A passion for gardening has taken root in almost 250 kindergartens nationwide, thanks to seeds sown by the Dalton's Sunflowers in Kindergartens Project.
Over the past four months, a staggering 13,024 kindergarten tots across 11 regions have been aiming to grow the tallest sunflower and widest sunflower head in their region.
In the Taranaki region, 636 children from the Kindergarten Taranaki Association were involved in the project.
The winner of the Widest Sunflower head was won by Stratford Central Kindergarten with a diameter of 4cm.
Stratford Central Kindergarten teacher Samantha Olliver says the children have enjoyed engaging with the process of planting and caring for their sunflowers.
"We regularly measured them and tamariki have been excited to find out how many centimetres theirs have grown and how tall they are in comparison to others. With the heads appearing tamariki were excited to come in each day and see if their sunflower head had open."
The winner of the Tallest Sunflower in the region was Devon Kindergarten, with their sunflower plant measuring at 188cm.
Kaiako, Alison Downs, says it was a great learning experience for the children.
"From sowing the seeds to seeing them sprout and grow, we have been involved in kaitiakitanga, caring for our sunflowers the whole way."
Winners were named from each of the 11 regions, reflecting the diversity in growing conditions throughout the country.
The key goals of the biennial project, are to create a fun and exciting environment for pre-school children to learn valuable gardening know-how and to develop a love of gardening by growing their own Kings Seeds Skyscraper sunflower.
All of the regional winners will receive a prize from Daltons and The Warehouse.
Each kindergarten nominated their own Daltons Best Little Gardener who was rewarded with special certificate and prize. Every child who took part also received their own certificate.
Daltons general manager Colin Parker says all the project winners did well.
Teachers were supported throughout the project with regular newsletters full of information about sunflowers, learning sheets and fun activities.
The children benefited by being exposed to basic math concepts, through measuring and recording their plant's growth each week, which was integrated into their learning curriculum.
Daltons provided a starter pack with everything the kindergartens needed to make the growing process successful.
This year kindergartens across Auckland, Nelson Tasman, Marlborough, Dunedin, Christchurch, Wellington, Taranaki, Tauranga, Waikato, Central Kindergartens and newcomer, Northland.
Daltons will also run the Late Bloomers Awards to acknowledge kids who are up against it geographically, or have experienced particularly bad weather. These winners will be announced in February once all sunflowers have bloomed.