On a physical level, climbing trees build muscular strength and flexibility, develop motor skills and depth perception, teach them to assess a branch’s size and ability to hold them and force them to concentrate. On an emotional level, it’s a great thrill to reach such heights, and for kids to be out of reach of their parents, to be in control of pushing their boundaries. It gives them room for their imaginations to run wild and to feel connected to nature. It can instill confidence and, in a way, makes them safer overall because they become more capable of humans.
But what about Injury?
There is always the possibility that children may fall out of a tree, but tree-climbing is, compared to other injuries, a non-issue. Researchers interviewed 1,600 parents who let their children climb trees and found that the most common injury by far was scraped skin. Only 2 percent of parents said that their child had broken a bone, and even fewer had suffered from a concussion. Meanwhile, there are more than 3.5 million American children under the age of 14 that undergo medical treatment for injuries from organized sports every year. This shows that if parents were truly worried about injury prevention, they’d never sign their kid up for organized sports. But that’s a ridiculous idea. Most parents wouldn’t doubt for a second that the benefits of sport outweigh the risks. So why don’t we do that with tree-climbing and other free play activities in nature?