The iconic childhood pursuit of climbing a tree is one of the simplest forms of pleasure for many kids. My five year old is obsessed with trying to scale any and every tree that comes in his path, and it takes all of my power sometimes to pry him from the branches and get us on our way. Although some parents may tend to steer their children away from a potentially risky outdoor activity like climbing trees, research has shown that tree climbing is in fact a healthy endeavor for children. So while watching my son climb and maneuver his way through a tree sometimes makes me a little nervous, I feel better knowing that his outdoor passion provides him with a variety of developmental benefits:
Problem Solving and Creative Thinking - Climbing trees inspires kids to think ahead while navigating from branch to branch. Determining the best path to take up, and then subsequently the safest way to climb down, develops both critical thinking and problem solving skills. Spatial awareness also comes into play as children experiment with fitting and moving their bodies into tight spaces.
Social Skills - Children enjoy climbing trees with their friends, and it takes the ability to take turns and share in order for them to climb the same tree together. Cooperation is encouraged as kids maneuver and squeeze into their favorite spots along the branches.
Physical Development - The physical challenge of climbing a tree is no joke. It's hard work being able to manage arms and legs while reaching for hand and foot holds. Tree climbing helps kids develop muscle strength, hand and eye coordination, and the ability to assess their own physical abilities.
Self-Esteem and Confidence - There’s always a huge sense of accomplishment and pride that goes along with tree climbing. The ability to conquer a difficult tree provides children with a great confidence boost. Kids get a different perspective on the world, as so much of their young lives have been spent looking up. Being up high and looking down at the world below can be very empowering.
Concentration and Patience - Kids can’t rush when climbing trees. It takes time and extended periods of concentration to maneuver through a tree’s limbs, not to mention a strong focus on the task at hand.
Reducing Stress - Research has shown that spending time outdoors provides many calming benefits, such as lowering blood pressure, supporting cognitive function and increasing resilience. Outdoor play and discovery provide children with a great way to get some fresh air, relax, and enjoy their time in nature.
Scientific Discovery - Spending time in nature is a wonderful way to foster a child’s interest in science. Children are naturally curious about the world around them. The viewpoint of a tree’s branches gives kids the opportunity to observe so much about the animals, plants, and natural environment surrounding them. Climbing trees is an activity that encourages a child’s inner scientist as he or she explores and discovers the natural world.