20 Free kid friendly outdoorsy School Holidays ideas!

Here at Forest Family we love a list (oh and bullet points)! There’s something satisfying about ticking the jobs off and summarizing things succinctly… therefore we’ve made a list of school holiday outdoor ideas for you guys! Cheap wholesome fun for the whole family (you too mum’s and dad’s)!  Also (in an Aussie accent:) I dare you… double dare…physical challenge (only Antipodean 80’s babes will get that one 😂), to do something off this list and then tag us on Instagram or Facebook so we can see! #whodareswins #forestfamilynz

  1. Climb a tree (with or without your kids)
  2. Climb a tree and have a picnic up it!
  3. Take the kids to a stream with a net, container and magnifying glass (please return the critters afterwards though). Take your book and a chair😊
  4. Find a new park or bush walk in your home town or city and try it (walk or bike)
  5. Get on the painted rock buzz! There’s sure to be a group in your area.
  6. Try geocaching! Who doesn’t love a treasure hunt!
  7. Go on a magical mystery tour (surprise the kids) and take a picnic
  8. Explore the local park with friends. Let the kids run wild. Take a thermos of hot chocolate for afterwards.
  9. Fly a kite
  10. Walk along the beach and be beach combers. Bring a bag for rubbish too, you good Samaritan you👍 Create something with your findings.
  11. Find out if there are any glow 🐛worm areas nearby and have a night adventure with friends! Listen to the sounds of the night.
  12. Put the tent⛺up in the backyard and have a camping adventure! Check out the stars.
  13. Go fishing🐟 (bait catcher’s count). The kids will love it and you. Take a book and chair if it’s not your usual thing, and gloves in case you end up baiting hooks.
  14. Find a hill and roll down it (you too parents)
  15. Make boats and race them down a stream
  16. Make mud pies, decorate, then throw…
  17. Visit your local library, find a tree and/or bird book then learn to identify the common plants and/or birds in your area. Visit whatbird to help identify calls.
  18. Sign up for the Department of Conservation kiwi guardians here do the activities and collect the medals! Who can collect the most???
  19. Teach the kids how to play spot light in the backyard, the more the merrier. Hot drinks and biscuits afterwards.
  20. Lie on your backs and make shapes with the clouds.

Ok, have fun out there everyone! 😊🌲🍁 Head over to our website and click the “Track Info” page for more ideas in your location.

😍Don’t forget to subscribe for more awesome information and cool stories!

 

 

Maungatautari – Sanctuary Mountain

This amazing eco sanctuary is a must explore. Its 47 km pest-proof fence has created a 3,400 hectare inland mountain island, where native bird life and forest has flourished due to the eradication of all mammalian predators.

We spent just over 2 hours exploring the southern enclosure, Te Tūī a Tāne, though I feel like we only really scraped the surface. It’s like stepping back into ancient NZ forest – the sounds of the birds surround you as soon as you step through the gates and the towering trees dwarf you.

A 16m viewing tower along the Rata track allowed us to sit amongst the treetops giving us a whole other perspective of the forest.

Check out the video of our adventure below and click the link to plan your visit to Maungatautari – Sanctuary Mountain. There is also a cool token the kids can send away for also, just find the code word on the guardian post along the walk and enter your details into the Kiwi Guardians page on DOC’s website.

Happy adventuring  🙌, nga mihi, Anita 🥜

 

 

Are backyards a thing of the past?

I recently wrote a blog post about what sort of role models we are being, in regards to how we are using our phones and i Pads (which you can read here) afterwards I found this article from the New Zealand Herald about reining in the kids screen time, detailing a study that shows it is detrimental to their health. You can read the full article here.

And while I agree with what was said, it made me feel sad. Especially the sentence “modern childhoods are characterised by low physical activity, excessive sitting and time indoors”. Whoa, that bums me out… And while I feel that my kids and the kids that they hang out with don’t fit this mold, there are certainly some of kids who do.

