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 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

Kiwi kids can now earn rewards for helping protect our beaches and coastline

Kiwi kids can now earn a new reward for helping to protect our beaches and coastal creatures as part of the Toyota Kiwi Guardians programme.

The new Kaiwhakamaru Takutai (Coastal Wildlife Protector) medal encourages children to look after our coastal wildlife.

“By focusing on our vulnerable coastal regions, the Coastal Wildlife Protector medal actively encourages Kiwi kids to learn more about our amazing shore birds and wildlife such as fur seals,” said Andrew Davis, Toyota New Zealand’s General Manager of Marketing.

The New Zealand coast is teaming with plants and animals. Some of the more iconic species include sea lions/rāpuka/whakahau, little blue penguins/korora and a range of other shore birds.

Many of these species, however, face similar pressures. Dogs, pollution/litter and human disturbance all threaten the wildlife we share our beaches with.

“All of us can play a part to help protect our coastline. Whether you change your behaviour, pick up litter on the beach or encourage others to do the same via a conversation or a poster, you’ll be helping to protect our coastal wildlife,” Mr Davis said.

To earn the Kaiwhakamaru Takutai (Coastal Wildlife Protector) medal, Kiwi kids just need to visit any part of the coast, or research part of their favourite coastline, and think about how they or their family can help protect it. They then go online at click ‘claim medal’ and tell DOC what they have learnt or what they have done to protect coastal wildlife.

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.

IMAGE - Toyota Kiwi Guardians site at Tiritiri Matangi

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what a wonderful idea!

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