Five outdoor challenges that aren’t Pokemon Go

Woodland Trust

Now the furore about Brexit has calmed down, there’s another issue which is drawing a big faultline down Britain’s communities. Forget Leave vs Remain. This summer it’s all about Pokemon Go.

Are you a lover or a hater?

Although ‘hate’ is much too strong a word, I definitely fall into the latter camp. All those people, loitering in public places, gazing into their phones while they attempt to catch Charizards: Pokemon Go gives me the willies.

Yes, it’s great that the game has managed to get people out into the fresh air – and there have been some moving stories, like the autistic boy who hadn’t wanted to leave his house for five years, and who managed to overcome his anxiety when playing Pokemon Go.

But the biggest problem I have with the game is that it distracts people from their surroundings, rather than helping them focus on their environment. We’re often told that mindfulness – a close awareness of one’s surroundings and mental state – is good for mental health and general wellbeing. But Pokemon Go seems almost the opposite of mindfulness. Young people have even been injured or killed while playing the game, because they weren’t paying attantion to what was going on around them.

Pokemon creatures can pop up anywhere, so the potential for horrifyingly inappropriate venues for the game is vast. There have even been reports of creatures disrespectfully popping their cartoonish little heads up in Auschwitz, the former Nazi death camp. It reminds me of one of those dreams where you’re stood at the funeral of an old friend, with inconsolable mourners all around you – and you realise you’ve turned up wearing your embarrassing purple ‘kiss me quick’ frilly knickers on your head, to make a mockery of their grief. But it isn’t a dream. It’s real.

We’ll be travelling a lot this summer, and the thought of exploring the world through the medium of Pokemon Go makes me shudder. But there are tons of alternative outdoor challenges. Here are our top five (and we think you might like them, even if you love Pokemon Go).

I-Spy Books


Remember the I-Spy books? Well, they’re back. Publishers Harper Collins sent us two titles: Nature, and At the airport. If you’re not familiar with the books, they have pictures of items to spot – a sandy beach, ragwort or a dog rose, a magpie, a grey squirrel etc – with information about each item, and points for spotting them. A rare red squirrel, for instance, is 30 points; it’s 10 points for a grey. Super-spotters with 1,000 points get a special certificate. There are 20 titles and I’m about to order a few more for our travels: On a car journey, At the beach and In the countryside; and London, for when we return home.

Bug hunting

Satoshi Tajiri, the Pokemon founder, was reportedly inspired to create the game by his childhood love of bug hunting. Why not get back to basics, and collect some real-life critters instead of Charizard and Squirtle? All you need is a magnifying glass, a plastic tube and a list of mini-beasts to tick off (there’s a new I-Spy Creepy crawlies book which might help). Don’t forget to release them back into the wild…

Woodland Trust’s Invite a Tree to Tea

Woodland Trust

Woodland Trust, the tree conservation charity, are giving away ‘party packs’ to families who want to hold a summer picnic by a tree. The pack includes recipes, a competition to win £1000 in supermarket vouchers, and – for the challenge-seekers – a scavenger hunt, with outdoor finds like snails, feathers and dandelion clocks. It also has a sheet with different leaves (ash, oak, alder, holly etc) that children can tick off as they find them.

Metal-detector treasure hunt

metal detector

Having fun with our metal detector (you can read more about it here)

On a beach, in the park or even just around the house, there’s always metal. Just set the kids loose with a little spade or trowel, and see what they find. The hunter with the biggest treasure pile of coins, screws and rusty hinges gets to make Mum or Dad walk the plank.

National Trust’s 50 Things to do before you’re 11 3/4

National Trust’s 50 Things to do before you’re 11 and 3/4 has been running for a few years now, and its popularity speaks volumes about the sort of things kids like to get up to in the great outdoors. They’re invited to work their way through a list with activities ranging from ‘visit a farm’ and ‘jump over waves’ to ‘track wild animals’ and ‘find a geocache’. If they manage to do all 50 before the deadline, they get a prize; to help them along, there’s an app where they can tick off each activity.

(Or, if you’re a bit of a techno-phobe like me, you can always use the booklet version….;-)


Do you like Pokemon Go? What sort of outdoor challenges are your favourites?

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  1. August 4, 2016 / 8:59 am

    I love your list. Most are ones I did as a child, which shows how good fun activities become classics. I had such a collection of the I-Spy books, which my children laugh at as they’re so out of date! Only one of my children have Pokemon Go and she is the least obsessed with tech. Strangely, I find the rest of us standing around enjoying the view more, on the rare occasion that she discovers another critter.

    • Nell
      August 4, 2016 / 8:38 pm

      I can’t remember what happened to my I-Spy books but I bet they’d be pretty faded by now!

  2. August 4, 2016 / 8:49 pm

    Oh we’re definitely on the same wavelength here! Something about that craze makes me very uneasy.

    Love your suggestions, I was just reading about the Woodland Trust campaign today.

    We have some I_Spy books, must dig them out again.

    • Nell
      August 5, 2016 / 8:02 am

      It makes me uneasy too. All feels a bit too trippy for my liking.

  3. Jeffrey Ito
    August 4, 2016 / 9:43 pm

    Definitely will give these a shot. Pokemon Go is better than most video games I would say thought. It actually encourages you to move.

    • Nell
      August 5, 2016 / 8:01 am

      Glad you like the sound of these ‘IRL’ versions! Thanks for stopping by.

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