What should be on your child’s to-do list?

One of the things I’ve found most difficult about becoming a parent is how DIFFERENT Flea’s experience of childhood is to my own.

I grew up in a family of four children. My Dad was a scout leader and our childhood involved lots of camping, building dens in woods, long days on the sand dunes and heading off to explore on our bikes. I played out with my friends from quite a young age – with boundaries, of course, which got more relaxed as I got older.

Today, childhood can seem very sanitised in comparison. Rather than letting kids climb trees we send them off to Tumble Tots to climb in a safe, approved manner. Swimming happens at lessons, in heated swimming pools, and cycling is what we do at the park, on the path.

Part of me can understand all the good and valid reasons why society is like this – increased traffic means roads are more dangerous, and media hysteria means a heightened fear around risks that haven’t particularly increased, like abduction and paedophilia. But another part of me is determined that Flea shouldn’t miss out on ALL the fun things I did with my brothers and our friends when we were young.

There’s some new research out this week from Persil, where my second husband* Bear Grylls has produced a list of ten things he thinks kids should do before they turn 10. The list includes:

  1. Perfect the perfect hill roll
  2. Become a hide and seek champion
  3. Go sledging – on sand
  4. Build a den – indoors or out
  5. Build a rope swing
  6. Nurse that sting
  7. Try and count the stars
  8. Make a mud pie
  9. Make a compass
  10. Pick your own pudding

* not officially confirmed, but surely only a matter of time. 

I think it’s a pretty good list – and at the age of six, Flea has probably done more than half of these things. But I think it’s missing some vital elements. Here are the top 5 things I reckon kids should do before they turn ten:

  • Camp out overnight
  • Climb a tree
  • Join the library
  • Learn first aid
  • Build a fire – and learn how to put it out

It occurs to me both Bear’s list and my own don’t include any items like ‘play the Wii’ or ‘learn how to use Google’. This suggests that our future marriage will work out brilliantly because we have so much in common. Also, perhaps, that the things we remember from our own childhoods – the most powerful and enduring memories – aren’t about computer games or theme parks or expensive toys. They’re about spending time outdoors, becoming independent.

What do you think – would you add anything to your children’s To-Do list?


Sally is a full-time blogger and founder of the Tots100, Trips100, Foodies100 and HIBS100 communities, along with the MAD Blog Awards. She spends a bit too much time on the Internet. She’s also a very happy Mum to Flea, the world’s coolest ten year old.

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    • 7th March 2012 / 6:18 pm

      I see where you’re headed – smart!

    • 7th March 2012 / 6:18 pm

      Oh yes, riding a bike – seriously, kids can’t do that??

  1. 7th March 2012 / 9:53 am

    Based on things I did when I was a kid, I’d like to add riding your bike downhill so fast you feel like you’ll never stop, sticking on a pair of wellies and jumping into the biggest puddle you can find, swimming in the sea – in England(!) and going to an open air concert.
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    • Rob Ashwell
      7th March 2012 / 2:44 pm

      Tried that first one. I went down hill very quickly when I was 5 and then stopped very abruptly (pulled front brake, and went flying – I was a dumb kid)…

      Unfortunately I did that and had my adult teeth come in early so I still have the broken tooth as a reminder.

      That said, I still go down hill very quickly on bikes.

      • 7th March 2012 / 6:18 pm

        Ah, but I bet it’s still worth the thrill!

  2. Lucy at Dear Beautiful Boy
    7th March 2012 / 10:34 am

    I love the idea of having a 10-year-old bucket list….. nearly as much as I love Bear Grylls (who I share so much in common with, including a birthday!!!)
    We’ve recently started making an effort every Sunday to ‘Make Memories’. Which sounds very cheesy but basically equates to going out or doing something different. LittleMan is only one so we haven’t been that adventurous, but so far we’ve been for a roast dinner at the pub with our neighbours; walked along a prom and looked at boats; fed the ducks and swans; and had an at-home photoshoot (the weather was really horrid that day!)
    I think it’s those things that are a bit different or fun that your remember from your childhood, not the days you sat at home playing with your toys.

    • 7th March 2012 / 6:18 pm

      I think that’s a lovely way to build memories.

  3. FeeHorne
    7th March 2012 / 12:30 pm

    Spot on. I would agree with all of those, including all those mentined in the comments. My 4 yr old made his first cupcakes the other day – from scratch, all I did was watch – and asked if he could cook dinner for the whole family ‘maybe when I’m a little bit bigger’.

