The Tree House As A Place To Play

Did you have a tree house when you were a child?

Children love having a little hide-away of their own and, with the added bonus of being allowed to climb a tree, what could be better?

Tree houses come in all forms, from the ultra-polished professionally-made, to the simpler play houses, to the one you spend weekends building with your parents.

All-around, they are centers for memory-making and community, and are a quintessential place of childhood.


A Tree  house with child-height windows in Prince Edward Island, photo courtesy of The Treehouse Guide.


In terms of construction, tree houses involve two simple components: the tree, and the house.

Tree houses teach children creativity and an awareness of nature, especially if involved in construction.

If you’re thinking of building a tree house in your backyard, here are some ways to get your child involved before it’s even up!

1. Teach them how to identify different tree species. Certain types of trees are more suitable for being able to support a tree house: oak, maple, fir or apple are all good choices. The tree must also be healthy, and at least 12” in diameter. Have your kids help in the identification process using their new knowledge.

2. Tree houses done the traditional way (attached to the tree with bolts, a nailed-in ladder up the trunk) is harmful to the tree. Some kids will be acutely aware of their capacity of a treehouse to hurt the tree, and may even be the first to suggest cutting spaces in the roof, or making a convenient window for a protruding branch (spacing to accommodate branch growth of 1”-2” is good). Many designs integrate consideration of the trees they are built on or around, to minimize impact on the tree. You’ve already got a healthy tree in your yard, you want to make sure it stays that way! Sustainability is thus an important principle in tree house design, and is an important principle your child will have to be aware of later in life.

3. And then there’s the tree house itself. Studies have shown that building with blocks helps children understand dimensions and design. Have your kid build her dream tree house out of Lego, or even draw floor plans. Helping them figure out that “no, you can’t have that room there, because then how would the balcony work over here?” is a useful creative and mathematical skill to develop.

4. Is your child involved in either Girl Guides of Canada, or in Scouts Canada? If they are, chances are they might already know a little something about knot-tying for rigging wooden structures!


Of course tree houses require much more steps and planning, but these have been a few ideas on how to involve your kid in the process. If all of this has gotten you jazzed for your own tree house, but your backyard doesn’t have room for a second one for the parents, here are a few places in Canada where you can hang out in a tree house for adults!

Free Spirit Spheres – located on Vancouver Island, BC, these spheres are suspended from trees using sailboat rigging technology, and are constructed with cedar-strip canoe methodology. Laying in bed, swaying in the canopy of BC’s old growth forest at night, it’ll feel like you’re at sea in the stars!


Early Spring evening at the Eryn sphere, photo courtesy of Free Spirit Spheres

Photo credit to Tom Chudleigh


The Spheres are available year-round! 


Interrior of the Melody sphere, photo credit to Tom Chudleigh. 


In Tobermory, Ontario, the Samara Project was initiated in 2012 at E’Terra Samara Resort. The Samara Project is being designed by Canadian architecture company Farrow Architects. The ‘pods,’ as they are referred to, are designed with principles of ecology, environment and imagination, everything a tree house stands for.

Located in the Niagara Escarpment World Biosphere Reserve, a low-impact tree house is the perfect way to integrate yourself with nature. Unfortunately, this project is not yet complete, but is something to look forward to.


E'Terra Samara Resort, photo courtesy of Farrow Architecture.

E'Terra Samara Resort, photo courtesy of Farrow Architecture.


Some don't allow children! Now the kids can have their fort, and you can have yours!

Love tree houses? They're quintessentially Canadian!

All photos courtesy of their respective owners, as noted.

Researched and Written by Emily E. A.  Stringer, undergraduate student at UBC in the Sociology and Geography: Environment & Sustainability programs.

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