Take a Risk – Explore Inside a Tree

We have a special tree, that is affectionately called “our tree”.  It is about 5 minutes drive from our house, with great views over the fjords and of the setting sun.  You can climb up into this tree, and sit inside the middle.  The main branches going up from the trunk are hollow, allowing for crawling up inside and then out onto the sturdier peripheral branches.  There is a very large broken branch that goes at an angle from the mid section of the tree to the ground, which is fantastic for crawling up and testing your balance.  To clarify, this tree definitely fulfils one of the National Trust’s “50 things to do before you are 11 3/4; Explore inside a tree”, and certainly makes children take a risk (more about this topic later on in the post).

So, for this week’s adventure we headed off to explore inside a tree and to take a risk.  First though, we needed to have a little hike, have some food to eat, and then finish up at our tree to use the remaining energy up.  The fire pit I had in mind this week was on a little island.  When the tide is in, it’s quite hard to cross to and keep your feet dry (you need to go from the mainland, to a little island in the middle, then from that to the fire pit island).  We were lucky though, the tide was out, and the stepping stones (great adventure for the children) were raised well above the boggy squelchy mud.

Once onto our island with the fire pit, the children immediately set about testing their limits by climbing trees and running on the icy rocks (yes, it is still below zero here!).  This is something I’ve had to learn to embrace, as risk taking is very good for them and for their development (less good for Mamma’s heart rate and anxiety levels!).  I’ve had to learn to keep my mouth shut, and my “be careful” instincts to myself.  It is not until you actually say those words, that children doubt themselves, and once said and doubt is planted in their minds, then accidents are more likely to happen as confidence slips, thinking that there is something to worry about.  They are handling things perfectly fine until us grown ups interrupt!

Whilst they were all off exploring, discovering their limits, and doing a lot of risk taking, I set about getting the fire going for our tasty refuelling treat (and to warm my hands up).  The little lady hopped down from her tree to help me prepare the food supplies a little too.

I love our fires when we are out, and they serve as a bit of a focal area for the children to keep returning to, in between their exploring of the surrounding nature.  Reluctant to extinguish this one after our food, I put some more wood on, and sat back and enjoyed watching the trio play and discover.  I love being out with them as their best games are outside and without toys.  Our little lady spent ages excavating ice out of the sea, and stocking up the supply, to then systematically smash it.  Either dropping it from great heights to see how it flew apart, or breaking it up with a stick “to make music” as she put it.  They learn heaps in the outdoors using nature.

Then it was time to head over to our special tree.  For the next hour the children climbed up, through, and over, testing both theirs and the tree’s limits.  This is something that I am very passionate about, letting them test their limits.  I have been pushed more towards this style of parenting since having my twin boys (since they are risk addicts), but as I’ve gone through this learning process of letting them take risks, I have learnt that this is a much better way of parenting them.  We are (even if it is unintentionally) breeding a generation that will grow up unable to take a risk, and if they do take a risk, unable to manage that risk.  There are a few reasons for this.  There is a lot more screen time in our little people’s lives now, which consequently means less time outdoors climbing trees and swinging from home made swings.  We are more afraid of the presence of stranger danger, meaning our children don’t go out without us so much.  This alone has 2 impacts; they don’t get up to the antics of previous generations (so do not take a risk in their play) due to adult presence, and the adults in their lives need to be available to take them outdoors, which due to work pressures (and lets face it, needing a bit of our own down time), means they are indoors a lot more.  We are also a lot more sedentary about our lives in general too, and us adults don’t always set the best example about getting out there in the outdoors and nature.  Such reasons as ‘bad’ weather set the wrong example to the younger generation!

I have just finished the book by Angela Hanscom, “Balanced and Barefoot”, which has been a real eye opener.  In there she explains that if children don’t take a risk (and they needn’t be drastic), their development will suffer.  They need to practise assessing risk on their own, and this will in turn help them develop new essential skills.  She says; “Children are natural risk takers.  They need it.  They crave it”.  This is certainly true for our mini men, and becoming more true for our little lady.  Most of children’s risks are taken during unstructured play times, uncontrolled by grown ups.  Here they can learn to take those risks, as well as manage them and control them.  Very useful skills to have.  Angela Hanscom goes on in her book to explain how taking risks can increase their confidence and is of huge value to the child.  She explains how it “also helps children develop strong physical skills that support good body awareness”.  So, us grown ups need to listen to the message that she is putting across, and whilst it is scary for us parents to let them take those risks (and I really struggle to keep my mouth shut at times!), it is essential for them to be allowed to do so, and also given opportunity to do so.  I think the straw that broke the camel’s back regarding our decision to pull our daughter out of formal schooling in the UK, was, after a week of wet plays indoors (which I vehemently disagree with, but that is for another time), they had a really sunny autumn day at school.  When I asked her whether they had been allowed out that day at school, her response really shocked me:  “No Mamma.  All the leaves that have blown down in the storm made it too slippery for us to be outside”!!!!  We are protecting these children so much that it is going to have a huge detrimental impact on their lives.

