Have your kids got their Kiwi Guardians medal?


The Department of Conservation and Toyota have teamed up to make getting into nature easy and fun with a series of Adventure and Action challenges for your kids. Find out more about the Toyota Kiwi Guardians programme, and how your kids can earn medals just by getting outside.

Kiwis really like nature. Some of us like it as a concept, a part of our Kiwi identity; some of us like it as a recreational pastime, and for others – it’s just in their veins. Throughout the varying degrees of connection us Kiwis have with nature, trends emerge. More often than not, tamariki follow in their parents’ footsteps.

If family camping trips, hikes, tramping adventures or beach clean-ups were a regular occurrence for you as a kid, then you’re more likely to have the nature bug (figuratively speaking, hopefully,) and more likely to want to pass it on to your kids.

The benefits of nature

The benefits of nature have been well researched and documented.

Nature education expert, Richard Louv, wrote in his book about Nature-Deficit Disorder,

time in nature is not leisure time; it’s an essential investment in our children’s health.

Tellingly, the title of this book is ‘Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder’ – Richard was not beating around the bush, if you’ll forgive the pun.

A number of studies back Richard up, indicating children generally play inside more than they do outside. You can find all that research on the Department of Conservation website – I recommend starting here or here. But in a nutshell: there’s lots of international research saying we’re not getting kids outside enough.

Last year, shocking statistics hit the news about children spending less time outside each day than prison inmates – you can read about that on the Guardian website.

In New Zealand, nature is at our fingertips. Even in city centres, we don’t have to go too far to find a slice of greenery or an expanse of ocean. It could be a park, reserve, waterfront, beach or some native bush.

According to the engagement figures from the 2016 Survey of New Zealanders,

a whopping 85% of New Zealanders rate conservation as important to them personally.

Yet I don’t think all kiwi families make as much of this as we could.

There are lots of good reasons for this. Sometimes the barriers are logistical – it can be hard to find a good spot, plan the trip there and get everyone on board; and sometimes it’s financial – fun stuff can be costly. Little costs add up quick.

Sometimes, it’s because we’re nervous!

The Washington Post wrote a great article a while back about how parents can (understandably) be a bit risk averse which leads to missed adventures. We really want young people to get out there and have adventures in nature so they form meaningful connections with it. The state of our native species is already a bit precarious – we have about 3000 in some trouble, 800 in serious trouble and 50 plus bird species have become extinct since human arrival 750 years ago!

If kids don’t care about nature, then our individual conservation efforts will slide back with each generation. This is unacceptable – we need the opposite to happen!

Toyota Kiwi Guardians


It’s crucial our young people connect with nature. To bust down barriers and point families in the right direction, the Department of Conservation (DOC) and our partner Toyota New Zealand have developed the Toyota Kiwi Guardians outdoors programme.

This is a self-guided adventure and activity based programme which rewards children for getting into nature – whether in their backyards, at a reserve or on public conservation land. And it’s little to no cost. The reward? Legit, tangible medals and certificates which are posted out.

We know kids like having fun, (which the programme offers them in spades,) but we sweetened the deal because we also know they like to touch, hold and see their rewards. The programme works in 2 main ways: there’s the Adventure option, where you find a local site at www.kiwiguardians.co.nz and download an adventure map; and an Action option where you complete tasks in your backyard like building a wētā motel.

Department of Conservation-Bug hotel


So get out into nature! Go! If you’re looking for someplace easy to start, that could be the Toyota Kiwi Guardians programme. But, however you want to go about it, getting into nature is good for us and good for our families.

When we spend time in nature we feel better, we think better, and I generally think fresh air makes us better-better.

Let’s be better-better together. Kia ora.

For more great articles on getting out into nature these holidays, check out 23 free, or low-cost, outdoor activities for kids. Or check out our School age activities section.

Join more than 20,000 families

As we build a strong community of like minds:

  • Get the best tips from the best experts
  • Recipes, parties, crafts and activities
  • Special offers, competitions and more...

Sit back and relax and let us deliver to your inbox.

You might also be interested in:

6 Classic Kiwi Roadtrip Ideas with Kids

As the days get shorter, I begin to wonder how much longer we can sit out on our deck enjoying the sunshine. There’s…

Family focused outdoor activities

Combining exercise with family activities has many benefits, and not just to our waistlines and fitness levels. Active kids eat…

Science and nature toys

Science and nature toys encourage your child to explore their world. More than just chemistry sets, science and nature toys…

Great Kiwi Families: Becky Cashman

We’re really excited about this new series of posts where we’ll talk to some inspiring mums and dads about their…

Welcome to Kiwi Families

We bring thousands of families together to learn from each other.

Join a community raising great kids: