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Should children climb trees?

It’s mucky, sometimes muddy, and they might even get hurt. But that’s no reason to stop children climbing trees, says Sticky Fingers mummy blogger Tara Cain.

Personally I think the question should be, “should children be taught to climb trees?”

There is so much in the media about how our children have become ‘cotton wool kids’, that they have lost their spirit of adventure and that they have forgotten how to have traditional play. But as the mother of two school-age children, I think it’s vitally important that our youngsters are encouraged to grub around in the dirt, get their knees dirty and yes, maybe a scratch or two.

Recently I overheard two dads talking while their sons played in a nearby park. “What’s the point of climbing trees?” asked one of them. I wanted to rush right over there and tell him! For my seven year old is ALWAYS up a tree. She gets so much pleasure out of the challenge and of being ‘allowed’ to take risks.









I am not allowed to help her down; she loves to work it out for herself – sometimes from the most giddying heights that leave me with my heart in my mouth.

But the pros far outweigh the cons. She’s strengthening muscles in her body that she wouldn’t ordinarily use. She’s feeling that soaring sense of achievement that comes from doing something amazing without mum holding her hand. She is building her confidence, learning to be aware of her surroundings, and understanding that there are limits and boundaries that she must adhere to.

But best of all, she’s connecting with nature and developing a great love of the world around her. And she is learning that nature’s playground is far better than any electronic gadget she will find in a store.

Of course, I don’t do any of this without a few rules. There is a huge safety issue and I want her to enjoy it but to understand that it could be dangerous.

So she knows before she steps foot onto that first branch that:

She must only ever put her weight onto a branch that is at least as thick as her wrist

She must always have a strong hold on a branch above her head before she pulls herself up

She must always ask for help the minute she needs it

She must stop and THINK of what her next move will be, and can she return down that same route when she wants to climb down from the tree.

Yes, I sometimes stand under those trees with my stomach in knots, but I know that this is her happy place. And I do believe that children need to take risks – because it’s only in taking risks that they can learn how to be safe.

So what’s the point of climbing trees? There isn’t one really, but it feels GREAT!



  1. Great article … absolutely kids should be allowed to climb trees. As you say, there are of course dangers, but the importance of all the pros is something that must be encouraged. There is no way I want to raise my daughter to fear everything, least of all nature :-)

  2. Yes, yes & yes! Some of my happiest childhood memories involve climbing trees. Yes there are risks, as with anything, so you’ve set limits: perfect. But in my opinion the risks of NOT having physical activity, especially outdoors,, of a sedentary lifestyle that seems to be the norm so often now, are much worse.

  3. Love this post so much, off to share it far & wide.

  4. Children need to learn risk assessment skills in the same way as they learn many other things. Start small and young and let them practice making judgements whilst the consequences are relatively minor and they’ll have a good sense of what they’re capable of when they are out in the big world and having to make decisions about how much to drink, how fast to drive, whether or not to smoke/take drugs/break the law etc. I’m with Tara, let them climb trees, but don’t force them to go beyond their capabilities – they’ll do it int heir own time.

  5. I was an inveterate tree climber as a kid, and my parents never stopped me. And I loved it. Thanks for being a mom who does the same for her daughter — she’ll appreciate it forever, believe me!

  6. And there you have included all my reasons for climbing trees…but really, does there need to be a reason? It’s FUN! And costs nothing!

  7. My kids climb trees, I climbed trees as a child. Why would people not let their kids climb trees? My only issue with it is how high mine sometimes go, but they do have to check the area around a tree before they climb it nowadays. On one camping site, a neighbouring campers son was about 70 feet up and fell by landing on soft moss, but missing an uprooted branch like a pole sticking right up in the ground. He missed it by inches.

  8. Absolutely kids should be able to climb trees! It supports their development in so many ways. Understanding risk, learning self awareness and connecting to nature are just some of them. I love this article. Thanks for sharing it :)

  9. Yes. Absolutely. Of course! Why is this even a question to be asked? :)

  10. Thank you for all your lovely comments. So great to know people still value the importance of getting grubby and at one with nature.
    As someone on Twitter said to me ‘It’s not a childhood without mud and sticks if you ask me’. :-)

  11. thank you for all my sweet frnds ..nice comment

  12. Pingback: Firsts | Whiskey For Aftershave

  13. Cannot believe what is happening, we are having to take legal advice on whether our kids can play in the trees at the end of our road. I grew up climbing those same trees and now paranoia is taking hold. Pompous dinkys saying we are at risk of being sued!!!

  14. My kids love to climb trees! It is so healthy and fun!

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