Once a fortnight the oldest children at Kinderen’s Big Centre head out for a farm adventure where they learn a holistic set of life skills in a unique environment of fun, challenge and achievement. The many opportunities to interact with animals and nature provide these children with an experience like nothing we can create in the classroom.
Learning about life cycles of the natural world teaches children to understand that what they do makes a difference. We start to build the foundations of environmentally thoughtful young human beings as they make friends with chickens, feed them, collect their eggs, then cook something yummy and nourishing for their own bodies.
We also teach children to notice beauty in the trees and plants around them, to see that not all things are the same and that this is okay and right in nature, just as it is okay and right in people. We are all different and special in our own individual ways, just as the trees and plants are all made unique and special. This brings acceptance of ourselves – which grows confidence; Acceptance of others – which grows kindness. When children are confident in themselves and disposed to being kind to others, their relationships flourish and the future starts to look brighter for them and for our community.
The forest provides children with opportunities to grow their fine and large motor skills in more challenging and satisfying ways then man-made monkey bars ever can. The irregular nature of natural spaces means thinking about where they are putting their feet, lifting their legs high and ducking down low – multi-tasking and firing all those brain cells as they create imaginative games to enjoy with their friends.
We are so lucky to be able to provide these opportunities for our children here in Aotearoa!
What do you remember about Christmas from when you were a child? Special food, the smell of the Christmas tree or the dusty decorations being pulled out of the cupboard, seeing family, laughing and fun. Or are your memories of stressed adults, shouting and tears, rushing and worrying? What do you want your children to remember about Christmas? What traditions do you want to create for them? Now is the best time to start – or carry on – family traditions that your children will remember with happiness and love to tell their children about.
Christmas is a time to share with loved ones, celebrate the achievements of the year and plan for the future together. It doesn’t have to cost money, let’s teach our children to find meaningful ways of giving, not get caught up in the hype of the commercial Christmas but instead to create thoughtful memories for those we love.
At Kinderen, we pull out the Christmas decorations each year; we invite and encourage the children to create more decorations to add to our unique collection. The older children love to look through and show their younger friends decorations they remember from last year. Then they make more – and show their friends how it is done. Often we research new ways of making decorations together and extend our skills – we make enough for children to take some home and add to their own Christmas tree.
Our Kinderen Christmas tree gets decorated and redecorated as some of the children show a keen interest in design and creating beauty. The whole centre becomes a Christmas wonderland and we look through our photos from last year, remembering the fun, the shared kai with our families and the friends who have moved on. The children are supported to take a leading role in creating and participating in Kinderen’s special Christmas traditions and in exchange they feel a sense of belonging that transfers into a self-confidence and self-possession rarely seen in such young children.
Merry Christmas everyone – peace and joy to you and your family.
Our Forest trips are founded on the theoretical influences of scholars, as far back as the 18th century, who believed in the importance of children playing and learning outdoors in order to improve their physical, cognitive, social and spiritual well-being. Being outside in the open air and having access to green spaces has obvious benefits to growing healthy, strong bodies and reducing stress. Experiencing wind, rain and sun gives children firsthand knowledge and experience about keeping themselves healthy. Gaining real knowledge about their world and putting this into practice gives children confidence in their abilities in other areas.
The lessons we wish to teach children about the natural world around them weaves together with the Māori belief in the interconnectedness of people and the earth we came from. All things are united through mauri (life force) and the concept of hauora (total well-being and balance with nature) is highly valued. Whanaungatanga, where all people embrace each other through the wider family relationships, extends to the earth and people respectfully expressing kaitiakitanga (guardianship) towards all living things.
Spending time in the natural environment positively affects EVERY AREA of child development, the more variety encountered, the more children will learn. Being outside fulfils children’s need for freedom and adventure, it supplies them with the opportunities to assess and experience risk, assessing risk when they are young enables children to learn how to problem-solve and make safe and logical choices. The environment a child spends time in is fundamental to creating the peace, harmony and beauty needed for nourishing the whole child.