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Tree Climbing at Waldorf

I was pretty surprised when my daughter fell out of a tree this summer at a Waldorf summer program. It made me ask myself, "How safe is free tree climbing?" It turns out that without the proper training, supervision and equipment, unsafe tree-climbing is a very dangerous activity.

It's critical for your Waldorf school to have a Safe Tree Climbing Policy. Make sure you compare their policy to the guidelines on this page.

Tree climbing can be a wonderful experience for a child, providing it is done in a safe and supervised manner. While most public schools and recreational programs prohibit or limit tree climbing for children, many Waldorf schools allow and even encourage free tree-climbing. While tree climbing can boost children's self-esteem and appreciation of their relationship to nature, free tree climbing can also be injurious and even fatal. It is every parent's responsibility to balance a child's freedom and safety whenever they climb a tree. With the proper training, supervision, and equipment, your child can soar to the heighest heights imaginable!

OpenWaldorf's petition for safe tree-climbing at Waldorf!
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The Dangers of Unsafe Tree Climbing

According to the National Center for Policy Analysis, "unintentional injury is the top killer of children under 14, ahead of cancer and birth defects."

Professional tree climbing organizations such as Tree Climbers International do not recommend free climbing because it is so dangerous. They believe that encouraging a child to free-climb is life-threatening.

Dangers of Falling from Heights

The primary risk of tree climbing is associate with the danger of falling from heights. But how high is too high? Here are a few articles to help you understand the dangers of heights. Injuries from a fall are based on 2 factors:

  1. The height of the fall. To learn more read The higher they are, the harder they will fall, from the National Program for Playground Safety.
  2. The fall surfacing. Check out these Fall Surfacing Guidelines.

Safe Tree Climbing Guidelines

Under proper conditions, tree climbing is a fun, safe way for children to explore their own potential and the natural wonder of trees.

Here are guidelines from Tree Climbers International for creating a safe tree climbing environment at Waldorf:

Create your own rules for safe tree-climbing, and you'll enrich the child's experience as you make tree-climbing a safe activity.

Recommendations For Schools

If your Waldorf school allows free tree-climbing, you are opening yourself up to enormous liability risks. Not only are you endangering the physical health and safety of your students, you are aso endangering the financial well-being of your Waldorf school.

Here are some recommendations for protecting your students, faculty, and extended Waldorf community from unsafe tree climbing.

Additional Tree Climbing Recources

New Tribe has all kinds of tree-climbing gear.

Dancing With Trees can help you with your tree-climbing policy and guided tree climbs.

"Lofty Aspirations" is a wonderful article on tree climbing from Smithsonian Magazine.

The U.S. Forest service has some cool pictures of a tree-climbing workshop.

Questions for Parent's Night or School Tour

Tree Climbing at Waldorf

  1. Were you aware that when a child falls 8 feet out of a tree, that it's the same as hitting a brick wall at 30 MPH?
  2. Are children allowed to climb above unsafe falling surfaces?
  3. What are the rules for tree climbing at Waldorf?
  4. Were you aware that professional tree climbers do not recommend free climbing because it is too dangerous?
  5. How many children are allowed in the tree at one time?
  6. What kind of supervision is provided during tree climbs?
  7. Who is the the trained person in charge of tree climbing? Has anyone received training on proper tree climbing techniques?
  8. Has anyone signed off on specific trees as established climbing trees? Have the trees been certified for climbing by an arborist?
  9. What kind of instruction is provided for high tree climbing?
  10. Do you consider it safe for a child to ride a bike or a scooter without a helmet? Do you consider it safe for a child to climb 8 feet into a tree without a helmet? Does the school allow the children to climb trees?
  11. Do you provide the children with protective gear such as helmets, ropes, and gloves?
  12. Are children at Waldorf allowed to climb trees 8 feet or higher without protective gear? Is there a maximum height children are allowed to climb?
  13. Which is more dangerous to my child: (1) climbing more than 8 feet into a tree over an unsafe falling surface without protective gear, or (2) watching television?

You can print out the Master Checklist for parents, and bring it with you to school.

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