The weather (you may have noticed) is gorgeous. Weather like this makes young children go a little nuts with the need to run and climb and yell and spin and fall and goof around. Unfortunately, weather like this makes adults want to take a nice little nap. What we need is an activity that gets kids running around without adults having to get much above their resting heart rate. Enter the Tickle Tree.
Find yourself a likely spot, plant your “roots” firmly on the ground, and announce, “I am the Tickle Tree! If you come too close, I will tickle you! With my tickling branches, and my tickling leaves! Tickle Tree!” As kids come to investigate, keep your feet planted, but swing your arms towards them, so that they leap out of the way laughing.
If you choose your spot wisely, you can get kids running continuous giggling laps. I like to get, say, about 3 feet from the climbing structure, so that kids running between me and it feel like it’s a tight squeeze, but don’t actually have to slow down to run through. They’ll zoom by as I shout, “Tickle Tree!” and I barely have to bend towards them.
Some adventurous kids will get too close, whereupon of course you tickle them for a moment before giving them a little push in the direction of the flow of traffic. For a variation, get a few palm fronds or willow branches to extend your reach. With a little luck and a little skill, you can get the kids running for ten or fifteen minutes—and, incidentally, learning about self-regulation and risk-taking and courage and irony—all without having to move your feet. Not bad.