The tree-climbing dilemma

nicknoahcampWith the approach of summer camp season comes this perennial camp director question: to allow or not to allow tree climbing?

First, let me admit to a personal bias. One of my fondest childhood memories involves meeting a friend at nine o’clock every morning of summer vacation among the branches of a welcoming beech tree. We’d while away hours in our leafy perch with nary an accident, despite the rickety slabs of wood nailed ladder-style to the trunk or the leap of faith required to scale the aging platform.

As a parent, my childhood recollections have translated into rather lax tree-climbing guidelines. It’s not unusual to find my son scaling the huge pine in our backyard with the agility of a monkey, and our family mantra is “If you can climb up it yourself, you can climb down it yourself.” Still, I understand the hesitancy of other parents when it comes to tree-climbing, particularly since it was one of my dearest mom friends who apologetically asked that her child be excluded from any camp tree-climbing activities due to safety concerns. Accidents can and will happen, even with my yearly camp admonitions to stay toward the center of the tree, reach for the thickest limbs, and climb with caution.

Of course, accidents can happen anywhere. At age eight, I suffered a compound fracture of the arm not by climbing trees but by demonstrating a less-than-graceful ballet move. Which is why tree-climbing stays on my summer camp agenda. Yes, there are risks. But think of the gains! Balance, agility, strength, self-confidence, and problem-solving. Not to mention the supreme joy of looking at the world through a filter of green leaves and blue sky.

Marie Antoinette can have her cake: I say, “Let them climb trees.”

The Arboretum’s Summer Nature Camps begin June 16. Limited spaces are still available for Camp Bumblebee, Camp Paw Paw, and Camp Egret. Click here for more information.

by Jenny Houghton
Youth Program Coordinator

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One thought on “The tree-climbing dilemma

  1. Jenny I really like your attitude. Years ago I had a stepdaughter that during her summer visit fell from a tree and broke her arm. It healed and she was no worse or wear. I think we have become too restrictive in so many things.

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