Forest fairies get a fix from nature

29 March 2021

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The Morepork's room (4-5yrs) at Treetops Pukekohe has recently started a forest programme called Patupaiarehe or “forest fairies”. This is an opportunity for children to regularly go on excursions to our local forest at Schlaepfer Park Scout Camp.

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This park has a bush, waterfall, creek and a field where the children can explore and have hands-on experiences in nature. We have started with a group of six children and have been going once a week on a Thursday over a 10-week period. Our experiences in the forest have allowed our children to experience a new environment filled with wonder as they discover, contemplate and ponder together. 

The purpose of Patupaiarehe

- For children to have regular hands-on experiences in the forest

- To improve mental health and overall well-being of children while connecting with nature 

- To provide the opportunity for increased physical exercise through unstructured play 

- To build resilience in our tamariki through exploration in nature

- To provide children with the opportunity to engage in nature play and increased understanding of the natural environment

- To develop a deeper connection with their local environment

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There are so many benefits for children when being outdoors and at one with nature. These benefits include:

Health and well-being

Spending time in nature can increase children’s confidence, resilience and is beneficial for their overall mana atua (well-being) including mental and physical health.  Being outdoors helps to create a stronger immune system, increases vitamin D, reduces stress and refreshes the body and mind.

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Physical activity

When children have regular time in the outdoors, they have opportunities to release stress, play vigorously, and explore nature, which in turn provides physical and psychological benefits. Greenspaces have an important environmental influence on physical activity and emotional well-being (Ward, Duncan, Jarden, Stewart, 2016).

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Risk management skills

Nature provides children with age-appropriate risky play opportunities which allows them to understand their own limitations, develop their problem-solving skills, and overcome fears and anxieties (Jensen, 2016).

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Social competence

Self-confidence in children increases as they explore nature and learn to trust themselves and others.  As teachers follow the children's lead in areas of interest belonging, relationships and trust are strengthened (Ministry of Education, 2017).  Being outdoors often encourages co-operation with each other which in turn encourages the building of social skills.

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Creativity and problem-solving

Nature supports creativity and problem-solving. Play in nature is especially important for developing capacities for creativity, problem-solving and intellectual development (Kellert, 2005).

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Environment and culture

Regular experiences in nature will also foster in children a love and deeper connection to the natural environment. Encouraging these connections is important to kaitiakitanga (guardianship of the land) and environmental sustainability (Ministry of Education, 2017). 

Our experiences in the forest have allowed our children to experience a new environment filled with wonder. To discover, contemplate and to ponder.

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Cognitive skills

Green space can have a significant, positive effect on improved concentration duration and behaviour in children (Beere & Kingham 2017).  The outdoors creates opportunities for children to explore, follow urges, be stimulated and provoke wonder which leads to investigations and working theories. This can evolve into projects where children learn many skills such as maths, literacy and science. This also provides opportunities for children to learn important dispositions which have positive effects on their life learning.

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