We recently downloaded the National Trust’s ’50 Things to Do Before You’re 11 ¾ ‘ app. I was quite pleased to see that the kids have managed to tick a fair few off the list already, and Harrison isn’t even 6 yet. Most of them have been done in the past six months, and I can see us crossing over most things on the list in the next couple of years (although I’m not sure about canoeing down a river!). I was quite shocked though when I realised that they had never properly climbed a tree – the first thing on the list.
I really have no idea why they have never done that. I guess that when we lived in Birmingham, the only ‘climbable’ trees were at the park, and the kids were always more interested in the play area than the trees – after all, they were proper city kids back then!
In our front garden, we have a lovely tree (don’t ask me what sort, I have no idea. It has branches and leaves!). The other day we were cutting some of the branches down that overhang onto the road when Alex and Harrison asked if they could climb it. Automatically, I went to say no but then stopped myself. Why couldn’t they climb the tree? It’s strong, it’s not particularly high and both Graham and I were there to help them and catch them if they slipped. They were both up there like a pair of little monkeys, scraping their elbows and knees, but giggling and laughing. They were so proud of themselves once they had perched themselves on a branch.
There are so many benefits to climbing trees. Not only is it children getting outside and getting exercise, but it’s teaching them some valuable skills. They’re learning to balance, moving from one branch to another. It’s not like a piece of metal play equipment at the park, where steps and bars are spaced out evenly. They have to navigate varying textures, heights, spaces and have to learn to gauge whether a branch is strong enough to hold their weight. They have to be creative, finding different ways of moving about on the tree. They clambered up, shimmied across branches and jumped and slid down.
It encourages them to learn to take risks, and that’s something I know that I have to let them do more. Climbing a tree carries a certain amount of risk. They know that; I know that. They have to learn to manage that risk and I have to allow them to do that by themselves. I won’t always be there to tell them whether something is safe or not, and climbing a tree is a good way of allowing them to take calculated risks. They’ve both ended up with a few scrapes and scratches on their knees, and Alex has a grazed elbow. Neither of them has been bothered by it at all, and they look like two little boys who have had fun climbing.
Over the next few weeks and months, I’ll be sharing some of our experiences of ticking off the things on the National Trust list. In the meantime, I’m sure I will be cleaning up lots of scabby knees and elbows from our little adventurers!