Connect to a Tree; Sit, hug, climb, swing!

A practice encouraged in forest or outdoor schools, is kids having regular and repeated access to the same spaces in nature. This helps them to build an ongoing relationship to, and knowledge of, a certain area outside. Trees offer kids great opportunities for play and also quiet reflection. They can offer cool shade in summer and refuge in winter. Noticing the organic changes in one spot that can be revisited over time can enhance your learning about the cycles of nature.

Some trees are also great for climbing or making a tire swing. Tire swings can be incorporated into school grounds, if not permanently, as a loose part that can be adjusted to be hung at recess time.

Tires make excellent fun swings and making a tire swing is simple!

For both climbing and assembling a tire swing you have to be careful to choose your branches well. Test them ahead of time to see if they will carry your weight.

You will need:

  • A large car tire (make sure it is not a winter tire as they contain small wires that are a hazard)
  • About 15 to 30 feet of strong rope (should be about the width of one of your fingers)
  • A stick.
  • If it is a swing that has to be removed often – a strong spring hook or carabiner
    1. Find a branch that protrudes far from the tree trunk and that is thick and sturdy. Make sure the area below this branch is free from any dangerous obstacles. The best ground surface below would be something soft like grass.
    2. The next step is to get the rope over the branch. If the tire swing is permanent, lay a piece of fabric between the rope and the bark to protect the tree. If you do not have access to a ladder or if the tree is too high to safely climb, you could attach the stick to the end of the rope. The added weight will help you accurately throw the end of the rope over the branch and you can then pull the rope so that it hangs from the branch with equal length on each side. We suggest that you wrap the rope around the branch a few times and secure it with a knot at the point where it hangs down.
    3. Lift the tire vertically to the desired height (it is recommended to have the tire at least 12 to 18 inches from the ground) so you can bring both ends through the middle and hang it vertically. The best kind of knot to tie the tire may be a square knot or a bowline knot. See here. However you could do any kind of knot so long as when tested it can safely hold weight.
    4. It is also recommended that you drill holes at the bottom of your tire to aid drainage from collected rainwater.
    5. If you are building the swing for a tree on school grounds that must be removed when it is not being used, you can find the ideal branch and set up an anchor knot and hook. This way you can secure a loop of rope around the branch and attach a sturdy carabiner or metal spring hook. The rope attached to the tire will be one long loop that can then be hooked and unhooked.