Big Backyards a summer hit
If there's one thing we know about Kidsfirst tamariki, it's how much they love their Big Backyards.
These large, green spaces with their well established gardens provide plenty of room to run, play and explore, and have great equipment to stimulate young minds. They are the hallmark of kindergarten.
This summer, kindergartens across the network certainly made the most of their outdoor spaces – from DIY water slides to abundant vege patches, and furry friends to care for – tamariki had lots of reasons to get out into the sunshine and enjoy the warmer weather.
Kidsfirst Sumner had a surprise when they returned to kindergarten in February — the sunflower seeds they had planted in the garden the year before had finally sprung and grown into enormous sunflowers. They towered over their backyard, providing not only a burst of colour, but many learning opportunities.
The children learned about the plants, their life-cycle, how to care for a garden and even helped pluck seeds from the sunflowers to harvest more. They had a lot of fun getting creative in using the big leaves as sun umbrellas. This was a great opportunity for Kidsfirst Sumner to practice kaitiakitanga — the guardianship of our natural environments. Having an appreciation and understanding of our ecosystems and natural environment is a good way for tamariki to develop a sense of responsibility, too.
There’s great excitement in summer at Kidsfirst Templeton, because it’s harvest time. Tamariki care and tend the seedlings they have planted ahead of the warmer months. The process starts with a trip to the local Mitre 10 to choose and buy the seedlings, and tamariki watch with great excitement before the plants are harvested, and healthy kaiis prepared for all to enjoy.
There’s nothing like a day of messy water play to put smiles on the faces of tamariki. Kidsfirst Greymouth celebrated an especially hot West Coast day this summer by creating a DIY water park in their Big Backyard. Tamariki had been waiting for the weather to be right for a day of water play since the end of the year, and finally had their chance in February.
There were water balloons, water soakers, sprinklers and even a water slide, and tamariki relished the opportunity to soak their friends, as well as kaiako. The children left kindergarten in a change of clothes, ecstatic, and counting the days until the next one.
There are so many reasons to love our Big Backyards, and getting kids outside and playing in the sun is one fun and interactive way to explore and learn about the world around them. But they are not the only ones who feel that way — kaiako rate our outdoor spaces, too.
Kidsfirst Trengrove Head Teacher, Munira Sugarwala, says the kindergarten's great big backyards give tamariki the chance to enjoy the outdoors and embrace being a child.
“They love to play out in the sandpit, with the water and learn through their senses, this is just what the big backyard offers - children having the opportunity to be children.”
Our kindergartens are always grateful for the support that whānau and local businesses and groups give in developing and maintaining these amazing outdoor spaces. Much of the equipment and landscaping for our Big Backyards is donated, built or maintained by families and friends of the kindergartens. Tamariki also love to get involved in fundraising efforts and get a real sense of achievement about making their own contribution.
It was a big day of Big Backyard fundraising recently for Kidsfirst Sumner, thanks to a sausage sizzle at the local Mitre 10. Tamariki created beautiful banners thanking local sponsors for their support, and the kindergarten was run off its feet with sausage and bacon butty sales, which will help the kindergarten create an even better Big Backyard.
Summer may be over, but at Kidsfirst, every season is an opportunity to get outside and get engaged. As Autumn emerges, falling leaves, new colours, textures, and garden growth open up a whole new world of exploration and fun.