Building a treehouse with children
Treehouses have always been associated with kids playing outdoors and building a little place to share with a group of friends. Today these kinds of quickly assembled treehouses are less common, and the main growth in treehouse popularity is from adult sized buildings with modern day luxuries. Perhaps the builders of treehouses today have some nostalgia for the simple forts they built when they were young and want to live out some of those times again, but the gains for children involved in the treehouse are even more important.
The benefits of growing up with a treehouse
- More hours are spent physically active, encouraging a healthy heart and general fitness
- Different stages of the build provide regular and varied exercise
- Drawing up treehouse plans as a family promotes teamwork and problem solving
- Builds a closer connection with natural processes
- Teaches a balanced approach to risk
Childhood obesity is at an all-time high and activity levels are correspondingly low. These problems add up to devastating health consequences for the future health of today's children. There are many areas for potential improvement, but encouraging outdoor play is one of the most successful, providing many positive features at the same time.
Kauri treehouse with additional climbing wall
Outdoor activity for kids is more important than ever for its associated health benefits. Regular exercise can be difficult to incorporate into a sedentary lifestyle, so involving kids in a challenging project keeps their bodies and minds active. Treehouse building is one of many ways to make exercise a natural, everyday activity that is actually fun. When the treehouse is finished it continues to provide a place away from the types of distractions that have been reducing childhood activity levels to record lows.
Preparing and building a treehouse is an active process that uses the brain and body in a wide variety of ways without making it monotonous or aimed purely at health. The enjoyment of the project is what keeps it going, making the exercise an easy benefit.
Coming up with plans for a treehouse that can actually be built requires an active imagination and problem solving skills that extend beyond the treehouse to other areas of life. Calculating sizes of walls and supports, deciding on materials and finishes, working out material lists, and even keeping to a budget are all relevant to the pre-build stages.
When the construction begins, more decisions need to be made. What order should parts be built? How to raise them into the tree? How to co-ordinate with other helpers?
Getting in touch with nature
Being outdoors in a treehouse gives a strong connection with natural processes. A life spent indoors detaches children from the normal cycles of the seasons, the weather and the plants and animals that live around them. These factors can all have an effect on the build process. Being up in a tree surrounds you with leaves, birds and the varying weather—there is always something new to see and learn in the constantly changing environment.
Society's sensitivity to risk
There are plenty of potential hazards involved with treehouses. Facing these and overcoming them teaches a balanced approach to take for risky activities and gives kids the chance to get used to planning for potential dangers. As with anything new and dangerous, parental guidance is important, and children need to learn for themselves by example. Presenting different problems and working out the safest way to solve them is an extremely valuable lesson. It prepares kids for unknown risks they'll face in future when they might not have someone around for advice, and teaches them many practical skills that can be used in everyday life and emergency situations.
- World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations of exercise for young people
- National Wildlife Federation report on the importance of outdoor play
- Why children should play outside—even in the winter
Treehouse plans for kids
These designs are sized for smaller children. The Savanna is built on posts so does not need trees, the Alpino treehouse can be built in a single tree or between two trees, and the Terrazza is built in a single tree. The larger treehouses (Kauri, San Pedro, and Zelkova) are better sized for teenagers and adults.