Why Families Love 50 Things
My name is Carrie and I am a mother of three to Amber aged ten, Olly aged five and Isla who is four months old, and I also work as a Co-Teacher in a school-based nursery in Bradford. When Amber was a baby, I had found an abundance of baby classes and groups that I could attend at local children’s centres across the Bradford district, but since her birth many children’s centres had closed, those that remained open had unfortunately had such large budget cuts that the classes I was able to do with my daughter were unavailable when Olly was born, five years later. I found plenty of baby classes that I could pay for privately, but attending each one at a cost of around five pounds per session per week wasn’t sustainable in the long run and I was struggling for inspiration for activities and places to go with him that didn’t break the bank.
This was the start of my journey with 50 things…
Initially, the resource appealed to me because it was advertised as free, low cost ideas which were very useful whilst on maternity pay but I soon discovered it was much more than that. 50 things To Do Before You’re Five has enabled my children to engage in exciting, purposeful activities even during the Covid-19 lockdown. 50TTD has assisted Amber and Olly in building a strong bond through quality time spent together and has taught me to appreciate more what we have available to us in Bradford. It has also helped me to consider how I can replicate the activities as both a parent and an Early Years practitioner and means I’m never stuck for ideas either at home, at 50 things events or at work as I have a great bank of ideas to hand.
This blog is a brief insight into how I have used 50 Things as a parent and I hope that it will give you some ideas and inspiration for your own 50 Things journey.
Amber and Olly are now enjoying exploring the new 50 Things Primary app for children aged five and over but 50 Things To Do Before You're Five will still feature heavily in their lives as they help their new baby sister Isla navigate her way around the activities.
My experience as a parent
When 50 Things To Do Before You're Five was first launched Amber was five and Olly was a newborn baby. It was difficult to think of suitable days out and things to do that were appropriate for both an active 5 year old who was used to having all of our attention and a newborn baby who now demanded most of our attention.
At first glance it seems as though the majority of the 50 Things are geared more towards the under fives as the app suggests and they are indeed the target audience but I have found ways to adapt each activity for both younger and older children and I think this is why Amber and Olly now have such a strong bond as they have gone through their journey together, with slight tweaks depending on their age, needs and current abilities.
For example #1 Get To Know You is predominantly aimed towards babies and talks a lot about eye contact, being held and massage. To help Amber feel involved and less threatened by her new baby brother I showed her some baby massage techniques so that she could help with this and she was able to get involved with #10 Sharing Books by reading him stories and #6 Rhyme Time by singing to him. Amber really enjoyed the responsibility of choosing which 50 Thing she wanted to complete and she created a jar where all the numbers 1-50 were put inside and whichever number she drew out was the activity that we would do. An idea I loved so much that I use this at every 50 Things event I attend as an enthusiast and also in the Nursery where I work.
Another example, #34 Woodland Wandering may at first seem aimed more towards older children who can build dens, collect natural treasures, jump over stepping stones and climb trees etc but consider how babies can enjoy the contrast of the colour of the tree branches against the sky as they look up from a pram or carrier, the feeling of wind or sun on their faces and how the sounds of running water and birds chirping are different to the noises they hear inside. The more I thought and considered how we could make the experience work for us as a whole family the more enjoyment we got out of each 50 Thing. Amber and Olly’s bond became stronger as she helped him where needed and stepped back when he could achieve something himself. I believe by allowing Amber the autonomy to decide which 50 Thing we were doing and how we were going to complete it allowed her to gain confidence, independence as she was making all the choices about her experience rather than an adult.
During the lockdown imposed by Covid-19 50 Things became almost like our home learning guide. Each day we would choose activities to complete and the length of the lockdown allowed us to repeat the experiences in many different ways. We may have had to take our daily exercise in the same woods each day but our adventures were anything but restricted! It was throughout this time that the bond between Amber and Olly’s bond grew even stronger and the rate that he began to learn things was nothing short of impressive. I'm not saying they didn't or don't bicker and argue because they did and do but most of the time they do get along well because they manage to find a shared interest in whatever they are doing. During lockdown Olly was hanging off his older sister’s every word and taking in everything she was doing and saying. One day my then two year old told me off on one of our walks through the woods. I had a slip of the tongue and called the stream a river and he promptly corrected me. Hearing the different vocabulary and having repeated first hand experiences of the words we were saying during our daily walks had clearly sunk in and Olly’s language development from that point has been nothing short of phenomenal.