So my three children, having had their dose of risk taking for the day, and thoroughly worn out, did not argue when I suggested that it might be time we headed home.  We love our tree, and I know we will be back many more times, and perhaps even get to paddle in those waters when they weather does eventually kick winter into touch, and warm up 🙂

Take a risk explore inside a tree climbing trees children need risk children climbing www.mammasschol.co.uk


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  1. I think I probably say beware full too much! Great post though. It makes a lot of sense and I will try and say it less. It looks like a fantastic day out with your three. Cold but fun. Love the fire pit.

  2. jo

    We love trees too! Your day out looks awesome I love the fire pit. Your kids look like they are having a brilliant day out and learning so much about nature through playing and being outside. #CountryKids

  3. What a lovely adventure, the hole inside the tree reminds me of one in the middle of my childhood village which was just the same. As always your fire pit looks warming and comforting but what I love most is your approach to risk and outdoor play; a lady after my own heart. Mine are natural risk taking kids and I have always encouraged it despite feeling anxious they are doing things that to me as an adult look scary. There is nothing worse for my children than “wet play times ” at school, here they go out whatever the weather.

    Thank you for sharing your ideology and adventure on #CountryKids

    • Thankyou for reading 🙂 My twins are a right old pair of risk takers, and I’ve come to accept i’m always going to be panicking about them!!

  4. Looks like some great adventures were had. I’d have been there with your daughter smashing up ice. That’s really satisfying.

    N isn’t a risk taker at all. He’s an only child, and I have to encourage him to let him know it’s ok to do things (like climb trees or other things). I think those with siblings probably egg each other on more, N certainly does more off his own back (suggesting and following) when he’s with other children. Luckily we’re on a farm, and I can trust him to play in the garden and around the farm house with me in the house just keeping a watch out. He knows to watch out for cars – I think his dad’s got much less trust in him than I have though, because years ago one of their dogs was run over on the farm.

    • Our little lady has only recently got more confident to try things. It’s nice knowing her won’t wander too far. Here is Sweden the gardens are not fenced like in the UK, and I have to trust my three they will stay inside our “perimeter” and not wander into the roads. It is hard not letting past events affect your parenting (growing up I had a dog that was run over), and I notorious for always imaging the worst outcome of any situation!!

  5. What a fantastic adventure, exploring that tree looks like lots of fun!

  6. Wow some serious fantastic outdoor exploring you have had. We encourage our kids to climb trees – its all about growing up and making connections with nature.

    Just popping over from country kids

    Laura x

  7. What a fantastic adventure. Couldn’t agree more about allowing children to take risk – it’s how they learn best. My son has learnt a lot more about himself and his limitations since we backed off and let him explore. Thanks for sharing #countrykids

  8. That’s such a god point you make about telling them to be careful – I really need to make sure I’m a bit braver with this 😉

  9. What a perfect day – my kids spend a huge proportion of their time looking for trees to climb, the more heart stopping (for me) the better as far as they’re concerned! #countrykids

  10. It’s so interesting to read about the importance of allowing our children to take risks and how preventing them from doing so hinders their development. I often have to resist the urge to tell my children to be careful (especially with Jessica due to her heart condition) but it does make such a difference when I let them set their own limits. That tree looks amazing and so much fun to climb and explore. We have a lovely old yew near us that is perfect for climbing and exploring the inside of and the girls make a beeline for it every time we visit the park where it is. Love how your little girl was exploring the sea ice. #countrykids

  11. I know I say ‘be careful’ far too much, my husband is forever telling me off! It’s hard, but you are absolutely right that we need to let them learn how to take risks. What a fabulous tree!! There was an old pine tree at my grandparents house when I was little that you could climb up inside and sit in, and I used to love to take a book and hide in there for hours 🙂 Great post x #countrykids

  12. I couldn’t agree more with you on children’s need to take risks and test their own limits. Jon Cree of the Forest School Association says that ‘it is in the risk zone that learning happens, not in the comfort zone’, and he’s perfectly right!
    I have just borrowed ‘Balanced and Barefoot’ from my local library here in Ireland, can’t wait to get stuck in!
    Keep doing what you’re doing, your children are having the best possible childhood!

    • Ahhh thankyou that is so kind 🙂 I loved that book. I wish I could spread the message as eloquently as she does. I totally agree with the fact we learn when we take risks, and I think it’s so sad we are depriving a whole generation of the chance 🙁 xx

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