It’s not all child’s play

Megan Postlethwaite, one of our Media, Campaigns and Communications interns, on how the National Trust is helping adults have more fun

The National Trust aims to encourage people to connect to our special places. It’s not only about the visit but the individual adventure or journey experienced along the way. We maintain a belief in a hands-on approach to learning, through play, interaction and discovery. It is a personal relationship with a special place which promotes the understanding that our heritage must be maintained, preserved and enjoyed. We hope this leads to the recognition that everyone is a part of its protection.

We are well-known for our steps towards reconnecting children with nature through outdoor learning and campaigns. A reconnection with nature is more vital than ever. This is due to our increase in screen time, our couch potato lifestyles and a lack of outdoor time. Play is a significant factor in children’s development, allowing them to express their ingrained desire to explore and discover. Children’s social skills, ability to learn and physical and mental health are all greatly improved through play.

However it’s not all child’s play! It is clear that the older generation are experiencing the same issues. We are stuck in an age where we are, heavily reliant on modern technology, work focused and have very little time for exploration, play and personal development. We feel it is important to give adults the same opportunity to take a step back. It is not only child engagement but also adult engagement with our past, our landscape and our special places which is crucial to the individual and the Trust.

Credit: National Trust Image Library

Visitors trying on hats in the dressing room at Killerton, Devon. Credit: National Trust Image Library

Our properties are increasingly offering us the chance to actively interact with our surroundings. ‘Taking down the red ropes’ offers a chance to get up close and personal. A brilliant example of this is Avebury Manor, where visitors of all ages have the chance to play billiards, listen to records and climb into a four poster bed. These activities create a meaningful connection and a lasting memory.

Ros Cleal, Curator for Avebury Manor, said: “At Avebury, with its famous stone circles, there’s a long history of people being able to walk among the ancient stones and touch them, so it seems completely appropriate that Avebury Manor works on the same principle.

“Walking around the house when it’s full of visitors, the atmosphere is often rather party-like. It isn’t just that people like to touch things, sit on the chairs or take the books off the shelves; rather, the whole feel of the house is changed because of that.

“Best of all, because of this, almost everyone takes pictures. We love to imagine our visitors looking back on their visits with a tangible reminder of how grand, silly or happy they looked in the Queen Anne bed, wearing the Tudor hats or covered in flour in the kitchen. It’s those memories which inspire them to come back.”

Play, discovery and learning are not only for kids. Adult engagement can have many benefits such as a source of relaxation, a way to fuel imagination and creativity and improve mental health. In encouraging opportunities and experiences, it is hoped that a natural childhood seamlessly leads on to a natural adulthood.

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