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Do Kids Still Climb Trees?

Updated on June 3, 2012

Do children still climb trees? It was a question recently asked by a fellow hubber - initially I began to voice my thoughts and opinions in the question and answer section of hubpages. However, though the question is indeed quite simple, I found that it raised a lot of thoughts in my mind concerning modern day parenting and today's young generation.

Most people of a certain age will recall childhoods spent outdoors, playing on streets; in parks; perhaps in woodland. Certainly, climbing trees was a common pursuit of children - although some were certainly better than others. Playing outside meant children made their own entertainment - without the trappings of media and games consoles, play was creative, innovative and communicative. Many children would play outside for the best part of the day, weather permitting.

Playing outside with their peers meant that children naturally acquired essential social skills, such as the ability to communicate, compromise and be assertive. Children learned to take risks and to be aware of their own strengths and weaknesses. What's more, they got a lot of exercise, and burned off more energy than many of today's children. Children need to move around a lot, it is almost an integral part of their very being. Even in sleep, children move about more than adults. With ADD and ADHD becoming an all too common diagnosis, it's interesting to wonder whether it would be any different if children were given the freedom to explore, climb, and run about for hours, on a more regular basis.

Yes, But Do Kids Still Climb Trees?

The short answer is, yes. If today's children are provided with the right opportunities and environment, then activities such as tree climbing are still very much enjoyed. One of the points we should ask ourselves, as parents, is just how often our children today are actually given the chance to indulge in these timeless pursuits.

Today's children do not enjoy the freedoms of yesteryear because most of the time parental anxiety prevents them from roaming very far from home. Whether these are anxieties rooted in true danger, or fruitless paranoia, the end result is the same. We are raising a generation who spend far more time inside the home than any who have gone before them. Even when children do spend time outdoors, it is all too often in a family environment with supervision. It is almost like comparing free range hens with caged hens, although I admit that this comparison is a little harsh. The truth of the matter is that parents today restrict their children out of love, fear (real or imagined) and potential dangers.

And not only that, but many of our local towns have become so built up over the years that a lot of the areas that provided enjoyment for children over the years are simply not there anymore. Green spaces are fewer, making way for ever-increasing houses and new roads. Often, there will not be any suitable trees for climbing in the vicinity of a child's home at all. Traffic has also increased drastically, and is possibly the number one factor in parental curtailment of children's freedom. Most of us do not live in quite the same environment inhabited by previous generations.

When I am at home with my children, with our postage-stamp-sized garden out the back and the trappings of modern life conveniently accessible inside, there is not a lot of talk about climbing trees. There might, instead, be talk about playing on the wretched games console, having a friend round (but not to climb trees) seeing a movie, going for a kick-about with a ball (nothing wrong with that) or going into town to buy something that will end up being a five-minute wonder. All this, of course, is a world away from the types of childhood activities indulged in days gone by. The truth is, no matter how we hope and imagine our children will turn out when they are little bundles of new, tiny love in our arms, unless we live in a rural idyll unattached to the mainstream, then the trends of society and the media will almost certainly make an impression upon our children. Today, the pursuit of tree climbing must compete with the trappings of modern day consumerism, such as the next 'big' toy, games consoles, computers, TV and social media. The problem is that most of these alternatives are addictive to our children, providing them with fast-moving, ever-ready entertainment at the touch of a button. Sadly, and all too often, the world inside a computer game or a cyber existence online can be more alluring than 'real' life and simple activities like climbing trees.

Tree Climbing Today Competes with Social Media and Virtual Worlds

But even though my children thoroughly embrace modern living with all its good and bad points, and my oldest son is obsessed with his xbox 360, all I have to do is transport them to some local woods - brimming with sturdy trees, low branches, inclines and thick undergrowth, with no inkling of any type of screen in sight - and I suddenly realise that they have not lost the ability to enjoy more traditional childhood pursuits after all. In fact, they naturally gravitate towards the trees with the best branches, to see how high they can get. They do not need to be encouraged to do this; they do it as a matter of course. Tree climbing can be competitive, imaginative, or just simply fun. It can be an activity in itself, or part of a game involving look-out posts and spies. Trees are still climbed by children, just because they can be. You might not think that the young of today are remotely interested in the pursuit of climbing trees, but perhaps you are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Tree climbing might not take precedent over the Playstation, but if you take the Playstation (and all the other offenders) away, then children can and will revert back to the 'good ole days'. Perhaps children have not really changed at all; it's only that as parents, and as a society in general, we have shaped the way they behave.

After all, perhaps we should compare ourselves, as parents of the new generation, to our own parents. The grandparents of today's children are likely to be from the 'Baby Boomer' generation - born during or just after the Second World War. Probably they had their children in the late 60's, 70's or early 80's. Then, mothers typically worked less and certainly did not have access to the social media and instant access to information that we have today. The internet did not even exist. Life was blissfully simpler, at least for many. My own mother, and my grandmother too, loved gardening and spending time outdoors. We went on family walks and looked for shells on the shore. As children, we played outside a lot, because it was fun and indoors the television only ran children's programmes on Saturday mornings, and after school for around 90 minutes. There was no such thing as a computer in our house until I was 12, and even then it was so basic it would be unrecognisable when compared to today's models.

