Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Children Climbing Trees for Safety


Moving away from standardised climbing equipment and into trees…. for safety!

Take a look at this video of what happens when one step in a New York subway is slightly different from the others.
A slight deviation in a pattern of assumed environmental factors [the steps] increases the likelihood of an accident to occur.

When faced with standardised design, we speculate, we predict, we make an assumption that our relationship with the environment is constant, predictable and safe.

We no longer assess safety we assume safety.

When children are supplied with standardised climbing equipment, they do the same. Children are inadvertently taught to assume safety and not assess it.

In my teaching practice I work in both a natural environment [Bush Kinder] and a built environment [Home Kinder].
My teaching colleagues and I observed components of each environment and what those components ‘told’ the children.
When we focused on a comparison of tree climbing and trestle climbing, this is what we found.


A frames are unbending,
the rungs are evenly sized
evenly spaced.
Braches vary,
they move.
They talk to you,
they creak,
they sway,
they let you know if they are going to support you
[or not].

Bush Kinder kids know this,
they shift their weight,
their hands switch branches.
They listen as the trees talk to them and
They answer the trees with their movement.


Internationally respected landscape architect Helle Nebelong states  “I am convinced that standardised playgrounds are dangerous, just in another way: When the distance between all the rungs in a climbing net or a ladder is exactly the same, the child has no need to concentrate on where he puts his feet. Standardisation is dangerous because play becomes simplified and the child does not have to worry about his movements. This lesson cannot be carried over to all the knobbly and asymmetrical forms, with which one is confronted throughout life.”


Rarni Rothwell and Olivia Ogden of St Josephs Outside School Hours Care – North Ipswich. Shifted their practice inline with their beliefs and allowed children to “climb trees and scale to new heights”

“The new me would watch quietly... observe the capabilities of the climbers; ask questions if I needed to confirm they were considering the risks carefully. As I become more aware of the climber’s knowledge and skill, my focus of inquiry would switch to more abstract ponderings. I would listen to what they are sharing with me. I would celebrate their achievements as they grew in confidence and reached greater heights. I would ensure that I captured this learning for the families and children to revisit. I would ensure that they always had access to this unique learning environment...”


Children perceive climbing as fun and strive to accomplish reaching the highest point possible, overcome challenges and test their abilities. Climbing a tree can build confidence and develop coordination, problem solving skills, and strength. As children play together in a tree, their social, creative and imaginative skills are enhanced.
Children should be encouraged to climb safe trees. Playing outside in a tree gives them direct contact with nature and the tactile experience of touching different barks and leaves.
Children have a natural instinct to be cautious of heights. When climbing a tree, they will learn skills to seek out stable branches and determine the best route to take 
 kidsafe NSW  

Giving children opportunities to climb trees gives them opportunities to learn to assess risk and stay safe.
Doug Fargher

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