Exploring the natural world in your home
You can enjoy nature in your backyard or garden, on your balcony, from the window or around your property. You can explore outdoors in lots of ways.
- notice the nature around you and talk about this with your child
- notice things like the weather (such as clouds, wind, and rain) plants, insects, and birds
- be curious and ask what, how, why, when, and who questions about what you see.
You don’t have to have all the answers, it’s good learning for children to make guesses and come up with their own theories and ideas. It is good for children to see you wondering and learning too. You can show them how to be active, curious learners. You could look for the answers together later, which helps children understand the concept of research.
Māra mahi (gardening)
Gardening offers a hands-on learning experience for children to explore and make sense of the natural world. It can be a very relaxing and calming activity, which helps to support children’s sense of wellbeing.
Gardening can foster children’s curiosity, patience, and focus. It can encourage children to connect with important concepts such as kaitiakitanga (guardianship), manaakitanga (kindness), and mauri (respect) for all living things. Growing kai helps children to contribute to the wellbeing of themselves and their whānau.
You don’t need a lot of equipment and tools for gardening. If you are just starting out, some dirt, pots or containers with drainage, and seeds from the supermarket is fine. You can use your hands or a spoon to dig with. You can water with a cup or jug.
Be mindful of safety. Organic gardening is often best with small children, as there will be no need for chemical sprays and fertilisers. If you are using potting mix make sure you are in a well ventilated area, and use gloves and face masks (for you and the children). All gardening tools should be light and safe for young children to use.
Some ideas of things to grow:
- you can buy seeds, seedings or ask for seeds or cuttings from friends or whānau
- you may be able to sprout from supermarket fruit and vegetables.
If you are buying seeds or plants, easy to grow vibrant flowers and tasty fruit and vegetables could be a good choice. Sunflowers, pansies, marigolds, cherry tomatoes, peas, beans, carrots, microgreens, strawberries, and passionfruit are some ideas.
Tiaki te taiao (Caring for the environment)
Planting seeds or seedlings, weeding, watering and caring for plants is a great way for children to take care of living things. It helps children understand the science of growing and life cycles. It can foster understanding and respect for the environment and sustainable practices – such as water conservation, the importance of bees, and the impact of pollution on the earth.
Other activities relating to gardening and nature you could do with your child include making compost, starting a worm farm, making a scarecrow, harvesting fruit and vegetables, mulching, and re-potting.
Te reo Māori words and phrases for the garden
Ngā kakanō The seeds
He noke A worm
He whare tukutuku A spiderweb
He pūngāwerewere A spider
Te kēne whāngai wai The watering can
Ngā tarutaru The weeds
Ngā huawhenua The vegetables
Te whenua The land
Te paru The dirt
Links to Te Whāriki: He whāriki mātauranga mō ngā mokopuna o Aotearoa, Early childhood curriculum
Belonging | Children know they belong and have a sense of connection to others and the environment
Mana whenua | Children’s relationship to Papatūānuku is based on whakapapa, respect, and aroha
Exploration | Children are critical thinkers, problem solvers, and explorers
Mana aotūroa | Children see themselves as explorers, able to connect with and care for their own and wider worlds
Helpful links for exploring the natural world with your child
- Go Gardening – garden inspiration with kids, tips, and advice from experts
- Manaaki Whenua, teaching resources including What is this bug? A bilingual interactive tool to help identify bugs found around New Zealand. There are also posters, tools, and activities for identifying weeds and insects.
- ZEALANDIA – activities and resources including making a whare wētā, a lizard garden, and learning about manu o Aotearoa, birds of New Zealand.
- Te Papa kids and families activities – stories, activities and videos including Te kuia me te pūngāwerewere / The kuia and the spider by Patricia Grace being read aloud by Tānemahuta Gray.
- Department of Conservation, Family nature activities at home – nature activities for whānau in the home
- Kiwi Conservation Club activities – including fact sheets, scavenger hunts, and conservation themed activities