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Recommended reading Exploring the neighbourhood Stages: 3 to 5 years

There’s lots of information about exploration at every age and stage in the Parenting Resource — from the pre-natal Developing senses in the wombOpens in new window through to Exploration — Mana aotūroaOpens in new window at 3–5 years.

Pēpi touches, tastes, smells and listens 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. Pēpi is in the centre of ever-widening circles of people, places and things to interact with.

A world of free fun and learning is just outside the gate!

Three- and four-year-olds will enjoy visits to local parks, playgrounds, shops, roadworks, the swimming pool and the library, depending on what’s nearby.

Tamariki often need time outside in the fresh air. A simple 10 minute walk around the block could involve any number of fun things: puddles to jump in; birds, caterpillars and slaters to look at; butterflies, worms, cars 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. A snail or an insect on the footpath may grab a child’s attention and that’s the end of the journey.

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. There are opportunities to see, smell, hear, touch and maybe to taste. All of this makes for a rich (multi-sensory) experience for tamariki, especially when they have whānau there as their personal guide and kaitiaki, helping them notice things, answering questions, introducing new words and ideas and sharing the fun.

Safety first on foot

Outside the gate there are likely to be hazards that grownups need to be aware of, 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 an interesting fact.

Here are two examples of noticing and then responding:

  • ‘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?’

People at work

Adults can help tamariki notice what people are doing when they’re out in the neighbourhood. Where could they be going? What work are they doing? Do they wear special clothes for their job? What tools or vehicles do they need for their mahi?

All sorts of buildings

They could help the tamaiti to notice the different materials people build with, and the sizes and shapes of the buildings. Think about what goes on inside and who’s working or visiting there. Are there any signs or symbols that tell us about that building? Maybe there’s a building site where you can see people at work?

Changing seasons

Spending time in the neighbourhood 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.

Collecting stuff

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. Talk about what is okay to take home and what is not.

Point out any rubbish bins along the way too, and talk with them about keeping Papatūānuku clean. Maybe even take an empty rubbish bag with you so you can help by picking up any rubbish you come across. Don’t forget to wash your hands when you get home.

Further information:

 See these other website links with ideas for places to explore and activities for tamariki to enjoy in the neighbourhood:

  • California Department of Parks and Recreation website: Exploring nature in your neighbourhood — Activities for kids and families in new window

  • PBS Parents website: Science around the neighbourhood — Preschoolers and kindergarten in new window

  • ChildFun website: Neighborhood activities and fun ideas for kids in new window

  • Department of Conservation website: ‘Creative play’ in the ‘Exploring nature with children booklet’ in new window

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