    Also, just for me own feeling of smugness – Bear Grylls is just as hot as he is in that picture – when you see him IN REAL LIFE and TALK TO HIM!!!

    • 7th March 2012 / 6:19 pm

      *gasp* You SPOKE to him??

      • FeeHorne
        7th March 2012 / 8:43 pm

        Oh yeah, & shook his hand & asked him questions and even listened to the answers while I secretly (I hope!) drooled – he was wearing his Everest climbing gear.
        He was the keynote speaker at a conference a few years ago. Back when I had a real job!

  4. Nikki
    7th March 2012 / 5:10 pm

    We’d advocate plenty of duck feeding, grow vegetables in the garden – harvest and eat them too, a trip to the theatre (helps to learn to respect the arts and keep still/quiet for ages) – panto included in this category – not the cinema (sorry Sally!). Also participate in a proper easter egg hunt seeking out the eggs from various challenging and “unreachable” places. We also love outdoor summery picnics at Cliveden (any national trust site will do as exlopring the big houses are very cool too) and then a race to see who can get the the centre of the maze first.

    Most of it involves getting out and about so any indoor ideas much appreciated (oh just remembered bumping down the stairs on our bottoms from the very top sitting on trays- may hide those)! Oh and on that, we bought the Usborne science/experiements book – very cool. Definatley add making a bubbling “Hogwarts” cauldron or equivalent “volcano” with sodium barcarb and also making raisins go up and down in lemonade (the carbon dioxide bubbles attach themselves to the raisins at the bottom of the glass and lifts them to the surface and then drops them again. Only don’t put too many raisins in – not enough bubbles to go round (you can tell I did this a few times first right?!).

    Nikki x

    • 7th March 2012 / 6:20 pm

      Oh yes, we used to ride down the stairs on mattresses. And make potions out of all sorts of things.

      Hmm. Other indoor stuff – a midnight feast is probably quite an important rite of passage. And I did teach Flea how to brace herself on doors and walls to climb up and touch the ceiling. I’m not sure that’s responsible parenting but I used to love it!

      • Nikki
        7th March 2012 / 7:13 pm

        Sorry Sally but trays beat mattress for speed lol!!

        Good idea on the feast. Bracing on doors and walls though? Seriously? I’d need a pic to see that – I’m a bracing virgin!!

        • 7th March 2012 / 7:23 pm

          Oh, you know where you stand in a doorway or on the landing and brace one foot against each wall, and shuffle up to the ceiling? I so am not going to twitpic it!

          • Nikki
            7th March 2012 / 7:52 pm

            Blimey that requires strength. You soooo need to try this now and get Flea to take a pic…..After all, you need to set an example of how to do it properly 🙂

  5. 7th March 2012 / 8:17 pm

    Thinking of recent winters, I’d add
    -build a snowman
    -make snow angels (by lying on your back in the snow and sliding your limbs up and down)
    -go sledging (use a tray or dustbing lid if sledgeless)
    -catch a snowflake on your tongue.
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  6. 8th March 2012 / 12:38 am

    Some great ideas here. Kids need these kinds of experiences for so many reasons. We’ve a bit of an outdoor, adventure, nature bias so how about…
    1) climb a mountain
    2) paddle or swim in a wild lake or river
    3) explore and camp in a wild place
    4) grow, forage and cook up some wild food
    5) learn to read a map & navigate (without a phone or tech)
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  7. 8th March 2012 / 12:40 pm

    To have their own plot or planter and grow something – flowers or veg – and learn the natural signs of the seasons.
    To fall into a pond.
    To roll in mud.
    Who’s Bear Grylls?
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  8. 11th March 2012 / 6:45 am

    I think we grown ups could learn a lot from this list, notice how everything on there is fun? Well think about this, how many things on your daily to do list are actually fun?!
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  9. Sarah ffelan
    15th March 2012 / 10:45 pm

    I read this a week ago but was stuck on a train with rubbish signal so couldn’t comment. Just wanted to say it’s lovely and I enjoyed reading it! I would add ‘Collect eggs from hens then cook with them (but you must be allowed to crack the eggs ALL BY YOURSELF, no matter how young you are!!)’

    My 3 yr old has an wonderful egg cracking technique that generally results in a complete explosion of the egg but it is always the highlight of any baking experience!