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Let the children climb trees

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Trees: In my opinion children should be free to climb them. That’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it. In fact, I strongly believe such activities should be encouraged.

climbing trees, trees, outdoor play, playing outdoors, active children, healthy children
My daughter Helen on a recent tree climbing expedition.

A while ago I was made aware of a rather depressing statistic. It was from a research project carried out just a few years ago and it discovered that a third of children had never climbed a tree.

I’m realistic enough to accept that kids don’t spend as much time outside as they used to. Computer games and wireless devices, not to mention the rise of risk-averse parenting, has definitely led to kids spending less time outside and that’s sad.

Even so, I like to be optimistic and think that things can’t be quite as bad as the statistics make out. That’s what I like to think, although an experience I had the other day suggests otherwise.

I was out with my kids and we were having a picnic on a gloriously sunny day. Helen, my seven-year-old, found a tree that she was able to climb. Up into the branches she went to a height of about two metres and she was very proud of her achievement.

With our picnic finished we moved on. Some other kids had seen Helen in the branches and as we left, a young boy took her place.

This kid was easily a couple of years older than Helen. He therefore had more strength and was clearly more than capable to climb up the tree.

His mother then arrived on the scene. I will diplomatically say she had a sense of humour failure. No, let’s not be diplomatic about it, she lost it with her kid and started screaming at him, demanding he get down. There was no abusive language or swear words, but her behaviour struck me as over the top and I felt for her boy.

Surrounded by friends his own age, not to mention his mum’s friend, this kid lost his nerve. He struggled to find a way down.

The one thing I try not to do is judgement. His mother may have had very good reason to demand her son get out of the tree. Did he have a track record for getting stuck? Had he fallen out of a tree when younger? Was she going through a divorce and having a particularly bad day? There are a number of possibilities but the way she reacted seemed, to me, over the top.

Whatever her reasoning, I won’t change my ways. Would I encourage my kids to climb a Canadian Redoowd? No, of course not. As far as possible, however, I want them to lead the active, outdoors childhood I did. That means they will be free to climb trees, regardless of what anyone else thinks.

Do you let your children climb trees? Have you banned your kids from climbing trees and if so, why? Please leave a comment below with your reasoning.

9 thoughts on “Let the children climb trees”

  1. I think mum’s feel the fear of their child being hurt more acutely then dad’s do and I think that is mostly due to how they themselves have been raised in the first place with girls getting the cotton wool treatment traditionally and boys getting the toughen up treatment, so mum’s are more likely to pass that cotton wool treatment onto all of their children. Self mastery is also something that has gone by the wayside and it is apparently quite ‘normal’ to scream at your kids in public now. Good on you for being a calm parent that is happy to encourage your kids to be active and unfearful.
    My mum would’ve not only screamed at me to get down because it scared her but I would have also received a lecture on hurting myself and on how it is inappropriate to climb trees in a skirt.

    1. Fascinating remarks there. You may have a point about the different ways in which boys and girls are rasied. I have heard it said girls who are mainly raised by fathers / father figures are more confident because they are less risk averse and encourage their kids to try things out and be more physical. Yes, kids can hurt themselves climbing trees, but i can’t help feeling that’s part of childhood.

  2. I would let Freya climb (I would show her the safe way to get up and down). If they are up close with nature, hopefully they will want to protect it.

    1. I like your approach. That is a great way of looking at the environment; if it is enjoyed, it will be appreciated.

  3. Yep N climbs trees although sometimes I’m the one encouraging him.

    But my mum wouldn’t allow us to climb the 3 on our estate green. The 3 that every other child would climb. I think it was more about damaging the trees than damaging us because there were a lot of kids climbing. Mind you, as soon as she went into hospital for an op, we were living next door for a week and we were up the trees like a shot.

  4. I used to happily climb trees and I don’t remember my parents worrying about it although they did warn against climbing to the top of the school climbing frame (pretty high) over the hard concrete. I would love it if my son did more climbing, but he is risk averse and afraid of heights, so I keep trying to encourage him to take the odd risk.

  5. I let my girls climb trees. In fact, their father and I encourage it by climbing up with them! It’s a great physical skill for them to have. Also, I want them to enjoy the sense of adventure. Sports scientists (including my husband) say that running, jumping, climbing and swimming are key skills for a child’s development

  6. Pingback: Ain't no tree big enough - Dad Blog UK

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