Climbing Trees

I wonder how many children will grow up without ever having climbed a tree? More and more in the city I am seeing tree-less backyards.  Children aren’t allowed to climb trees in the vast majority of childcare centres or schools either, and kids today just don’t have the free outdoor time we did a generation or two ago.  As a result I’m guessing some children will never know the triumph of conquering a tree, or the pleasure of dreaming in the branches.

I have fond memories of tree climbing as a child.  My sister and I climbed trees in our own various backyards (we moved around a bit), climbed trees while visiting family and friends, climbed trees when we went camping and climbed trees in our local parks.  When were aged around 9 and 11 one of our favourite things to do was ride our bikes to the Milkbar, buy 20c worth of 1c lollies, ride to the park, climb a tree and eat them!  Such simple joy.

Miss Four has recently discovered that the macadamia tree in our backyard is quite climbable.  (I suspect that both the tree and the child have just grown big enough to enjoy each other’s company!)  The first time she tried climbing the tree our conversation went something like this:

LM4 – How high can I climb Mum?

Me – As high as you want to!  How high can you get?

LM4 – Cool! (starting to climb) What if I get stuck up here?

Me – Then you’ll have to work out how to get down.  If you’re big enough to climb up by yourself, you’re big enough to get yourself back down too.

LM4 – What if I fall?

Me – If you fall it will hurt of course.  You’ll probably get some scratches and bruises.  But you’re a clever girl.  If you think about what your hands and feet are doing you won’t fall down.  Bye!  Have fun up there!

Since then she has spent hours up in the tree.  She has made birds to take up to their “nest” and we’ve hung wind chimes way up high in the branches.  I’ve even delivered her morning tea in a little bucket hanging down from a string which she could pull up and enjoy in the tree! She is so happy up there, and I’m happy too – partly because I can see my daughter enjoying herself in nature, and partly because I remember.

Do you have memories of tree climbing as a child?  And do your kids climb trees??

30 thoughts on “Climbing Trees

  1. We used to sit Princess up in the huge fig tree we had in our old garden and she would love to stand between the branches and have a look around. We are going to plant more fruit trees here at some point (she picked out the “ballerina” apple tree, of course!), but I don’t know how they will go for climbing …

  2. What a terrific lesson to teach/ learn. We recently ventured to a tree to take some photos and my children were too scared to climb it. I’ll use your encouraging words next time and hopefully they’ll give it a go :)

  3. Sadly, we have only a single tree in our backyard. The big explorer (5.5 yo) is just getting brave enough to try it. But he loves climbing trees when we visit parks and other natural spaces. I strongly encourage it!

  4. Yep, most of the trees around the playgrounds in our city parks have had their low hanging branches amputated to discourage climbing. Very sad.

    I had a favorite climbing tree as a boy and spend a lot of time in its branches.
    .-= Teacher Tom´s last blog ..Lemonade Stand =-.

  5. I loved playing in trees as a child – especially a maple that had a special place for a pillow and favorite book, or the pine with it’s pine needle piles for walls in our houses and low hanging branches for the roofs.
    My son (now 21) still likes to climb his ‘tree’ when he is home and has helped the older boys, in my care, find their way into another one. (posted pictures- our summer wrap up album)
    So understand and agree with what you posted about children not having the opportunities to climb today. I’m small enough that I feel I can allow climbing with parent permission when there is direct supervision.

  6. My eldest starts Kindy next year. At his Kindy open day I saw a rope ladder attached to the largest branch of the big tree in the yard. My first reaction was to think ‘OMG, they don’t actually let them climb the tree do they?’. Then I remembered that I climbed nearly every tree in sight as a child and I am still here.

    I am so pleased that he will be going to a kindy were they encourage all the kinds of playtime that I had as a kid.

  7. I’m so excited to see kids being encouraged to climb trees. Neither of my kids were the kind of little ones to clamber about the furniture, but my goodness give them a tree and they are up it like monkeys. Especially my daughter, who at 12 still needs to be told to get out of trees at netball (in case she tears her dress – Mum is a cheapskate!).

  8. I lurve climbing trees! The hardest parts is getting back down, but man I can climb so high! Or at least I could. I wish I had enough room in my yard for a massive tree. Every kid should get to climb a tree.
    We used to take a piece of ribbon and tie it to the tree as high as we could reach, to see who is the winner lol
    .-= MuffinMonsterBB´s last blog ..Fathers Day Presents =-.

  9. Lovely post Cath. When I was little, we had the most perfect climbing tree in our front garden. All the boughs were in exactly the right spot. We spent hours up in the canopy and dragged all manner of things up there, including an entire tea set, our dog (no mean feat, she was a basset hound) and “old-fashioned” telephone so we could phone people. VERY fond memories. xx
    .-= Caroline Webster´s last blog ..Two children on love- imagination and outdoor magic =-.

