Tree climbing

When Ryder was little, he used to sob dramatically over a little 'Rock A Bye Baby' book - he would turn to the page of 'when the bough breaks' and wail 'roooock a baaaaaby'!!! I thought he would never ever climb a tree; thankfully he did (though fairly cautiously at first). We took some friends to a park for some tree climbing earlier this week - I've been making more of an effort to do it lately, firstly because it's fun (and free!) but also because I've been doing some reading about the benefits. There's a good little clip that ABC Catalyst aired a few weeks back called 'Nature Play' - I highly recommend watching it if it's still available. Did you know that one in five Aussie kids have never climbed a tree?! And that kids now spend 52 hours in front of a computer or a screen of some kind every week – but only 40 minutes outside? Gah!!! Planet Ark did the original research, published three years ago:

'Safety fears, lack of family time and addiction to technology has created a generation of children who no longer climb trees. New research shows only 20 per cent of today's children take part in the age-old pastime compared with 64 per cent of their parents. The Climbing Trees: Getting Aussie Kids Back Outdoors study, reveals 73 per cent of parents played outdoors more often than they did indoors when they were young, compared to only 13 per cent of today's children. More than 70 per cent of parents said they played outside every day as kids, compared to only 35 per cent of their children. One in 10 of today's children play outside once a week or less.

Professor Anita Bundy, from Sydney University, said the results are concerning as outdoor play not only benefits children's physical well-being, but is also essential to social and cognitive development. "When children play outdoors without parents shadowing their every move they learn social negotiation which is an important skill," she said. "It helps them think creatively and problem solve. They also learn to manage risk and make sound judgments about what is safe and what is not."'

If you want to do some more reading about it, there's a great article 'How Green Space Keeps You Happy and Healthy' over at the Financial Review, 'Too much screen time and too little outside play is holding back kids'  at the Conversation, and Nature Play QLD has a 'Green Time vs Screen Time' chart for kids to chart their playtime. There's also this - 'Without nature, the little children suffer' on the ABC website:

'We may have disconnected from nature, but we are delusional if we think we can live without it. Ignoring the value and contribution of nature to our well being is, quite literally, life threatening. But ignoring is exactly what we're doing. In his seminal 2005 book, Last Child in the Woods, author Richard Louv, gave this ignorance a term: Nature Deficit Disorder. While not a medically recognised condition, there is an ever expanding body of work which supports Louv's central theme: that deprivation of a relationship with nature is fraught with multiple health and welfare issues. For people. And planet.'

However I'm certain we don't need studies to tell us the benefits of being amongst nature, and of climbing trees. Surely we know it deep in our bones. Fresh air. Exercise. Risk taking. Confidence boosting. Life skills. And yes my stomach is in my throat and my heart is pounding in my ears when I see my precious child slowly inching across a branch 20 feet above the ground, but if that bough breaks, I'll wipe his tears and tell him to try again. And hopefully he'll learn to pick his branches better next time. 

Kelley Sheenan