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The neighbourhood is full of free fun and learning. Exploring it is a rich, multi-sensory experience for tamariki, especially when they have whānau there as their personal guide and kaitiaki.

There are lots of benefits from spending time outside for tamariki of all ages – and for adults!

  • Babies touch, taste, smell and listen in the womb.
  • After birth, they use all their senses, especially sight, to explore the important things in their world: Māmā, Pāpā, close family and their home. Baby is in the centre of ever-widening circles of people, places and things to interact with.
  • Three- and four-year-olds enjoy visits to local parks, playgrounds, shops, roadworks, the swimming pool and the library, depending on what’s nearby. A simple 10-minute walk around the block could involve lots of fun things: puddles to jump in; birds and slaters to look at; butterflies, worms and trucks to count.
  • When an adult walks with tamariki and they see the world through the child’s eyes, there is an increased opportunity for a whole world of fun and learning for both the adult and the child. There can be surprises everywhere.

Setting off without any particular destination in mind or making a quick trip down the road to the local dairy can be a chance to be in the fresh air, to experience the weather (whatever it is), to notice people, traffic, buildings, trees, clouds, birds, cats and dogs, airplanes, helicopters, puddles, shadows and more.

This website has lots of articles about exploration at every age and stage.

More articles about exploring

Safety first on foot

There are likely to be hazards outside the gate, such as traffic, roadworks, driveways and dogs.

Whānau need to agree on their rules for staying safe with their tamariki. Examples might include:

  • stop, hold onto a grownup’s hand, look both ways, then cross the road together
  • at a driveway, stop and check for cars before walking on.

Eyes and ears open!

Whānau may like to follow the lead of their tamaiti sometimes. By paying attention to what they are showing an interest in, whānau can then ask some open questions, share some new descriptive words, or maybe introduce an idea or interesting fact, all while sharing the fun.

Here are some examples:

  • ‘That’s a big bird up on the power line. It’s a kererū. What do you think it’s doing up there?’
  • ‘I can see you’re listening to the siren. What do you think is making it? Where do you think it might be going?’
  • 'Those people look like they're working. What work are they doing? Do they wear special clothes for their job? What tools or vehicles do they need for their mahi?'
  • 'That building looks interesting. What's it made of? What shape is it? What do you think goes on inside? Are there any signs or symbols that tell us about that building?'

Spending time in the neighbourhood also gives tamariki the opportunity to notice what each season brings and what changes over time: trees lose leaves, blossoms come and go, fruit are produced, seeds fall, weather changes from cold to warm and from wet to dry. The clothes we need to wear change too. Birds behave differently according to the time of day or the season, from building nests to foraging for food to feed their chicks.

Tamariki will find all sorts of things on walks through the neighbourhood that may be collected and taken home for more kōrero and different activities. Whānau can talk about what's okay to take home and what's not.

Whānau can point out any rubbish bins along the way too, and talk with tamariki about keeping Papatūānuku clean – and can even take an empty rubbish bag to store any rubbish they come across. Then they can show tamariki how they wash their hands when they get home.

Other resources

Parent–child activity ideas for tamariki aged between 3 and 5 years | Tākai(external link)

Exploring nature in your neighbourhood – activities for kids and families | California Department of Parks and Recreation(external link)

Science around the neighbourhood – preschoolers and kindergarten | PBS Parents

Neighborhood activities and fun ideas for kids | ChildFun(external link)

Creative play | Department of Conservation Te Papa Atawhai(external link)