Climbing trees with kids is fun, adventurous and simple. All you need is the right tree and a head for heights – and you’re off!
The key thing to remember when you climb trees with your children is don’t go too high too soon. You need to ease kids in slowly, keeping it enjoyable and exciting without getting scary and dangerous.
Both of our boys have been clawing up at branches since just after their first birthdays and our 4-year-old now thinks he’s an expert (he’s definitely not). So here are some useful tips we’ve picked up so far…
1. Wear the right footwear
Trainers or a pair of lightweight flexible boots with good grip are best. Wellies are too clumpy to get a precise grip, and flip-flops and sandals are a nightmare!
2. Pick the right tree
Don’t worry so much about the type of tree, just focus on something with a thick trunk and plenty of big, chunky branches. The reason for this is straightforward – it needs to take your child’s weight. And not only your child’s but yours too, because you may need to climb up there to help them. Also, look for a tree with branches that are close together to avoid any unnecessary overstretching or dangerous jumping.
3. Test the branches
Just because a branch is thick doesn’t mean it’s strong. Check for dead, rotten or decaying wood because it can be weak, crumbly and prone to easy breakage. And you definitely don’t want to trust your weight to a branch like that!
4. Look out for bird nests
This is quite a simple one – if you spot a nest anywhere in the tree you’re planning to climb, leave it well alone and move on to another tree.
5. Wait for dry conditions
This isn’t absolutely essential, but what you don’t want is very wet and slippy branches. So test them with your feet and hands to test the grip before you get going.
6. Start with the lowest branch
This might sound obvious, but when you’re climbing trees with kids the key is to start as low as possible. Don’t hoist your child up high into the tree straight away. Instead, let them pull themselves off the ground safely and easily, so they can build confidence as they climb.
7. Take it slow
Once you get going, it’s hard to stop yourself wanting to climb all the way to the top of the tree quickly. And trust us, your kids will feel exactly the same! But rushing is dangerous, so encourage them to take their time and focus from branch to branch.
8. Keep three points of contact
Make sure you only move one limb at a time, so you either have two legs and an arm, or two arms and a leg, in contact with the tree at all times. Any less than that, and you’re in big danger of losing your balance and toppling off.
9. Push with your legs
It’s always tempting to haul yourself up with your arms when climbing, but you get all of your main thrusting power from your legs. Use your hands and arms for balance and support, then push yourself upwards with your legs. Also, try to stay as upright and close to the trunk as possible to help with your balance.
10. Don’t climb too high!
When you’re climbing trees with kids, probably the No.1 rule is not to let them go too high. Nobody knows how they’ll react to heights until they experience that sensation of being a long way off the ground, so let your child ease themselves upwards slowly. The second they get nervous, it’s time to stop. They’ll get more used to heights the more they climb. It’s also important to remember that branches tend to get thinner and weaker the higher you climb, which makes them less likely to support your weight.
11. Climb down the way you went up
Downclimbing a tree is a lot harder than going up, but if you got up there in the first place, there’s no reason you can’t make it down the same way. The simplest and safest option is to retrace your moves in exactly the same direction, trusting your weight and moves to the same branches you used to ascend.