Ode to a Tree

Last week we had to say goodbye to a beloved friend, this friend was a tree.  A tree at my son’s Kindergarten.   In the past I was never one to get sentimental over trees,  I even remember giving my poor work colleague grief when they cut down the Pine Tree on One Tree Hill in Auckland many years ago, she was tearful in her grief and back then when I was a young and free 20-year-old, I could not understand why.

However this week, the news that a tree was to be cut down at my son’s Kindergarten was heartbreaking.   This tree was the centre tree in the forest, and among its branches, two swings hung, one an old school tire swing and they other a knotted rope swing.  Alex and the other children would spend hours, upon hours playing here.   I have photos and videos of Alex on both these swings, gaining confidence as he has grown and progressed over the past year.   He would often lead me out into the forest to watch him run around in circles gaining speed and then jump onto the tyre, laughing hysterically,  or he would leap off the bench near the rope swing – holding tightly onto the rope while saying “Did you see that mum”.

It’s funny how sometimes you just take for granted that something such as a tree will always be there, you don’t think that you will outgrow the tree, and if it did, you will see it wither and die before you which I guess makes the pending absence of it easier.

So last Thursday we said our goodbyes, I looked up into the lofty branches above and thanked our tree for its strong limbs that had held children on swings, for its shade that it had provided through hot Hawkes Bay summers,  for beauty, comfort and stillness.

On our return to Kindy this week, there was conversations about the tree, how would we swing?  Alex exclaimed he would just pretend to swing by jumping off the stump.    This morning though the teachers had moved the wood rounds cut from the trunk into the new clearing into a circle.   The children now discussed what they could do with the rounds, what would they become, launch pads for rockets, tables, a place for morning meetings and conversations.   It was interesting to see how the new area had come alive even though their beloved swing had gone, and it just goes to show how children live in the present moment.  Not dwelling on the past or worrying about the future, just here, in the present.   A lesson us adults could learn from.


*Photo – thanks to Kimberley Crisp.

Pinecone Bird Feeder

Bird feeders are really simple to make and a great way to invite birds into your garden. This morning Alex and I made two for the two trees in our back yard.

What you need:

  • Pinecones
  • Plate
  • Spoon
  • Butter knife
  • Smooth peanut butter
  •  Lard (found in the meat section at the supermarket)
  • Birdseed (we used a wild bird feed mix)
  • String
  • Scissors

To make your birdfeeder:

  • Cut a long piece of string to hang your birdfeeder.
  • Tie the string around the pinecone, at either the end of the stalk or around the middle if your pinecones does not have much of a stalk.
  • Spoon equal amounts of peanut butter and lard onto a plate.
  • Use the butter knife to spread the peanut butter and lard mixture inside the pine cone and around the edges, covering it.
  • Hold the pine cone over the plate and sprinkle birdseed over it, or squish the seeds into the peanut butter and lard.
  • Roll the pine cone in any birdseed that has fallen on the plate.  Anything left over I just tipped onto the lawn for the birds to eat.
  • Pick a place in your garden that’s safe from predators – at least 3 m off the ground and at the end of a tree branch.
  • Hang your bird feeder and wait for the birds.

Happy bird watching.


I would love to know how your birdfeeders turned out and what birds you have in your garden. At certain times of year we have Tui, but mostly Sparrows, Blackbirds, Thrush and sometimes Wax eyes and Fantails.

Check out Kidsplaynz Facebook page and Instagram for more photos and more adventures.



Poetry Teatime – A cosy winter ritual

A few weeks ago I came across an Instagram Account called Poetry Teatime.   It was a beautiful collection of photos of families sitting at the table drinking tea and reading poetry.

One of my favourite things to do is drink coffee but I often feel sad that in our modern world that we often miss part of the experience with instant and take away coffee and tea bags.  Often we don’t even sit to drink our cups of tea and will drink it on the go.   We have forgotten to stop and and make time to drink from beautiful china teacups and have something lovely to eat whether it be scones, cake or biscuits.     I have memories of having morning tea at my Nana’s house when everyone had been out working on the farm.  My Nana and I would make the scones and then everyone would come in and have morning tea together.   It is such a special memory of this time of togetherness.

I love sitting around the kitchen table but when family members work away from home, we don’t have the chance to sit together to have morning or afternoon tea, However I still wanted to create a time for my children that slightly resembled what morning and afternoon tea once was.

On Friday which was our first rainy day for sometime I thought it would be good to have our first Poetry Tea Time.    So out came the old linen table cloth and my great grandmothers china teacups.  I made Alex a fluffy with marshmallows and sprinkles and I had a cup of herbal tea.  We had crumpets with golden syrup and gingernut biscuits.   I then read poems and rhymes from a Nursery Rhyme Treasury book that I gave Alex when he was a baby.

Alex loved the experience, He enjoys stories and poems and kept asking for more.  This is definitely something that incorporate into our weeks, especially during winter when the days are cooler.

For more inspiration I encourage you to look at the Poetry Teatime Instagram account. @PoetryTeaTime

For more of our adventures please check out @kidsplaynz on Instagram or Facebook.





Earn Kiwi Guardian Medals while out on Adventures.

Recently I found out about the Toyota Kiwi Guardians.  This is a programme run by The Department of Conservation and sponsored by Toyota to get kids outside, exploring nature and going on adventures.  This is definitely something our family like doing.

Funnily enough, when we were at White Pine bush the other week my husband saw the Kiwi Guardian sign, but it wasn’t until I mentioned something a few days later that we looked it up online and found out how it works.