I have to admit to having had a lucky even blessed childhood. I grew up in the countryside on a farm in Gisborne until I was 6, before moving to Gisborne city for a year then suburban Auckland for the rest of my schooling years. My childhood was full of outdoor exploration, and even though we left the countryside and moved to suburbia, there were always creeks to be explored, trees to climb and backyards to roam around in. My childhood friend Emma had the wildest (best) backyard, her dad raised butterfly’s 🦋for living! We would spend hours making huts, creating games, riding our bikes, jumping on the trampoline etc. And while yes we did have a t.v and did watch it, you only watched it if there was something good on! Remember that? You couldn’t pause it or choose what you wanted to watch, how spoilt we are now!

I digress, the problem I have currently is that where I live and all over New Zealand,  property developers, approved by local council(s) have done away with backyards! The property developers (by and large, and particularly where I live) are squeezing houses into the property boundaries so there is NO backyard, barely a boarder of space between house and fence! If you were into parkour you could have fun I guess, going rooftop to rooftop!

Where the heck are the kids meant to go? Are they meant to play on the road? No, then of course they are going to stay indoors and watch screens -just- like- the- adults.  It ain’t rocket science! In another local development there is NO planned green space, just house upon house. And while this may be common overseas it was not in New Zealand until recently. I’m not a fan of this new trend.

They say its all about creating “affordable houses” and “population increase” etc etc but honestly those greedy developers should be required to create green space in these new subdivisions, and that’s at a council planning level.

There said my bit. Let’s turn our computers off now and go run around outside and climb a tree, old school styles!👊🤸‍♀️😉🍎🌳

 

“They are us” – what it means to me

It has been a very sad time here in Aotearoa, and it has had me, Anita, reflecting on the phrase “they are us” and what it means to me, to be a Kiwi/New Zealander. And since I have this platform I may as well use it to share my view, right?

Who are we, NZ? –  We are made up of many ethnicities, many religions and have a wide range of socio-economic groups …. but we are one nation and we are all whanau (and hey, sometimes families fight right, but if someone else messes with our family, we will stand together). Here are some kiwi colloquialisms to help me define how I see this:

  • Bro or Brother from another mother
  • Sis or Sister from another mister
  • Cuzzies
  • Aunties
  • Uncle

New Zealanders have a strong sense of extended family where all of the family titles above can be used for non-blood relations, a neighbour, a parent’s friend, or even a friend of a friend of a friend. I once had friends visiting from America and when chatting to them about touring around NZ, I happened to mention an Aunty here or Cousin there, they were like “is everyone in NZ related?” I laughed as I suppose it did sound like that. But we are a small country – you know the saying “six degrees of separation” – well here its more like 3 or 4 – that’s us 😆

We Kiwis are in general an inclusive friendly bunch, we tend to easily strike up conversations with the person next to us, asking how they are or where they are from and if they are visiting NZ, how they like New Zealand?

It is part of our culture. In school we learn our pepeha which is the Maori form of self introduction (Maori being NZ’s native culture and people). It is often used at the beginning of a hui/meeting or mihi/speech – it explains a little bit about where you are from and who you are connected to. Below is an example of my pepeha:

Anita Pepeha
Check out this awesome website to create your pepeha

And even in the most informal of settings, where you might just mention where you are from, this creates connections and starts conversations: “oh so you’re from ‘Ngaruawahia’, my cousin lives there, do you know …..” and so on and so forth.

I am so proud of how New Zealanders have come together during this sad time, showing Aroha (love), Whanaungatanga (kinship), and Manaakitanga (kindness/support).

Ka mau te wehi Aotearoa = Awesome New Zealand!!

Don’t get me wrong we definitely have things we need to work on, and this is just my own personal view ….. but jump on or keep going on the positive trajectory whanau 👍 – say no to racism and when you are out and about, share a smile, say hello and start a conversation with someonewho knows what you’ll learn or what connection you may make?

Thanks for reading, nga mihi, Anita 🥜✌️

NZ Flag2017-06-17 12.41.44

 

 

Waimama Reserve, Whiritoa- Barefoot👣

I rediscovered Whiritoa which is on the Coromandel peninsula, a few years ago, when I met up with some old school friends, who also have two boys of a similar age and a bach there. It is a great place to visit with the kids due to the awesome lagoon at the northern end of the beach. I highly recommend checking it out. And it only takes 1 hour from Tauranga!

