Risky play is great for kids. It helps build confidence and resilience, allows them to understand their bodies and stretch themselves.
Climbing trees has been a preferred activity of children for decades. Most of us grew up climbing trees at some point and I would bet our parents spent even more time in the branches. The freedom and sense of accomplishment gained while sitting in the boughs was second to almost nothing. However, it seems that most of society has forgotten that feeling.
Most parenting advice these days is all about risk aversion and protecting our kids. I can’t tell you how many judgmental stares, I’ve gotten for allowing my children to do something that someone else deems risky.
Our firstborn was a natural climber; which we soon realized, when at only six months old, he not only pulled himself up to standing, but managed to use his rocking horse as a brace to get up onto the ottomans and storage containers, we used to block the fireplace, and crawled across them. We knew then that we were going to be in for a wild ride.
By the time he was a toddler he was climbing to the top of his playhouse, counters, furniture, nothing was safe.
Instead of trying to work against his inner nature, telling him not to climb, which would have been useless anyway, we allowed him to take the lead with some general house rules. He would let us know when he felt safe and when he was unstable. By letting him explore, he began to realize his abilities and limits and continually pushed to surpass them both.
He began climbing the white birch tree in front of our house when he was a toddler. Positioning himself between the trunks, he would stop when he didn’t feel safe and only climbed as far as he was comfortable. Gradually as his body, strength and confidence grew, he progressed to climbing into the tree and then up.
Watching this growth and perseverance, has been awe inspiring and at times heart palpitating, This is not always the easy path. As a parent, watching my baby as he ascends higher and higher, beyond the security of my arms and outside my limits of protection and safety. It can be downright terrifying and also sobering. This is what parenting is; it’s letting go of our children, to set their own paths, learn their own strengths and weaknesses and ultimately become their own person.
The huge beaming smile that comes after accomplishing something that he thought to be outside his limits, makes me realize that this is right path for our family.