Updated: Sep 4, 2019
My eldest daughter first painstakingly scrambled into the lower branches of a tree when she was a tot of three. Well actually, it wasn’t a tree, more of a sturdy little shrub. It was a moment of mixed feelings: she was shining with pride, her round face peeping between the leaves looked so cute – and I was scared she was going to tumble the few inches to the soft grass.
Some day soon, when she starts to take tree climbing seriously and tests out the heights she can achieve on the many trees around our house, my nerves will have a lot to work with. But there are so many reasons to let her spend time in the branches, because children who spend time in risky nature play like tree climbing experience lots of growth. Here are some incredible benefits of tree climbing.
In order to make their way to that inviting-looking branch, reach the top and become king or queen of the castle, and stay safe, children need to assess their situation and draw accurate, relevant conclusions.
Imagination and creativity
It’s never just climbing a tree, is it? One of my sisters spent hours in a gnarly jacaranda when we were kids, hooting at everyone who walked below (she was a monkey). The tree becomes a watchtower, a wild animal’s den, a ship in a storm, and your child develops their ability to think creatively.
Sadly, getting stuck happens when you’re climbing a tree. Some trees are also easier to scale than others, and enthusiasts will always be looking for ways to scale the most challenging trees. Children need to learn to problem solve in order to get out of tight situations, or sometimes even just in order to reach the next branch.
Having only yourself to rely on when engaged in risky play, being able to overcome challenges, keep safe and achieve new heights, all build self-confidence in a child.
Kids love climbing trees together, but interacting among narrow branches adds a new element to social play. Climbers must learn to take turns, come to agreements, and look out for each other.
Dexterity and physical strength
The physical requirements of climbing a tree (and playing outdoors in nature in general) are demanding. Kids develop their gross motor skills, balance and muscle tone.
Cognitive and emotional strength
Trees are a giant puzzle to climbers. In order to scale a tree, sometimes just in order to safely reach the next branch, children need to exercise much patience and determination. Like most nature play, tree climbing is an excellent character builder.
Sorry, moms and dads – your kids will get scrapes, cuts and bruises when climbing trees. But don’t worry: outdoor play makes them tough!
This incredible, essential ability is developed when kids must judge distances between branches – or to the ground.
When your kids climb trees, it’s also an opportunity to facilitate them in learning from nature. Teach them about macro and micro biology, of the tree and any wildlife found on it, and teach them about issues like sustainability, biodiversity and global warming.
Remember, a tree makes a beautiful gift. If you’re looking for eco friendly gifts for friends or family members, give them a fast-growing trees in garden pots.
Written by Rifke Hill
About the Author
Rifke Hill was raised on the sort of farm your grandparents told tales about – milking cows, gathering eggs, hoeing the soil, and building fires to heat water. She now spends part of her time copywriting online as a freelancer. The rest of it is spent nurturing and teaching her four energetic children, growing vegetables, baking bread, reading voraciously, having coffee with the neighbors, and enjoying the sunny slopes of the smallholding where she lives, in the Garden Route, South Africa.