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50 Things to Do

Research consistently demonstrates the pivotal role of parental and home interactions in shaping children’s communication, language, motor skills, and school readiness – it’s even more influential than parents’ and carers’ education and social class. Unfortunately, 7/10 parents report feeling judged by professionals and services, hindering their engagement in developmental activities (Royal Foundation, 2020). Many young children, particularly in disadvantaged households, enter primary school without being school-ready, struggling with significant gaps in early learning, notably in language and communication, often compounded by poor health. The Covid pandemic has exacerbated these challenges, with fragmented services and inadequate communication about available support for parents compounding the issue. It is clear that a key element of improving health, education and wellbeing outcomes for children is for services to take a joined-up, non-judgemental approach in engaging parents in their children’s learning, empowering them to be their children’s most important teacher and facilitator.

The idea for 50 Things to Do’s first initiative, 50 Things to Do Before You’re Five, was thought of by the Executive Headteacher of Girlington’s St Edmund’s Nursery School and Children’s Centre, and was developed by the team at Bradford Birth to 19. The mission was to create a list of no- or low-cost activities that parents could do with their children to improve their health and well-being outcomes, as well as strengthen family bonds and increase parental engagement.


The initiative was co-constructed after community consultation with parents and families from every ward across Bradford over four months. Informed by cross-sector research, 50 Things to Do Before You’re Five was then created by a team of education and early years specialists who used theories of learning, child development, play and health to underpin the activities. Activities are inspired by tried-and-tested ideas for play enjoyed by generations of children, such as sky gazing(#49 Grass Gazing, #14 See The Stars), experiencing colder temperatures (#12 Brr Explore the Cold), and collecting objects in a basket (#22 My Secret Treasures). We developed an app, website, communications campaign and curriculum, available for families, practitioners and service providers in the Bradford District to utilise to support their work, care and teaching responsibilities. 50 Things To Do Before You’re Five was launched in 2018 at the Houses of Parliament. In less than a year, it was made available as a commissionable local offer to local authorities and other large public sector organisations.


Since our launch, we have continuously gathered evidence and feedback from parents, practitioners working with under 5s and our Commissioning Partners, through surveys, in-depth interviews, and focus group conversations. In 2023, 50 Things to Do Ages Five to Eleven was launched, using the same low or no-cost approach. Our most recent impact survey demonstrates the positive effect of the 50 Things to Do approach, with parents and carers reporting children spending more time outside (75%), children socialising in the community more (70%), and feeling more confident to support their child’s learning (72%). As of May 2023, there have been 71,963 unique downloads of the 50 Things to Do Before You’re Five app. The longer-term impact of 50 Things to Do will require longitudinal evaluation.

As of 2023, there are 50 Things to Do Before You’re Five offers in 23 local areas of the British Isles, representing 13% of the country’s under-5 population. There are also 50 Things to Do Ages Five to Eleven offers in 4 local areas. There is increasing international interest in the initiative.


50 Things provides a highly affordable way of supporting parents to bring up children who are happy, healthy, and ready for education.

Every family should have access to 50 Things, in every area of the UK.


In early childhood and beyond, the need for joined-up services is clear. The recent Child of the North APPG report stated that there was “growing evidence of the impact of “add-on” interventions such as parenting programmes…a sustained offer to families of accessible activities for all children is needed”. 50 Things to Do is one such tool that is shaping the future of child health and wellbeing in the UK.


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Andrea Layzell

50 Things To Do - Project Lead and Workforce Development Leader

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