I took our relatives there during the summer, and while the kids were splashing about and the adults were hanging out watching, I snuck away for a quick walk up and over the hill to Waimama Bay, barefoot.

It felt wonderful connecting with the earth beneath me on this quick adventure. Check out the video below to see what the track is like.

 

The track entry is on the other side of the lagoon which can be reached by wading across or walking around if you prefer to keep dry! The track sign says 30 minutes to the beach but I got there in 15 easy minutes. FYI there are NO facilities there and NO lifeguards.

Waimama is a super pretty beach and there was hardly anyone around. It would be a great place for a picnic.

The Whiritoa lagoon, as you can see is a whole lot of fun and is usually pretty busy over the summer months with families paddling, swimming, swinging, kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, kids with nets, inflatable flamingos etc… etc… but there is such a lot of space it never feels too crowded. A sun umbrella is a good idea though. Sometimes the tidal flows create a fun little wave like you can see in the video above, where the kids can catch a wave and body board from the lagoon towards the sea. Whiritoa beach on the other hand often has a steep drop off and big dumping waves. We always recommend swimming between the flags.

When was the last time you took your shoes off and connected with mother earth? Comment below.👍🌿🌊👣

 

 

 

Time⏳⌚…What’s that? And where can I find more of it?

This year I have re-joined the world of being a working parent, you know, the world where you earn actual money, have grown-up conversations with other adults and get recognition for doing a good job. I’m really enjoying it so far, and I am actually finding myself being more organised! Have you heard the saying “if you want something done, ask a busy person”?  Don’t misunderstand me a stay at home parent rarely has time for themselves but as my two are both at school now I’m needed less.

Anyway the things I am now finding hard to fit in are exercise and in particular my bush walks. The weekends seem to get booked up so quickly and we each have various weeknight activities on. Are we just trying to do too much? Probably, it’s week 5 of term 1 and my kids are already knackered, this summer has been super hot just to add to it all.

I’m left wondering how can I fit it all in?

Finding the right balance, that is what i’m working on, for myself, my children and my family as a whole unit. I feel very strongly about teaching kids about the importance of stopping 🧘🏻‍♀️ ☮️ ….. off screens! We all need time to process and reflect.

One evening last week, we decided to take the kids for a short bush walk to a river. The light was perfect, the track wide and reasonably easy – although my daughter did manage to skid, trip and fall into a ditch along the way! Still it was great (insert: rebellious) to be out on a school night and 👆sticking it to the routine!

We rounded a bend and came to a perfect view of the river, my daughter was screaming back to the boys “come on, hurry up, it’s so amazing, it’s beautiful”!

And it really was. A literal breath of fresh air.

We spent the next hour or so exploring up and down the river. I managed to grab a few minutes to breathe and stretch before I was coerced into eel hunting, and we did manage to lure one out from under a rock with some chicken leftovers tied onto a hand line with no hook on it.

It was a fantastic evening. Out enjoying the moment. The next day though, the kids weren’t so co-operative due to their later than usual night …… pros and cons, pros and cons 🤷‍♀️. I’m just gonna keep chipping away at finding that balance ✌️.

Nga mihi, Anita 🥜

#secretspot #privateproperty #friendsinbeautifulplaces

Looking for an adventurous roady? Then you can’t pass French Pass😉🌿🐟🤢👍

Hand’s up if you’ve ever been to French Pass? …I’m betting it’s not many!  Remotely located in the Marlborough Sounds, top of the South Island, New Zealand. Turn off SH6, north of Rai Valley and buckle up for an epic ride! For about half the trip (~30 km) you will experience twisty hair pin corners, one lane bridges, steep grades, and unsealed sections but, you will be rewarded with incredible scenery! The road takes you through farmland🐮🐑 + native and introduced forest all the while giving you breathe taking views of French Pass and D’Urville Island. OK, so if you are prone to car sickness this may not be the trip for you 🤢. Otherwise I recommend winding the windows down, putting on some sweet tunes (or Roald Dahl stories) and taking your time, because this is one roady worth doing!

