The Gift of Outdoor Adventures
Put down that tablet and go climb a tree! Learn more about the benefits of outdoor play and how to get your kids lost in the woods.
Even for suburban families, it can be tough to get out and truly experience all the natural world has to offer. From the commute to the car pool, we all spend plenty of time inside, and the siren song of screen time doesn’t help. But kids need nature, both for the sheer thrill of it and for the problem-solving a little adventure can inspire.
“We live in a world that is very digital, and that’s cool. There’s incredible magic in computers and tablets,” said Erik Knudsen, the operations manager and “treehouse steward” at Treehouse World in West Chester. The adventure park is a prime spot to put down your devices and get lost in the woods.
“This offers an alternative just to take a breather from that for a while, and come out and play in the natural environment,” he said.
There’s plenty of space to play: 15 acres of land, with room for what will one day be nearly 30 treehouses (the owner, Dan Wright, is a builder who specializes in backyard treehouses). Got a climber? He can “rock climb” up a tree, up to 40 feet in the air. Is she a tumbler? The bungee trampoline lets kids as young as 2 leap while tethered to a stretchy cord.
The Children’s Grove has hands-on activities aimed at younger kids, including stumps for hopping and wind chimes to jingle.
“It’s kind of like old-school, low-tech stuff: logs and Tarzan vines,” Knudsen said.
If your kids are really ready to burn energy, they can try archery tag, a mashup of paintball and dodgeball that involves arrows tipped with marshmallow-like foam. Even the highest-energy kid is panting after a few minutes, Knudsen said.
But the highlights remain rooted in the natural world. The headwaters for West Valley Creek are on the property, and there are small ponds, too. Knudsen said that eventually, Treehouse World will be more like an arboretum, where families can come and study trees and plants, and admire the salamanders, turtles, and other creatures that live there. The idea is to recreate the easy, free-ranging experience that kids had growing up decades ago, but in a controlled, safe environment, he said.
“When I was 8 years old, I was pole-vaulting across creeks with sticks,” Knudsen said. “That’s very much what this is.”
Most of all, this natural environment is accessible — hopefully, he said, to kids who might not have a backyard at home. Everyone should be able to have an experience in the trees, and a few thrills to boot. A prime example: tomahawk throwing.
“We had a 6-year-old girl here, and the smile on her face when she stuck that thing, it was pretty cool,” Knudsen said. “You definitely can’t do that at Disney World.”
Treehouse World is at 1442 Phoenixville Pike in West Chester. For more information, visit TreehouseWorld.com.
Photographs courtesy of Treehouse World.