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Climbing a Tree

boy climbing a tree

About this video

Climbing a tree can be an important accomplishment. According to Head Teacher Barb Gallick, climbing the tree on their playground is a rite of passage that typically happens sometime between ages 4- and 5-years-old: “The kids have to be able to get into the tree under their own power. We don’t put them in the tree. Once the children are tall enough and coordinated enough to climb the tree, that’s all they want to do. Kids have to ask for permission to climb so that an adult is aware that they are climbing the tree. A teacher and other children often sit on the nearby retaining wall and chat with the child who is in the tree. According to Barb, the playground tree is “a huge childhood memory maker” and an “important part of our center.”

Joe (4 years, 4 months) learned to climb the playground tree shortly before this clip was taken in the early fall. He experiments with his body in relation to the tree as he moves from branch to branch. This clip is a reminder that some of the best learning experiences for young children do not come in a box. We can support children’s learning by encouraging children, setting guidelines, and celebrating their accomplishments.

Joe exercised more than his balance and coordination when he mastered climbing into and out of the tree. For example, he exercised his problem-solving ability as he figured out how to turn his body in space so that he could climb down. His self-esteem was raised by independently overcoming a challenge.



There is no speech during this movie.

Benchmarks and How They Were Met

BenchmarksHow They Were Met
Physical Development and Health
19.A.ECa: Engage in active play using gross- and fine-motor skills.
Joe pulled his body up into the tree multiple times.
Physical Development and Health
19.B.ECa: Coordinate movements to perform complex tasks.
Joe turned his body and coordinated his movements to try out several locations and positions in the tree. He figured out how to lower himself to the ground.
Physical Development and Health
19.C.ECa: Follow simple safety rules while participating in activities.
Before the activity shown in the video clip, Joe let a teacher know that he planned to climb the tree.
Social/emotional Development
30.C.ECb: Demonstrate persistence and creativity in seeking solutions to problems.
Joe persisted in spite of difficulty getting into the tree, using several strategies to climb it and find a comfortable place there.
Social/emotional Development
30.C.ECc: Show some initiative, self-direction, and independence in actions.
Joe did not ask for help in spite of the challenges he encountered.

Note: This video clip was made possible by STARnet Regions I & III with funding from the Illinois State Board of Education.

About this resource

Setting(s) for which the article is intended:
  • Home
  • Family Child Care
  • Child Care Center
  • Preschool Program

Intended audience(s):
  • Parents / Family
  • Teachers / Service providers

Age Levels (the age of the children to whom the article applies):
Related Illinois Early Learning and Development Standards:
Reviewed: 2017