Stuck in lockdown? Bored kids driving you crazy? Kids Greening Taupō has plenty of inspiration for you and your whānau.
The not-for-profit environmental education group, which connects children with their local environment and teaches them about conservation and caring for nature, is posting a series of daily Nature Connector activities on its Facebook page, as well as a weekly Online Nature Classroom.
Kids Greening Taupō education co-ordinator Rachel Thompson says connecting children with nature when they are young means they will grow up learning to value and care for it as adults.
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"Even though this time of isolation means there's a lot we can't do, we've tried to look at what we can do and how we can make the most of this and do things differently," said Rachel.
The Covid-19 lockdown may be a time of uncertainty but it is also a perfect time to get outside in the fresh air, spot birds, collect natural resources, weed a garden, jump in puddles, find interesting leaves, go for a bug hunt, or to stop and look for shapes in clouds. Rachel's Kids Greening Taupō colleague Sian Moffitt has put together a range of activities and fun challenges for children and adults to try, either at home in the back yard or in their nearby park or reserve.
"During this time there's been a new need for people to get out and really connect with nature whenever they can because it's so important for our mental health at a time like this ... a lot of people are stuck inside," Rachel said.
"We're just trying to help people with simple ideas of things they can do, not just kids but we've had quite a few adults say they've really enjoyed doing these things and it's something to look for on their morning walk."
The daily Nature Connector activity is posted each morning on Kids Greening Taupō's Facebook page. So far activities have ranged from finding various colours in nature, to a nature bingo activity and a tower-building challenge. They can be as busy as hunting for different natural shapes or as peaceful as watching the sun rise or set.
Rachel has three children of her own and says they have enjoyed doing the activities together, which have started out with simple concepts that will become more in depth as time goes on.
Doing the activities has taken them out and about in their local neighbourhood. Rachel lives near one of the town's gullies and says she has never seen so many families down there exploring their local area, a connection she hopes will continue even when the lockdown ends.
"Just getting people to see their own backyard and their local green spaces differently through fresh eyes, see the whole ecosystem living around them.
"In our gully we found a whole lot of logs where somebody had cut down a tree and our kids spent ages hunting through it and finding all these bugs."
Once you're out in nature, a useful resource is the iNaturalist NZ app which will identify plants, animals or fungi from photographs and provide more information about them.
Every week Kids Greening Taupō also posts a link to its Online Nature Classroom which Sian has created to provide a space for fun nature learning from home. Each weekly lesson focuses on a theme and includes five different activities. This week's theme is hauora/wellbeing and in another neat local link, includes a video reading of Aroha's Way, a children's guide through emotions, by Taupō author and illustrator Craig Phillips.
Rachel says people can check the Facebook page each day for the latest activity and challenge their family and friends to complete it too. She said there had been a lot of interest, from not only in Taupō but around New Zealand and also overseas, including some as unlikely as an ESOL (English as a Second Language) teacher from Auckland looking for ideas of presenting language learning in a different way.
"We can't connect in person but we can connect in an online forum," Rachel said.
"One of our big points of difference is that although we're sharing them in an online forum, they are activities that get people off screens and outside and they are connecting people through nature."