During a session at Pedagoo Hampshire 2017, Pete Sanderson, aka @LessonToolbox, mentioned a National Trust initiative that he had seen in action in a local school; 50 things to do before you are 11 and ¾. I managed to find a very useful poster which is at the header of this post.
It could be seen as a sadness that there seems to be a need to promote what was, in effect, a normal part of my own childhood; eating an apple from the tree or picking blackberries sometimes sustained us during periods of play. However, the potential of relatively simple activities to generate discussion through shared participation should never be underrated. It is possible to speculate that families may not promote these activities, perhaps seeing them as undemanding or uninteresting, or just not “fun” things to do.
In many ways, looking at the list, it encompasses many things that could be offered, with good supervision or support, to younger children. Unless they are introduced to going out and looking around them, with the guidance of an interested adult, it may well be that the trappings of their external world become nothing more than wallpaper, through being ignored, or not deepened sufficiently to register long enough to make a record.
Going for a walk in the local area can offer the basis for sketch maps for orientation and familiarity that eventually builds to independent and safe use of the area. Highlighting and talking about landmarks is a key element of this orientation. Going out in different weathers creates opportunities to discuss appropriate clothing, to keep warm, dry, cool etc. Or maybe, going out in the dark, considering the best colours to wear to be seen.
It’s all talk, before, during and after an experience. The talk can be descriptive, interrogative or speculative, but it forms an underpinning of future learning. Just knowing your left from right can be a useful bit of information. Everything is capable of being discussed, and, in many areas, to talk about mathematical ideas, shapes, money, mass, measures, as well as multiple opportunities for counting and using number in different ways. Comparative language, such as bigger, smaller, longer, shorter, heavier, lighter are all valuable conceptually and experientially.
Quality talk, pre-school, can be the difference between early success and an early feeling of failure, as children compare themselves to their peers.
If parents are concerned about taking their children out to discover, because they may feel that their own knowledge is lacking, joining local groups, through the libraries (if they still exist), or clubs through organisations like the NT, Wildlife Trusts and British Trust for Ornithology.
It may well be that parents need to let their hair down and rediscover their inner child. It’s autumn, so jump into, or kick around in a big pile of crunchy autumn leaves; collect conkers and have a (safe) battle; plant conkers, acorns and other tree seeds falling now in plastic bags of soil to germinate and pot them on in spring, develop a tree nursery; have a small bonfire/light the barbeque and cook outdoors together; bike ride together and picnic outdoors; make a den under a table with a sheet; cook together; paddle in a river or the sea or a pond; visit the local library or a museum.
And talk, talk, talk.
If you're not sure about things while out walking, that's ok. Find an appropriate guide book, from a library, or maybe use something like the guides below.