French Pass is famously known as a narrow and treacherous stretch of water that separates D’Urville Island from the Mainland. There is a short walk to the lookout where you can safely observe this stretch of water, it is quite something to behold! Aside from the ocean and bush there really isn’t anything else out here which is part of the charm and attraction. I booked the Homestead for my 30th (a few years ago now…) and we had a right old party! You can also hunt out there at certain times of the year, fish, swim, jump off the wharf, or just relax. Hilariously, we were there just before Christmas time and Santa rode up to us on his lawnmower for a chat! If you don’t own a boat you can catch a water taxi to D’Urville Island to do various walks/hikes, which I highly recommend too.

Because the trip to French Pass is not a day trip you will need to sort out some accommodation. You could rent a bach/holiday house like we did, or book into the DOC campsite. I can’t wait to take my kids there one day in the not too distant future…maybe for another big birthday celebration😉!

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Getting re-inspired while reminiscing – Waitewheta Hut

So I thought it was time we revisited this adventure, as it was so awesome! It’s definitely time another one was done. Check out our video below🖐🚶‍♀️🌿🏞👍

6 amazing mamas and 7 cool kids!

Originally we had 10 kids coming but sickness, a sleepover and the last soccer game of the season meant we were down to 7. In hindsight this was good because it meant majority of the mums had a 1:1 ratio, this made for less stress and a more enjoyable walk. A one adult to one child ratio is especially good when walking with younger children and first timers, as many games and distractions are needed. Parents also tend to become pack horses for the bags and the children themselves, so be prepared.

We estimated it would take us around 4 hours to do the walk, so we decided to leave early as that meant no time pressure, giving us the whole day to get to the hut.

The track follows a historic tram line and is pretty wide most of the way, there are plenty of swing bridges to cross and these are great places to stop to take a look around. I feel that the 5th and final swing bridge is worth mentioning on this walk, as once crossed there is a short path that leads down to a perfect little beach. We rested here, had some snacks, and the kids had a good play which consisted of skimming stones and dropping rocks off the bridge. We left here with only one of the seven children getting wet, which I feel was pretty good odds. This is a good reminder to pack those extra clothes, especially if not walking in the warmer months when things are easily dried.

In just under 5 hours in total from the car park we got to the hut. The kids got their second (or maybe third) wind and quickly set about: getting their beds ready (we dominated one of the two large bunk rooms), devouring crackers and cheese like a pack of ravenous piranhas and sculling hot chocolates so they could run outside to explore, play tag and practice gymnastics! The mamas were left to sort, prepare, cook and supervise before getting to put their feet up with a well deserved cuppa.

When bedtime rolled around some of the kids could not get to sleep, even though they had walked for nearly 5 hours! Going to bed with the kids was really the only thing that worked and, actually, in the morning we were better off for it! If you haven’t stayed in a hut before – don’t expect too much sleep. Huts are noisy places even without kids (who is rustling that plastic bag/snoring/talking?!). Plus with no curtains you can bet your bottom dollar the kids will wake and get up early!

The next day, rain came after about an hour into the trip out. Rain coats, pack covers and wet weather gear were then all put into use – and when one raincoat couldn’t be found in the pack (that can sometimes feel like Mary Poppins’ bottomless bag), a black rubbish bin bag was turned into a makeshift poncho, tu meke. Also, one boot started to lose its sole so kiwi ingenuity saw a sock being sacrificed to hold it together. Note for next trip – bring gaffer tape (not really an essential but can be in those MacGyver moments).

Walking in a big group is great. Everyone had turns in different positions, being the leader or chilling at the back having some quieter time. All the mamas took turns encouraging the smaller ones and we even saw the kids pitching in to help get a pack on, singing a song of distraction or finding a walking stick to keep someone else going.

Going on long hikes or tramps with children does take some patience and sometimes a lot of creative thinking – like turning a small cut into a game to identify which grasses are cutty grass, or getting the younger of the group to walk up front with an adult, giving them a head start, and telling them that the others will try to catch up – That way they keep up the pace because they don’t want to “get caught”. Roll with the punches and try to prepare your mind so as not to get stressed or annoyed when the challenges arise. As always, this is much easier when you have friends to do it with.