Parents of today's young generation, however, are a different story. They spend time clicking away on a mobile phone. They probably have a Facebook account and check it regularly. They are likely to spend time browsing the world wide web. The point is, of course, that children today observe that their own parents are often nearly as addicted to screens and gadgets as they are! We want our children to get out there, climb trees and enjoy an idyllic, old-fashioned childhood, but very often we portray the very opposite - that we, ourselves, fully embrace the technical era and that we gain a lot of satisfaction from its very existence.

In the Right Environment, Children Have Not Changed As Much As We Imagine

Sometimes we head up to our favourite coastal area, where large pinewoods lay before sand dunes and the coast. The beach is, of course, a popular haunt for families on a warm day. Some like building castles, others like paddling in the channel and in the numerous shallow pools. My kids, however, prefer the pinewoods - especially my oldest. There are trees that are great for climbing, and the children don't need any reminders. Some are huge, fallen trunks, low enough to clamber on and yet large enough to be fun. There are areas which are great for pretend 'dens', and a fantastic rope swing attached to one of the tallest trees. It is a real 'make-shift' swing, goodness only knows how it got up there. Hidden right in the middle of the woods, many people don't even realise it exists at all. But of those that do, boys and girls of all ages - even teenagers - swarm around it waiting for a turn. And if that is not proof that young people can still enjoy childhood activities from bygone days, then I don't know what is.

We All Create Society

We did, of course, all help to create the society we live in today. We have provided our children with too many distractions, so that traditional pursuits do not always hold the same appeal that they once did. If circumstances and environment allows, then we can observe that children still can and will climb trees. Many times, this will occur when the trappings of our modern lives are out of sight, and out of mind.

As parents, we complain that our children hanker after material possessions, electronic devices and instant entertainment, but we don't always like to admit that, at least in part, we as a collective society have assisted this change in childhood behaviour. If we, as a whole rather than as individuals, did not purchase the very items that we complain about (and I am as guilty as the next person) then they would not take over the lives of our children. If we did not give in to advertising and marketing, then it would not be forced into our children's faces quite so often.

Even though extra housing and heavy development has certainly taken away some of our green spaces, there are still plenty of places to go where children can climb and explore nature, just as they did in years gone by. Perhaps these places might be further away, and yes, we might have to go with them. But if you don't fancy clambering up a tree trunk yourself, then take their mates instead. I remember trips out with my family in the old days - my sister and I always took along a friend each and no one was ever bored. We even had a tree in the garden, and we used to climb it often, and incorporate it into various imaginative worlds. My mother still lives in that house, but the tree is no more - it met an unfortunate end in strong gales some 20 years ago. My children never got the chance to see it, but I know that if it was still there, they would want to try and climb it. It was a tree with low branches, so that anyone could get at least some way up. It was the sort of tree that makes for good childhood memories. Many times, the best memories of a childhood are the simplest ones - days spent outside, running; hiding; exploring. And, of course, climbing the best trees. Children today might not get as much chance to do so as their peers that have gone before them, but then again, some things are timeless.


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    • Eleanor's Words profile imageAUTHOR

      Eleanor's Words 

      7 years ago from Far and Wide

      @Eiddwen - Hi there, glad you enjoyed the hub! Well, you know, they say we often look back at childhood through rose coloured glasses, but I really do believe that many of today's young generation are missing out somewhat, when compared to children from years gone by. Even though children still can and do climb trees, the opportunity is rarely on their doorstep (and of course, it is not all about climbing trees, but being free to explore and play outdoors without constant supervision and guidance from adults). In part, it is due to opportunity, but on the other hand, children are becoming increasingly obsessed with the technical world we now live in.

      I, too, look back and see wonderful memories - a childhood spent playing outdoors; climbing; swinging; hiding; exploring - it definitely has a sparkle and a sense of magic about it. After all, don't they say that all the best things in life are simple things that don't cost anything? Great to meet you here, take care x

    • Eiddwen profile image


      7 years ago from Wales

      Oh how this hub brought back so many memroies. I was such a tomboy when I was small and was always climbing any tree that I could !!!

      A great trip dowm memory lane and I now look forward to reading many more of your hubs.

      Take care


    • Eleanor's Words profile imageAUTHOR

      Eleanor's Words 

      7 years ago from Far and Wide

      @SingSong - your back yard sounds amazing and fantastic for the kids. It's great to learn both yours and the other neighbourhood children enjoy climbing the trees - once again it only shows that so many children have not lost the ability to indulge in such activities, but rather the opportunity. Thanks for reading and for your great comments :)

    • Eleanor's Words profile imageAUTHOR

      Eleanor's Words 

      7 years ago from Far and Wide

      @ Simone - times have definitely changed, in some ways for the worse and in some ways for the better. When it is a nice day and my children are sitting inside, saying they don't know what to so, I always wish childhood could be more like the old days - when kids had more ready access to traditional childhood activities such as tree climbing, or even just playing games out in the street.

