Climbing a tree helps kids gain strength, flexibility, dexterity, and improves their problem-solving skills and sense of self-efficacy. But which trees should you or your children climb? What are the signs of a good climbing tree? And how do you do it with the least amount of risk?
Slow-Growing and Strong-Branched
Fast-growing trees like willows, poplars, and tulip trees are often brittle; the branches break easily. Hardwood trees are usually stronger for climbing. Oak, sycamore, mature maples, buckeyes, or pines make good climbing trees. Often older apple and cherry trees grow large and strong enough to climb. It is a very good idea to have an arborist check over a potential climbing tree to assess it for safety before you or your family members go up into it.
The first branches need to be easily reachable from the ground.
Regularly spaced branches that are close enough together to reach easily are a necessity in a good climbing tree. They allow climbing readily and without over-extension.
Not Someone’s Home
Do not climb a tree that has wildlife in it. Birds are okay but avoid nests. Watch out for bugs and beehives or wasp nests.
Not Near Power or Phone Lines
Don’t climb near power or phone lines. Trees that extend near power lines should be trimmed for safety.
Teach Climbing Safety
Evaluate branches. Can you reach the branch easily and grasp it firmly? Is it a live branch? Dead branches can be hazardous and unsafe. Is the branch thick enough to bear weight? Test branches before trusting that they will hold you up.
- Remember the rule of three – at least three points of contact with the tree at all times. Two hands and a foot, two feet and a hand – but always three!
- Climb close to the trunk and stay off of trees when they are slippery.
- Don’t climb higher than 12 feet up, unless you also want to invest in tree climbing equipment and the training to use it.
- Climbers should always tell someone else when they are climbing, for safety’s sake.
- Safety helmets are a good idea. While no one intends to fall out of a tree, it may happen. Have climbers wear helmets, preferably rock-climbing helmets. Bike helmets have the wrong kind of reinforcement for climbing.
Once your tree is evaluated and everyone knows the rules, have fun climbing!