 

Nga mihi, Anita

Monkey🐵 see monkey🐒do. What kind of example are we setting for our kids?

It was a 4 hour drive home from Taranaki to Tauranga, with just my partner, myself and our 6 year old son in the car, SO… I decided to make the most of having this amount of time together to talk with my partner, haha= captured audience!

What I wanted to discuss was how we use technology (in particular our phones and the iPad) and about what sort of example are we setting for our children.

Like many of you I use my phone as a 1) Phone (ahem) 2) for texting 3) it’s my watch and alarm clock 4) for playing music 5) as a camera 6) the internet! Already so many reasons to be fiddling with this damn useful piece of technology and I haven’t even mentioned apps (I have really crap storage) or games (as that’s not really my thing). However a few times lately I have been told off by my 8 year for being on my phone too much! I legitimately started to make excuses “ I’m actually doing the banking “or “ I just need to reply to this email”, and most ironically using my phone to update this blog or our social media pages about “getting outdoors with the kids”😂🌳🚶‍♀️ On the flip side it has got me thinking…

How does this look to our kids? What are we in fact normalizing? How are we being present with one another? Just how much time are we spending online? Are we mindlessly scrolling?

Being outdoorsy folk I feel we are doing ok. But I do think we could be doing a lot better particularly us adults by being more intentional with our usage. We are on devices more than ever (obviously I’m on one right now and my partner is sitting outside using the iPad as I write). I had an idea about getting a little basket, placing it on the kitchen bench so when we walked into the kitchen/lounge we would flick the phone onto silent and place it in there until an allocated time i.e. once the kids are in bed and then check/text/whatsapp or whatever. My partner gets a text message each evening to tell him what the work plan for the next day is so it might be hard him to not check it but I think even having the intention of not reaching for it every 5 seconds will help us be better role models.

As for the iPad our boys only got it at Christmas so its all fairly new and exciting for them still, they would stay on it for hours if we let them! I do worry about iPad usage (it seems very addictive and I notice their behavior gets off track) + their awful hunched over postures when using it! Does anyone else feel like this? We are going to trial restricting usage to 20 minutes of school math games or whatever program they “need” to be doing followed by 10 minutes of games. That’s 30 minutes each, per day.

Does anyone else share my concerns? I’d love to know what you are doing with your kids or what discussions your having. Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Thanks Tammy✌ #letsunplugandgooutside

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Going bush and letting off steam

A nice relaxing stroll in the outdoors can be very therapeutic, but also a run or fast paced walk can really get your body and head sorted out quick smart.

I was feeling flat, un motivated and quite grumpy one day (about week 3 into the summer school holidays 😜 and yes maybe premenstrual 😜) so I said to the kids “let’s get out for a walk and swim”. We went up to our local reserve in Whakamarama – Puketoki Reserve. A friend and her two daughters also came (I love a good mission buddy, and Rie you are always up for one, thank you, you’re awesome 🙌 ).

We walked straight in and onto the long loop track and I was like “let’s go, move, run, pace it, let’s do this”!! All four kids were off, they really didn’t need any encouragement. Rie and I paced it out and stopped for chats when we caught up with the kids. It got our heart rates up, warmed our muscles and cleared the lungs.

That was exactly what I needed.

Towards the end of the walk I had the most amazing moment with a Robin who came and perched on a branch an arm’s length away from my face, it stayed there for a full minute having a good look around and chatting away, it was so special (gutted I didn’t get a video to share with you all, but then again maybe it was just a moment meant for me at that time 🐦 ☮️).

It really reset me and re-sparked my mind. Talk about putting things into prospective.

After we finished the walk, which had a pretty quick start and middle, but a gentler, slower end thanks to the “lesson” from the Robin 🙏, we picnicked under a tree and the kids had a cold refreshing dip in the stream.

Yassssss – all is right in the world again ✌️

Nga mihi, Anita 🥜

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