A number of Rotorua's little ones are getting their green thumbs out and will do their best to nurture their sunflowers, which may just win them a competition.

The 2019 Daltons Sunflowers in Kindergartens Project started on Monday, and runs until December 10.

Kindergarten tots around New Zealand will showcase their gardening knowhow by competing with other kindergartens in their region to grow the tallest sunflower or widest sunflower head.

This year 1568 children are taking part through 33 kindergartens in Central North Island.

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Those taking part in Rotorua are Central Kids Elstree Kindergarten, Central Kids Fordlands, Central Kids Owhata Kindergarten, Central Kids Selwyn, Central Kids Fairview Park, and Homedale Kindergarten.

Each kindergarten received a free Daltons starter pack including peat pots, measuring tape, seed raising and potting mix, and everything the children need to grow their own Kings Seeds Skyscraper Sunflowers, which can grow up to 4m high.

Children will grow their gardening skills and knowledge, as well as be exposed to basic math concepts, measuring and recording of their plant's growth each week, and teachers can integrate aspects of the project into their learning curriculum.

Nikita, 4, at Central Kids Owhata having gardening fun. Photo / Supplied
Nikita, 4, at Central Kids Owhata having gardening fun. Photo / Supplied

Central Kids Owhata head teacher Jenni Petersen says the tamariki love gardening and spending time in the kindergarten's Maara kai planting and caring for their hua whenua-vegetables, then harvesting and eating what is grown.

"Planting sunflowers is another way for our tamariki to see the life cycle of plants and it also encourages friendly insects to visit our garden, as well as watching to see how tall our sunflowers will grow."

Central Kids Homedale head teacher Dianne Hayward says the children wanted to help plant the sunflowers because the flowers will grow, and they are all enthusiastic about the project.

She says there is a lot of learning happening for tamariki in the garden at Central Kids Homedale.

"We have started off the growing process by planting our sunflower seeds in small pots.

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"There will be regular opportunities for looking after the seeds and to watch them grow into huge sun flowers."

Daltons general manager Colin Parker says the competition element brings a bit of excitement and fun for the children, but what is at the heart of the project is the mission to ignite a passion for gardening, and develop some skills and knowledge from a young age.

Regional winners with the tallest sunflower or sunflower with the widest head will receive prizes from Daltons and The Warehouse, and all participating kindergartens will go into the draw to win a gardening workshop at their kindergarten.

At the end of the project, each kindergarten also nominates their very own "Daltons best little gardener," to receive a certificate and prize pack, courtesy of Daltons.

Winners will be announced on December 12, and this is the fifth time Daltons has run the project.