We are so fortunate in Tauranga to be surrounded by natural beauty. At Bethlehem College Kindergarten we often say that exploring nature with your pre-schooler is one of the very best ways to spend quality time with them.
Research has shown that spending time in nature enhances children’s emotional and spiritual wellbeing.
We find it helps them to become more grounded and more peaceful, and we know they will especially love having un-rushed time with you to simply play and explore.
To help you get started, here are five nature walks you can do with your pre-schooler in Tauranga. Let’s go on an adventure!
~ Clare van Niekerk | Head Teacher, Bethlehem College Kindergarten
1. The Glow Worm Path at McLaren Falls Park
Visiting the glow-worms at McLaren Falls Park can be a magical adventure for your preschooler! A 10 minute drive out of Tauranga towards the Kaimai ranges, this very special park is a great place for little feet to wander.
To find glow-worms, the best plan during winter is to arrive just before 5.30pm (Entry gates close at 5.30pm, but exit gates stay open till late). Drive past the cafe up to the second carpark.
Follow the short, easy Waterfall Track in the fading light, looking out for glow worms on either side of the track. They will be most striking when dusk falls, around 6pm. It might help to get a book out of the library about glow-worms to read before you go. Let your child know that the glow-worms are shy and don’t like noise or to be touched. Remember to take a torch for your walk back to the car. For a little person, walking in the dark with a torch is an adventure in itself!
2. The Interactive Gardens at Te Puna Quarry Park
Te Puna Quarry Park is a lovely spot for a nature walk with young children because it’s so interactive. Take a picnic and explore the flowers, the walkways, the butterfly garden, the water wheel, the musical garden and the tactile garden. Don’t be too set on a plan; let your child lead the way and follow their curiosity. Enjoy the detours and the surprises along the way. You never know what’s around the next corner!
Stop and look with them whenever they stop to look closely – at insects, at patterns on leaves, at colours of flowers. It’s a great idea to take a little bag with you to collect natural treasures along the way.
3. The Elms Mission Station Grounds
The Elms Missions House is full of history and the grounds are full of beauty. Park for free at 15 Mission Street, and enjoy a restful meander with your preschooler around the little paths and grounds, absorbing the peacefulness of this historic site. By being careful with any plants you to stop to look at you can teach your children to be caring and respectful towards nature.
You can get a tour of the heritage mission house and library for $5, though it may be enough for little people to look through the windows and spy the old-fashioned furniture. While you are you in the area, take a short walk up to the Rose Garden and Tropical Display House on Cliff Road for a close look at some beautiful flowers.
4. Te Waihou Walkway and Blue Spring | Putaruru
This nature walk is not technically in Tauranga, but it’s a little gem that is worth travelling 20-30 minutes out of town for. The Blue Spring in Putaruru is truly a stunning spot and the crystal blue seems almost unreal. The water is so clear you can see through to the bottom of the spring and watch the plants moving in the underwater current. There is lots of bird life here for you to observe with your children. See if you can spot pukeko, fantails and pheasants.
The whole walk is about an hour and a half, but the terrain is stable enough for you to take a pram and is not too mountainous. You might want to just walk in for 30 minutes, have a picnic and walk back. Definitely worth a mini road-trip!
5 . Walk Around Mt Maunganui and Explore the Rock-Pools
The rock-pools at the base of Mount Maunganui are such fun to explore with preschoolers. Roll your jeans up, get some fresh air and teach your child to be fascinated by science – the natural way! The ground is full of beautiful shells. Why not help your child collect some and take them home to work into a craft activity?
Children are natural observers, so stop to look at things through their eyes. As you walk around the Mount base track you’ll be able to spot boats out at sea, touch the pohutukawa tree roots and maybe even spot a seal.
Tips for Parents for Pre-Schooler Nature Adventures
- Focus on the journey, not the destination.
- Let your child follow their fascinations; stop to look closely at whatever catches their eye.
- Take water and fruit with you for rest-breaks. Be sure not to leave any plastic or paper and talk about the importance of caring for nature by not littering.
- Your child can probably walk further than you think they can!
- Take a little bag to collect treasures in. When you get home, use these treasures in an arts and crafts project.
- Take YOUR chance to slow down and connect with nature and to enjoy unhurried company with your child.
“Not all who wander are lost.” ~ Tolkien
ABOUT BETHLEHEM COLLEGE KINDERGARTEN
At Bethlehem College Kindergarten you’ll find happy children in a nurturing environment, enjoying genuine relationships with caring teachers who facilitate creative play and quality learning experiences.
Come and See For Yourself
In the meantime, check out our teaching philosophy, our learning programme and discover four good reasons to send your child to our childcare centre.
To really get a good feel for the wonderful sense of community your family will enjoy please visit our Facebook page.
I look forward to meeting you and your child!
Clare van Niekerk | Head Teacher