When it came to starting reception, Olly’s teacher completed a phonics assessment and was stunned to discover his reading age was at the level of a child midway through year one. I do think that his experiences of 50 Things have contributed to this, in particular because of the amount of time he was able to watch, copy and repeat what Amber was doing but also due to the amount of quality time we were able to spend together as a whole family, without being interrupted by work or school routines. Olly was immersed in rich language, purposeful experiences and was given the time to repeat and process his own understanding of these experiences which I personally think has accelerated his progress in certain areas of his development.
With Amber and Olly now moving onto 50 Things Primary I am now looking forward to starting our 50 Things To Do Before You're Five journey all over again with Isla. with lots of ideas already under our belt, I can't wait to see where we take it next!
I personally think the key and one of the most important things about making the most of 50 Things is not seeing it as a tick-list and thinking once an activity has been completed it is done forever. The beauty of 50 Things is that repetition of the experiences allows children to encounter new things each time and to also embed any new knowledge learned by having opportunities to repeat and understand what they have done as they reach different ages and stages of their development. For example the experience of #12 Brr Explore The Cold and snow as a baby seeing the snowflakes falling from the sky and landing on their cheek is different to that of a two year old who is stomping footprints into the snow is different again to that of a five year old who may be now able to independently build a snowman due to the fact they have had many different and repeated experiences of snow.
Quite often I see on social media sites ideas for invitations to play which look stunning and have clearly taken the adult a long time to set up but I often wonder how quickly the adult masterpiece becomes ‘trashed’ as the child gets stuck in or indeed the opposite if the child dares to play in something so ‘perfect’. I believe that 50 Things does the opposite and empowers parents and practitioners who are short on setting up time and allows them to create meaningful experiences with a few, simple resources but maximises quality play, learning and time spent together.
50 Things to do before you’re five could be very beneficial to families during these uncertain times and the cost of living crisis. I am always looking for experiences and opportunities that can be done for free, yet are still exciting for children to complete but even more so now prices are rising so quickly and I am on maternity pay. The majority of the 50 Things can be resourced using items from around the home or out in nature and as we navigate our way through these difficult times I think it is important to share any ideas or places we may find with friends, family, colleagues or education settings so that our children can still enjoy purposeful, exciting and meaningful experiences. When I think back to my own childhood, the days that I remember are the ones where our whole family would go for a walk and a picnic to Shipley Glen to climb the rocks, bilberry picking on the moors or going to watch a free cricket match in the field with my Grandad. Children do not need big, extravagant days out, the best memories are made by having quality time with our family, friends and other caregivers. Many libraries and church halls are providing warm spaces where families can attend during the day and keep warm, meet new people and where children can play. If you visit a warm space why not take along a 50 Things poster or show someone the app and help spread the message about our free and low cost play ideas?
Although the app is suitable for children under the age of five I have been adapting activities for an older child and found that it worked well as Amber was keen to ‘teach’ Olly how to do something and he was excited that his older sister wanted to play with him. Older children tend to enjoy helping to teach younger ones and as long as it is their choice and not an expectation I believe it can help siblings to bond and allow the older child to feel trusted and included in times of change or uncertainty. For example I taught Amber and Olly how to massage Isla and love that they are included in her bedtime routine and loving touches. She already adores her big sister and brother! A new baby can be a challenging time for older siblings as it is a huge change which disrupts their usual routine and lots of big feelings can start to show. One way I have found to help this is to ensure that they are included with Isla’s care and play and don’t feel left out but there is a fine line between children wanting to help and them thinking it is an expectation. It is important to check in and make sure they know they can say no. Olly sometimes doesn’t want to help and that is absolutely fine, Amber always wants to help which is equally fine but i always ensure I check in with them and they know it is their choice to make.
50 Things is a brilliant resource that you can make work for you. It is extremely flexible, can be done as little or as often as you like and many of the activities can be combined. I would highly recommend the events section and the guides on vocabulary to use with children of different ages and stages of their development. The why section is particularly useful if you would like to know how a certain activity helps with a child’s development.
Amber, Olly and I have thoroughly enjoyed our 50 Things To Do Before You're Five adventures and are now exploring 50 Things Primary but we are excited to start the before five activities all over again with Isla. With two 50 Things experts in tow to guide her I’m sure her experiences will be amazing!
Written by Carrie Priestley
50 Things To Do Enthusiast