild.
  22. Explore inside a tree.
  23. Visit a farm.
  24. Go on a walk barefoot.
  25. Make a grass trumpet – that squeaky sound you get from blowing on a blade of grass between your thumbs.
  26. Hunt for fossils and bones.
  27. Go star-gazing.
  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 down wild animals.
  35. Discover what’s in a pond.
  36. Make a home for a wild animal.
  37. Check out 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 camp fire.
  48. Learn to ride a horse.
  49. Find a geocache (finding hidden containers using GPS technology)
  50. Canoe down a river.

What’s your score?

1 – 10 = You were a born hermit. The indoor life suited you fine.

Up to 20 = You were sort of keen but in a “because I had to” kind of way.

Up to 30 = You’ve explored enough to know what the deal is with the great outdoors without missing too much telly.

Up to 40 = You wish you’d had more time and opportunities to fully embrace every adventure.

Up to 50 = You lived life! Congratulations!

47 isn’t bad, right?

Personally I scored 47 and all before I was 11¾!

# 30 – We don’t have that many scary beasts in the UK, other than in zoo’s, but I would’ve if I could’ve.

# 48 – I’ve never learnt to ride a horse because I don’t like them very much, though after the recent horse meat scandal I know they taste pretty good.

# 49 – I didn’t know what a geocache was until today.

I reckon there’s still time to tick off those missing 3 things. If you scored pretty low then maybe you should ask yourself why you missed out on some of life’s simple pleasures.

More to the point, why not get out there and put some joy into your life!

Oh, and by the way I’m well aware of the irony of being stuck indoors writing this instead of being out there climbing mountains, building dens and rolling down hills. But then I’m not 11¾ and can slouch in my chair with an air of smugness, knowing I achieved a decent score.

3 thoughts on “50 things to do before you’re 11¾!

  1. My score was also around 47 or so. I’m not exactly sure because I had a few issues about specific items…

    I’ve never head of the games Conkers or Pooh Sticks, so I wasn’t sure if I’d played a variation called something different.

    I’ve never made a daisy chain, but I’ve made a dandelion chain, so I gave myself 1/2 credit.

    I never swam in the sea until I was much older, since Michigan is so far from salt water and I didn’t visit the coast until after I was married. But I have swam in all 5 Great Lakes. 1/2 credit again.

    I’ve never caught a crab (again, Michigan being a fresh water state) but I caught plenty of crayfish (crawdads) so I figured that should count as 1 credit.

    As far as finding my way with a map and compass, when I was a kid we never had maps of the places we explored, so I learned to navigate by landmarks, etc. 1/2 credit.

    Also, GPS technology (and the sport of locating Geocaches) wasn’t invented until I was much older, so I couldn’t even count that as a possibility.

    This was a fun activity! Glad to see my childhood stacked up well!

    1. Ah, conkers, thats the game where you go climbing Horse Chestnut trees for the spikey green balls, crack em open, drill a hole in the seed thingy inside, tie them to the end of a piece of string (or a shoe lace when I was at school) and dangle them in front of you. Then you take turns aiming and trying to hit your opponents conker. The winner is the one left with a conker still clinging to the string!

      I reckon a dandelion chain is a worthy full mark there! And swimming in all 5 great lakes is certainly something of an achievement I’d say! It does seem that the list of things is biased somewhat toward the UK so crawdad catching works just as well.

      GPS technology wasn’t around when I was a young nipper so I couldn’t do that either. Glad to see I’m not the only one who scored pretty high!

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