Have you ever climbed a tree? Do your kids like climbing trees?
This has never been high on my list, even back in the nursery school days, but my 3 year old N has climbing in her soul and will climb just about anything: rock climbing walls, trees, jungle gyms, furniture, fences, etc. She seems to gravitate especially to trees that offer a challenging climb, and I like it because it gets us out into the fresh air and builds strong minds and bodies.
I love good ol’ fashioned play like this, and thought we could all use a visual reminder of how important free-range outdoor play is for kids.
The spirit of play is at the heart of imagination, creativity, and innovation. In playful environments, we’re prone to divergent thinking (generating numerous ideas about a topic) and are more inclined to push the limits of what’s possible into the impossible.
Climbing trees may not seem like highly cognitive work, but let’s take a look at what might be involved…
First of all, you have to map your idea (a will to climb a tree) with your reality (how will you climb that tree?). And then you have to send signals from your mind to your body to problem solve the execution. Our neighbor’s poor flowers were pelted by too many little climbers who have deemed this the most climbable neighborhood tree, so you might also have to navigate around the mini-flower-shielding fence that’s now in your way.
You might not yet be ready to climb a tree, but you’re building your confidence by climbing things that are within the zone of proximal development. Go you!
And when you reach that branch that always eluded you, the feeling of pride is beyond belief. You’ve accomplished something that only you could accomplish. You’ve tested your strength and your limits, and proven to yourself that you can achieve what you set your mind to.
I always watch my children closely and offer a lot of support when they first take on new physical challenges, but since my goal is to empower them I will step back once I get the cue that they’re comfortable without my assistance. I was talking with a friend today about free-range parenting (maybe you’ve heard of this movement?) and I follow this parenting philosophy to a great extent. I’m very involved in my childrens’ lives and everyday experiences, offer them a great deal of compassion and emotional support, but I’m raising them to be confident, independent thinkers who can make decisions for themselves without a lot of supervision.
I’ve partnered withGoGo squeeZ, the first squeezable, re-sealable, no-mess, 100% fruit, no-sugar added applesauce based snack for kids in the U.S, as a Playbassador, which means that I have more reasons to share fun outdoor activities that celebrate play and creativity. All opinions in this post are my own.