Category Archives: The Giving Tree

These Trees Are Meant for Climbing

Do you remember those first clamberings, the tentative propulsion upwards, the scrambled search for a purchase with feet or hands, a roughness of bark rubbing legs and arms as they grappled with the ascent?

The liberation of leaving the ground behind and entering the leafy expanse above was an exhilirating paradigm shift. The world opened up from that peculiar vantage point perched between earth and sky.

I remember the precariousness and shimmerings of fear, well okay sometimes it was a healthy dose. A sense of release fueled by the accomplishment of a successful climb was tempered by a general cautiousness underscoring a strong desire not to slip, misstep, or worst case scenario, fall from the tree.

Our kids have a couple of climbable trees in the backyard. They’ve become old friends. Each spring they are reacquainted – branches a little stronger, kids a bit bolder. The trees are a testing ground for dexterity, daring, judgment and strength.

We have had to talk them down on a couple of occasions after hearing the nervous yell for help when one of them ventured a little too high, a little too soon, or a little too quickly. These minor hurdles don’t put them off at all. The smallish specimens in our yard are a training ground for the wide world of trees. The kids always return to the climb undaunted calling out, “maman, papa – look, look how high we are”.

In the lofty heights, trees are also a resting place to get far from the madding crowds, a green sanctuary nurturing contemplation and dreams. After buds pop into full leaf, our favourite backyard tree is part of a fort complex and a great hiding place too as long as the kids can muffle their giggles.

And can we hear derring-do? Yes we can, it’s that contact thud as feet or other parts of the body hit the ground after the big jump. Once you launch, there is no going back. Gravity’s unforgiving pull returns you rapidly to earth. That airborne second or two packs one big wollop of excitement, a breath sucking aha of adrenalin.

The new tree climbing season is underway up in the northern hemisphere. This year, like previous ones, there are sure to be new exploits, higher heights and undoubtedly a scare or two. Keep on climbing!

Hug a tree today, or better still climb one.

If you’re looking for a great Earth Day story, look no further than Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree. Sure to be a classic for many years to come.

“Once there was a tree and she loved a little boy.”

Do yourself a favour and get out into the trees….

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The Gift of Play

We’re in the midst of the giving season and there are always choices to make. If you’re thinking about an alternative gift this year why not consider the gift of play?

Community fundraising is frequently an important component of securing overall project costs for new playgrounds and upgrades. Check to see if there is a build, or a community group preparing for one where you live. A few dollars, or maybe an extra pair of hands are sure to be appreciated.

Beyond local activity in your own town, there are numerous organizations that promote and advocate for play. They do educational work, research, outreach and some do actual playground builds. Many of these groups have charitable status and I think it’s safe to say that none of them are really flush with cash.

One thing that these play related groups have in common is dedicated and passionate staff and a cadre of volunteers that help them achieve their goals. I’m thinking of organizations like KaBOOM!, Play England, Play Scotland, Play Wales, Playworks and numerous others that I’m not familiar with. They are all doing great work.

One group that jumped out for me is PlaygroundIDEAS. They were the subject of a Screenshot Monday back in June when I wrote:

“What I immediately enjoyed at PlaygroundIDEAS was the sense of resourcefulness that informs their approach to do-it-yourself playgrounds. There is hope here too and dreams – just look at the wonderful iconography of a child swinging from a shade bearing cloud. Playground Ideas works with a clientele that is far too populous.

We design and build great playspaces to improve the education, wellbeing, and safety of the world’s most disadvantaged children – and we support and train others to do the same.

Registering on the site provides access to more material such as the Playground Manual and the design section. It also enables readers to contribute content of their own. The registration process is quick and painless.”

One of the reasons that I’m attracted to PlaygroundIDEAS is linked to fleeting experiences of my own in the developing world. Nearly 35 years ago, I was a participant in Canada World Youth, an international exchange program funded by the Canadian government. I spent five months in three different communities in Sénégal, West Africa.

Sénégal was a revelation for us Canadian kids, most of us still in our teens. I was adopted by toddlers in each of the three places we lived. In Suelle, Casamance there was Abou, in Dakar it was Dabba and in Louga, Siouadou. Although a couple of these kids lacked material possessions, none lacked the desire, or ability to play. So why not playgrounds for kids in the developing world…

Read more about giving the gift of play here. While you’re at it, treat yourself to this rendition of Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree.

Happy holidays and happy giving to whoever it may be.