Do you let your kids climb trees? Like most kids, my kids love to climb just about anything. There are so many reasons to climb a tree – yes you can fall out of a tree – there are risks involved! However, there are risks involved in using a playground or going swimming. Most things we do involve risk if you think about it? Tree climbing can be a great experience if done in a safe and supervised way. Check out the kid safe tree climbing guidelines here.
Disclaimer: All children need to be supervised when out in nature. Children can easily become hurt if not watched closely in playgrounds, in trees and near water etc.
Safe trees to climb have branches low to the ground for an easy start. Young trees are not appropriate as the young branches may not hold your child, so falling is possible and the tree could also be damaged. When climbing a tree, if you or your child want to go very high I would recommend a helmet and even a harness. When we go tree climbing the kids never get very far off the ground, it more about the adventure and spending time in nature than it is scaling the lofty heights of the tallest tree. All the trees the kids like climbing have nooks and crannies to perch and limbs that sprawl. Here are our top 5 reasons to climb a tree next time you are out and about!
1. Coordination and Spatial Awareness
Climbing trees is hard work. Unlike purpose built climbing frames trees do not have a set structure that can be climbed the same way every time. Tree climbing is a great way for children to move their bodies around, under and over the branches and develop their awareness of their location in space. Trees do not have uniform branches, so climbing them develops the complex mental skill of understanding how a change of position is necessary to climb each branch. It takes many levels of coordination to move arms and legs together through the branches and footholds. Stretching and reaching develops muscle strength, coordination, balance and hand eye coordination. As children move they will assess their own physical abilities as they climb through different unusual spaces.
It can take quite a while to climb a tree. Maneuvering through the branches takes focus and it might take several goes to get it right. Climbing a tree can help to extend your child’s attention span as they move from floor to first branch – along and up etc… Then there is the getting back down. To keep steady and not fall (even from a low branch) takes a great deal of focus and concentration.
3. Confidence and Self-Esteem
I have asked the kids what it feels like when they climb a tree and they all say wonderful, love the space, so excited! There is a feeling of elation and “I’ve done it” once they succeed in climbing to the very spot they want. When kids get past the age of 8 or so most manufactured playgrounds are not a challenge anymore. I am so pleased to see so many nature play areas springing up; as these add a complexity to play that you just don’t see in a manufactured plastic/metal playground. Once your child manages to climb where they thought it was difficult – that very act boosts confidence and self-esteem. Activities like climbing trees can help to develop a growth mindset of when I am faced with a challenge I will persist in the face of failure or setback.
4. Critical Thinking Skills
When climbing a tree, children will learn to seek out stable branches and determine best routes to take. As they move they will have to think of different ways to climb to get to the spot that they want. Children will have to problem solve to climb down as they may not be able to get down the same way they climbed up. Climbing trees can be a social affair with friends or siblings and it takes cooperation to climb the same tree, share branches and take turns moving around. (1)
5. Sensory Experience
Climbing a tree is an amazing sensory experience. There are different types of bark and leaves come in so many shapes, sizes and textures. There is so much children can learn and discover from nature. Children are naturally curious and being in nature develops all their senses. Research proves that exposure to nature makes us emotionally strong, contributes to positive well-being, reduces blood pressure, heart rate,and the production of stress hormones. (2) (3)
Have fun and stay safe x
If you want to read more about the benefits of climbing a tree, check out these research based articles.