By Kelly Hancock, Community Ranger
As a busy working mum to two sassy young girls, I’m always on the lookout for easy ways to encourage the kids to switch off the screens and head outdoors (that don’t involve hours of pushing them on swings).
Most of us know from personal experience that once we summon the willpower to get off the couch, time spent outside makes you feel so much better. Connecting with nature is proven to provide powerful benefits for your health and wellbeing.
But my kids sometimes need a little more motivation than “because it’s good for you”.
Enter the promise of an adventure in a new place, a picnic and a Toyota Kiwi Guardians medal. Suddenly, they are clamouring to get out the door.
Toyota Kiwi Guardians is an activity programme that helps kids connect with nature by encouraging them to go on epic self-guided adventures and earn rewards.
There are more than 110 Toyota Kiwi Guardians adventure sites throughout New Zealand. Most of the adventure sites are free to access. The easily downloadable Toyota Kiwi Guardians adventure maps guide your family through explorations of some of New Zealand’s special places. Find the guardian post and note the special code word to claim a Kiwi Guardians medal.
There are opportunities for everyone, from a gentle walk through a scenic reserve, to an overnight hike.
I live in the Manawatu, where there are five local adventure sites to explore. Booklets containing all of the adventure sites in the Manawatu-Whanganui area are now available. Pick one up from the Palmerston North City Library or i-SITE or your local Toyota dealership.
So far, my children have each earned two medals. Here are the highlights of our adventures:
A Sunday morning dawned clear and crisp in the Manawatu recently. Inspired, I loaded snacks, buckets and spades, binos, a magnifying glass, and my family into the car for a Toyota Kiwi Guardians adventure at the Manawatu Estuary. We picked up my “tween” niece on the way, then hit the beach.
The girls had a blast exploring the dunes, digging for crabs and searching for bugs under the driftwood. They loved using the “treasure map”, taking turns to guide us around.
After some sand sculpting, we followed the map to the viewing platform in search of birds and the Kiwi Guardians post. It was low tide so there weren’t many birds around for us to see, but the girls spotted some pukeko and a lone royal spoonbill.
Papaitonga Scenic Reserve Earlier this year, my family explored one of our other local adventure sites – Papaitonga Scenic Reserve, just south of Levin.
This wetland forest is a bit of a hidden gem. It was the first time my husband – who has lived in the Manawatu his whole life – had been there. Lake Waiwiri is at the heart the reserve, home to a range of wildlife including forest and wetland birds and the amazing giant land snails (powelliphanta). There are long stretches of boardwalk across the wettest parts, generating great excitement from my kids who stomped along looking for trolls and fish. Being a wetland, it would make a wonderful winter adventure, but I’d recommend gumboots.
Kiwi Guardians adventures remind us we’re lucky we don’t have to go far to stand beneath a forest giant (tree) or hear a native birdcall. It is a great way to enjoy our special places.
If you haven’t explored your local Toyota Kiwi Guardians adventure sites yet, well, what are you waiting for?
If you don’t have kids, borrow some from a friend. I guarantee you will all have a fabulous time (and your friends will be very grateful for the kid-free time).
Check out #KiwiGuardians on Instagram or www.facebook.com/kiwiguardians for inspiration.
What a neat initiative. I’ll be recommending this to some folks I know!