Some of us can remember climbing as far as you could to the top of a tree and feeling that you had conquered the world. Letting your imagination take over while you were the Captain of your ship, sailing through rough waters with a storm looming just ahead! Sadly, how often do you see a child in a tree anymore?
Learning how to climb a tree is becoming a lost art. Many parents are afraid their child might fall, might be bitten by a snake or spider, or worse yet, might get dirty! This mentality is depriving our children of so many benefits of learning to climb, and fall from, a tree. In today's world, so many of our children sit all day at school, in the car, on their phone, at the computer, that their bodies are becoming literally weak. It is our job as educators and parents to reverse this trend before it is too late.
In a recent beautiful day at our preschool, I was sitting 10 feet away from our magnificent wild tamarind tree watching as some of our students were attempting to climb the tree. Some were successful, some weren't, but all of them kept trying to get up that tree. One student was so excited that he made it up, he let go to shout and quickly fell straight backwards onto the ground. Now before you start thinking how awful I was to allow him to fall, that I wasn't right under him to catch him, please realize that once he caught his breath, he looked at me to see if he was in trouble (for falling??), I simply smiled, asked if he was okay and he started climbing right back up that tree! The amount of courage, perseverance, and determination by that child was a wonderful sight! And what a valuable lesson he learned! I could have told him fifty times to keep three points of contact on the tree, the technical way of teaching a child to climb a tree, or he could have learned it by falling four feet.
The benefits of a simple task such as climbing trees are vital to our children. While climbing trees, a child must think about the best route to go with their hands and feet to go up, and down, which develops critical thinking and problem solving skills. Spacial awareness is also being acquired as they figure out how to fit their bodies in between branches and tight spots. Gross motor skills and muscle strength are being challenged as they must lift their bodies with their arms and legs while reaching with their hands and feet. Core strength is being developed. Concentration is being tested as they truly focus on their next move. And once they have climbed as far as they are comfortable, self-regulation, the confidence and boost of self-esteem that will be beaming from them is absolutely invaluable. There is also the lessons learned from falling from a tree. Honestly, how many of us fell from a tree more than once and never broke a bone? I bet you next time they will hold tighter to the branch or choose a different path up that tree. Very valuable lessons can be taught from falling. The cherry on top is a child exploring the world around them, giving them an appreciation for nature which in turn will turn in to an appreciation for conservation, something our little island values tremendously.
So the next time you longingly look at a tree and wish you could be dangling from the tippy top branches yelling "Ahoy Matey!", grab your child and encourage them to climb. Remember, it they need a boost, they aren't quite ready, be patient little grasshopper, they will indeed figure it out in due time.
The Children's Education Center of the Islands is a 501(c)(3) non-profit Preschool offering full-time and part-time classes for children ages 12 months to 5 years, and offers free Voluntary PreKindergarten (VPK). The preschool is still accepting applications for the 2018-2019 school year, which begins on August 13. Scholarships are also available on a limited basis. For more information, call Ms. Cindy at the preschool at 472-4538 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.