  10. I am also sad to report that there are no trees in my backyard but there are plenty around our neighborhood that William explores (with my help of course as he is only 2)

    Having a little adventurous boy has actually made me step out of my comfort zone a little, I normally wouldn’t find myself up a tree or even up the top of the play equipment in the park. But I have to now because William will go up with or without me!

  11. Our yard doesn’t have any great trees for climbing, so when the opportunity arises my son loves to try to climb them…. he’s not much of a climber but he has fun anyway!
    As a child, my sister and I used to climb the 2 large trees in our yard (Mum hated it!!). We took lots of teddies up too and perched them along branches… unfortunately we don’t have any photos of our tree-climbing fun :( – your Miss Four will love looking back at the photos when she grows up!
    .-= Tina´s last blog ..We Play – Build A City =-.

  12. I have lots of tree climbing memories from my childhood, including trees at my grandparents houses, in my own backyard in some houses we lived in and the great trees at Newfarm Park.

    My kids have climbed trees, especially the mango tree in our backyard. Sadly it looks like the mango tree has died. I’m sad because of the fruit we will not get anymore but mostly because my kids (and other children who visit) will not have a tree to climb.

  13. I have a lovely photo of all three of my kids up in one of our maple trees. Sadly they broke a branch, but Dad said it was too low anyway. I don’t remember climbing much, but then I have a fear of heights…I prefer my feet on solid ground. I’m glad my kids like to climb, and I like the philosophy that if they can get up there then it’s probably OK.
    .-= KDL´s last blog ..Sunday Digest 22 =-.

  14. I don’t really remember climbing trees maybe because my dad was a stresshead and wouldn’t let us… but, my daughters climb our trees out the back. They’re not very big trees, but my girls aren’t very old, so I figure it’s a good place to start and hopefully our next house will have bigger trees for them to climb.
    I think it’s so great that you’re encouraging your children to climb them, it really is such a pity that children these days will miss out on the simple things like this.
    .-= Becky´s last blog ..We Play- With Hula Hoops =-.

  15. My sons haven’t really got into tree climbing. Trees in the north are not that great, they tend to just go straight up with only tiny branches. We will have to hunt around for a good tree. But where there’s a will, there’s a way, because I recently saw a 6 y.o. shimmy up a coconut tree.
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..We Play – painting =-.

  16. Look how happy and impressed with herself she is :) We let our kids at preschool climb trees on our bushwalks – although strictly speaking we probably shouldn’t – but this is why:

    http://www.progressiveearlychildhoodeducation.blogspot.com/2010/06/let-them-climb-trees.html

    and for some more shameless self promotion, here are some pictures of them climbing:

    http://www.progressiveearlychildhoodeducation.blogspot.com/2010/06/let-them-climb-trees-part-2.html

    They are always well supervised, and because we know the kids so well we have a pretty good idea of what each kid is capable of. Plus you find that children also have a pretty good idea themselves of what they are capable of. And we have a rule: if you can’t get down, don’t get up.

    Sadly, when I met a teacher from a lovely progressive school in Tasmania she told me that it is actually illegal for them to let their children (primary age) climb trees – and they are in the middle of the bush. And yet, they can let them ride horses. Go figure.
    .-= jenny´s last blog ..tyre swing =-.

  17. When I started to think about this I have quite a connection to climbing trees. Peter even hung from one in his Wedding suit to kiss me on our Wedding day and we have the photos too. I climbed many a tree as a child and particularly remember playing tiggy in the trees at Cottontree Caravan Park at Mooloolaba, Cranky old people would chase us out of them but we would always be back within 5 minutes of them walking away. Must look at where else in the garden we can plant some trees.
    .-= Fiona Preston´s last blog ..Peters Silver Arrow Presentation =-.

  18. Oh for a tree to climb in our yard! Thankfully, we know some places nearby where there are some b/c our 4 year old is just starting to love tree climbing, too. It’s such a fantastic rite of passage and way of playing. I don;t want my kids to miss out on it!
    .-= Martianne´s last blog ..And the Winner Is =-.

  19. Annie was the first child in her 4 year old kinder class who climbed the big tree in the yard. Didn’t take long for the other children to figure out how to do it. The teachers had a strict set of rules, only one child in the tree at a time, they couldn’t use things to help them climb it, if they needed a boost another child had to provide it. More often than not Annie is up a tree when we go out to the park.

    Heidi’s kinder had a fallen tree that the children could climb over but no trees to climb up.

  20. As a children we could climb any tree we wanted to, except poplars (brittle) and as high as we wished. We never fell. We’d climb macrocarpas over 200 feet high. Our cousins (children of teachers) looked on with huge envy. It gave us a command of the environment and a lofty view of the outdoors. Our own kids had the same freedom.

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