To climb a tree is to wrap our hands around one of the planet’s arteries; a living breathing gateway to the energy of the earth. Yet fear (and fear mongering) can often keep our feet planted firmly on the ground and rob us of the challenge, accomplishment and resulting joy found hidden up amongst the leaves. But like all things in this life, knowledge is power so here are some simple ideas to arm your little ones with to encourage safe and empowered tree climbing:
- choose trees that aren’t too tall with some low limbs that are easy to access from the ground and a spread of branches to inspire yet support little hands and feet,
- ensure that there are 3 points of contact at all times e.g. two feet and one hand, two hands and one foot,
- keep close to the trunk and look ahead/forward and not down,
- choose branches that match the thickness of your wrist,
- look for knots and holes in the bark to use as spots for hands or feet and test the strength of these holes/foot holds by pressing on them before putting your whole weight on it,
- go slowly and only as far as feels comfortable. There is no need to reach the tippy top nor race a friend or sibling. Children will intuitively climb to a height that feels safe so encourage them to listen to, and trust, that inner voice and silence that of competition.
- for beginning climbers – don’t rescue your child as soon as they are stuck. Instead, talk them down by pointing out a good path and encouraging them to find their way back down,
- teach your child to identify dead branches (dead or no leaves at the end, a different colour to the others) and avoid these; they will be brittle and will break easily.
- come down slowly, retracing your steps.
What a gift to encourage our little people (and ourselves!) to feel the gnarled skin of these life giving giants, inhale pure oxygen straight from the source and stay a while, deep in reverence of all that is green and growing.