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!