      A lot of people assume that modern children are somehow radically different from previous generations, but really they are only a reflection of society. Deep inside, I really don't think they have changed as much as some would assume. One of my son's favorite holidays was camping at a woodland campsite - actually he didn't climb trees because they weren't the right type, but he thoroughly embraced the experience and did not want to leave. He was outside all the time with the other children, playing on the adventure playgrounds and running through the undergrowth and said it was 'awesome'.

      In an ideal world, we could provide opportunities like this for our children all the time, but with the pressures and responsibilities of day to day life, of course this is rarely possible. That is, of course, one of the reasons why summer camps are so fantastic - and like you say, such organisations provide young people with wonderful memories to cherish through life. Thanks for reading :)

    • Eleanor's Words profile imageAUTHOR

      Eleanor's Words 

      7 years ago from Far and Wide

      @Monisadja - yes, children are certainly not allowed to play out on the street at such a young age as in the past, athough I suppose in part it depends on where you live. My oldest son plays out on the street, but has only really done so from the age of 9 or so. My three year old is not allowed to do so at all, even when being looked after by his 11 year old brother. Even though our street is relatively quiet, there are still cars going up and down and that is usually my biggest concern.

      It's lovely that your kids still love climbing trees - I notice you said you love outdoors too, which reiterates the idea that children often take on board our own ideals. We too live near a fabulous park with a couple of climbing trees that have a number of very small branches - there are always children climbing up the middle and poking their heads out the top. This is a park which has a very safe feeling about it, and most parents let their children run relatively freely from the age of about 6. It also has a lot of undergrowth which kids are able to hide in, and they love it - often much more so than the actual children's play area.

      For those parents who are afraid to let their children on the actual play structures - well, I suppose we all have to learn to let go a bit, and some parents find it harder than others. I have a friend who had an accident falling from a tree when she was young, and so hates her own children doing it. However, she still lets them and they don't know about her fear, she hides it from them. Our children have to learn their own boundaries sometimes otherwise they cannot fully develop as confident little people.

      Anyway, thank you for reading and for your fantastic comments :)

    • SingSong profile image

      Julia Lee 

      7 years ago

      My kids are in the trees all the time. Other neighborhood kids come to our back yard to climb our trees because they are good climbing trees. Mature trees are one good thing about moving into an older neighborhood.

    • Eleanor's Words profile imageAUTHOR

      Eleanor's Words 

      7 years ago from Far and Wide

      @TicksProfessional - thank you for your great comments, your childhod sounds great. I would love for my children to live in a house surrounded by trees and countryside. And growing our own food has always been one of my dreams, but we don't really have the space at the moment. Children should definitely spend a lot of time outdoors, climbing and making their own entertainment - so many of the best childhood memories are made that way :)

    • Eleanor's Words profile imageAUTHOR

      Eleanor's Words 

      7 years ago from Far and Wide

      @prasetio30 - kids are definitely obsessed with computers, something which I really hate. However, if they are in a place with trees and there are no modern gadgets in sight, then it can become apparent that, deep inside, children have not changed as much as one might think. I live in a city, by the way, and yet many miles of coastline and countryside are within easy reach and my children have embraced more traditional childhood activities without a second thought. However, this usually tends to happen when the games consoles, etc. are out of reach (not that they have unlimited access to them). Perhaps, as parents, we have to make a bit more of an effort to provide our children with the opportunities to climb trees, etc. but they will still do it if the environment is right. My son went on an outdoors activities trip with the school a few months ago, and absolutely loved it. He has also recently asked me to take him cycling in the forest. And he is a very modern child, with a consumerist attitude to life, so it just goes to show. Anyway, thank you for reading, your comments are much appreciated :)

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 

      7 years ago from San Francisco

      Times have changed... that's for sure! What I take comfort in is the knowledge that, if given the opportunity, kids would go back to climbing trees instead of sitting inside in no time flat. That's why I'm a huge advocate for summer programs that help get urban kids out in the wilderness. Camps like those changed my life.

      Awesome Hub!

    • Monisajda profile image


      7 years ago from my heart

      My kids still love climbing trees. I love outdoors, too. I don't feel though, it would be safe for them (7 and 4) to be without supervision on the street so I drive them to the park. There they are free to use their imagination and play. But it differs dramatically from what my free childhood used to be. I agree with you on that. However, even in the park, there will be parents who will yell at their kids to not climb a playstructure (designed for children) because it is not SAFE.

      Apart from taking them to a park or for a hike we stay home and get bored. I try to limit screen time and offer other choices but if there is a neighborhood kid willing to play with them, that's the best.

    • TicksProfessional profile image

      Talha Rehman 

      7 years ago from Lucknow India

      My mother was posted in rural areas for long periods during my childhood. We had a lot of trees and fields around our house. We even grew our vegetables and pulses at home as the market was far away. I still long to run across the fields and climb the trees. A guava tree was my favorite. I used to climb it daily. Your hub is thought provoking and it brings my childhood memories back too.

    • prasetio30 profile image


      7 years ago from malang-indonesia

      I thought kids more love to play computer, playstation than climb the tree. The era is changing from traditional to modern. But we may see this in the village. Vote it up!



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