Outdoor Living

Out on a Limb: Ten reasons to climb a tree

by Dr. Carla Gull

            Do you remember the feelings of accomplishment, freedom, and varied perspective from climbing a tree as a child? I do! I had a perfect tree for climbing right along CR 8 as a child. Beyond the shade, it provided an appropriate challenge, a problem to solve, and a different view of the world below.

According to the Indiana Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights, tree climbing is a basic right for all Indiana children. In recent research with Dr. Suzanne Levenson Goldstein and Dr. Tricia Rosengarten, we found many benefits of tree climbing:

  1. Tree climbing promotes critical thinking, as decisions must be made with each move.
  2. Imagination and creativity abound as new worlds are explored high off the ground.
  3. Children work on problem solving skills as they climb up and down the tree.
  4. Self-confidence soars as a child accomplishes a goal to climb the tree.
  5. Social interaction can improve as children work together to encourage others to climb a tree and/or use tree climbing as part of nature play.
  6. Children work on dexterity and physical strength as they scale the branches of a tree.
  7. Cognitive and emotional strength are fortified as children deal with setbacks and continue working toward a goal.
  8. Grit is developed as children build upon resiliency while tree climbing.
  9. Children learn to negotiate risk as they make safety call judgments while in trees.
  10. Spatial awareness intensifies as children can take on different perspectives and see the world from a different angle while climbing.

To safely climb trees, many parents suggest that children must be able to climb the tree independently, check the tree for safety, and/or use a three-point system for increased safety. Additionally, watch for power lines and other potential hazards.

As we enter spring, tree climbing can be a great way to connect to nature. While there are potential risks, the benefits allow children to develop needed skills such as problem solving, resiliency, and risk negotiation. Plus, it’s fun! Enjoy your time out on a limb!

Dr. Carla Gull blogs at www.insideoutsidemichiana.com. She is often seen with her four tag-along explorers in the greater Michiana area.