This question coming from a second grader gave me a moment of pause. I am not a tree climber. I never climbed trees as a child. Was I the right person to support this child on this particular endeavor?
I decided I was – that I needed to be. Even though I have never climbed a tree, I do recognize the importance of tree climbing for children. I firmly believe in encouraging children to try, to challenge themselves, to step outside the box.
So, I stood by the tree as this child began to climb. I watched him test out the branch – bouncing it a little to feel the give & take. I watched him take his first step onto the branch & then hoist the rest of his body up as he grabbed for a branch above.
I noticed how his eyes scanned the branches – planning his next move. He pressed down to feel the strength of branches as he determined which branches would get him higher into the tree..
As he got higher – his feet higher than my head – “I am taller than you now!” – I began to feel a bit apprehensive. Was this ok? What if he fell? Again, was I the right person for this endeavor?
As I continued to watch I began to ask questions.
Do you feel safe? “Yes.”
How do you feel up there? “I love being this high!”
Why do you like being that high? “It is a really good vantage point to see things.”
What do you see? “Everything.”
Do things look different? “Yes.”
I observed him then plot his next movements to climb back down. It was amazing to discover that plotting his course was almost academic in nature. There were real skills and benefits to this expedition into the branches of a pine tree.
I realized that my initial insecurities did not really matter. What truly mattered was the experience this child was having.
Climbing trees helps children with gross motor skills, problem solving skills, connections to nature, flexibility, focus, spatial relations, self confidence & JOY!
This child taught me, again, that children are so incredibly capable. His determination & happiness with climbing this tree inspired me to sit down & write. We need children to climb trees. We need to support & even encourage this very important childhood rite of passage. There is so much learning & happiness to be gained from it.
Who knows – maybe I will even step foot on a tree branch someday.
Learn more about the childhood development benefits of learning in nature and why it’s one of our foundations for learning.