Kids can collect medals and certificates by going for nature walks, completing activities at home or out and about or by attending events in their hometown.   Once you have completed an activity all you need to do is go online to the Kiwi Guardian website, enter your child’s details and a collectable medal and certificate will be posted to you.   To claim a medal for adventure walks, look out for the code word on the Kiwi Guardian sign post on the walk, remember the code word, enter that word on the website with your details to claim your medal.

This morning we headed out to Pandora Pond to make a start on the adventure walks around Napier.   On the Kiwi Guardian website, you can download and print maps of the reserves you visit.  This is a great activity if your children are into looking at maps, Alex has just started showing some interest in maps and will draw maps at home or when he is in the car travelling.   We don’t have printer ink at the moment so he looked at the online map at home before we left.  There is also maps at both ends of the Estuary walk, so we looked at both of these and talked about where the different parts of the track were and pointed some the landmarks out.

This is a flat track and buggy friendly, it did take us longer than the hour stated on the sign but we stopped to look at a number of birds, crabs, signs etc. We were quite lucky to see a White Heron (need to confirm photos) feeding, which I have never seen before or at least never noticed (Amazing what you notice and see when walking with children).  I carried Frankie on my back most of the way because it was quite windy, however, I think half the track would be more than enough for her little legs.  We went at low tide today, I will take Alex back there at high tide in the next week so he can see the difference with the water covering the estuary.   If you haven’t walked this track before definitely put it on your to-do list.

Best place to park – Car park at the end of Humber Street, Ahuriri, Napier.

Check out the Kiwi Guardian website for more details on adventures in your town and adventures you can have at home.


Visiting the Kapiti Coast with Kids? – Pop these parks on your ‘Go To’ list.

Last Thursday  Alex, Frankie and I said goodbye to Chris (he had to work) and set off on holiday with my Mum, my Brother and his Family.  Mum had booked us all into a holiday home at Paraparaumu Beach via www.bookabatch.co.nz My mums side of the family all live in the area including her Mum and Dad,  so as well as a bit of a holiday for us and all the kids, we also caught up with loads of cousins and my Grandparents at the same time.

The Kapiti Coast is such a beautiful place to explore, the beaches, the parks, the bush it’s all there.    Seeing it now through the eyes of my children is even better.  It’s amazing what you don’t notice until you have little people and see things with fresh new eyes and get excited about everything.

On our first day, we ventured out to Kaitawa Reserve looking for Pirate Treasure, golden painted rocks that had been hidden within the reserve.  Weeks before I had joined the Kapiti Rocks Facebook page and found a post with a treasure map that had directions to the pirate loot.  The kids were ecstatic when they found it.  Rock painting is certainly a great way to get out and about and find hidden parks and reserves not only in your own town but also while on holiday.    This reserve is a definite must do for anyone visiting the Kapiti Coast.   There are walkways, with bridges and steps so you can wander through the native bush.  We found hidden pathways and steps down to the many streams.  Native birds singing, we watched a wood pigeon fly an arm’s length away from us and then sit watching us from its perch in the tree.  It really is quite a magical place.

The highlight of the reserve though was finding an epic flying fox.   This is something out the 80’s with the added value of millennium safety modifications.  Comfortable pommel seat and knowing there is no way you are going to slam into the wooden pole at the end.   The flying fox had enough scare factor making it exciting for older children and adults.   Near the end, you flew over a small stream and then bounced into the stopping spring which then pushed you back across the stream so you hop off and walk back up the hill. We definitely need more of this sort of play equipment in New Zealand, parks and reserves and not the plastic fantastic new school play equipment that have no real challenge to it.  We spent over an hour all taking turns on it, and only moved on because some other people came over to use it. The kids would have spent all day on it. Even the little ones had a go while sitting on us.

Later on in the day, we headed down to Marine Gardens at Raumati Beach, I saw some photos of this park online and thought the slide looked like something the kids would enjoy.   This is a cute beachside park, it has a huge enclosed slide, similar to a water slide, it also has a great splash pad and a large sandpit with working diggers.   We were there late on a Friday afternoon before the stormy weather hit, so we had it to ourselves.  I imagine this would be a busy place on a Sunny weekend day.   This park also hosts the Kapiti Miniature Railway Club, trains run most Sundays, (weather permitting).

The last park we visited was MacLean Park at Paraparaumu Beach and shops.   This park has had a much-needed upgrade in the past few years.   What we all loved about this park is that there is a tractor and boat as the main feature.  Alex could spend hours here pretending to launch the boat and then go fishing.    Just over the bank is the beach and throughout the day you will see large boats launching from the beach.   On a Saturday morning just behind the shops, you will find a hive of activity at the market.   Vegetables, preserves, speciality bread and few other interesting stall holders make up this unique market.

This is just a snippet of the adventures you can have on the Kapiti Coast.  We certainly didn’t have long enough to explore and sadly the weather closed in for our second day.   I can’t wait to take the kids back again soon to visit this very beautiful part of the country.

Let us know the places you have taken your children so I can add them to the list for our next visit.


Pumpkin Carving Down Under

One of the things I think we miss out on in the Southern Hemisphere is celebrating festivals in the right season.  Down here we play act seasonal celebrations like Christmas in the middle of Summer with hot roasts and rich puddings, hunting for Easter Eggs in the middle of Autumn, it’s so back to front.  Another seasonal celebration that many have started celebrating in some form is Halloween.

Halloween, All Hallows Eve, All Saints Day, Last light celebrations have been around for many centuries and throughout many cultures.   It’s the time of year when the trees and plants are dying down, the days are shorter and nights darker.   In the past people also became fearful of the long winter months ahead, of food shortages and death. Celebrations centred around dressing up in costumes, lighting candles and having bonfires and celebrating those who had passed through the year.  In Scotland and Northern England people would dress as ghosts, witches and goblins, they would blacken their faces with bonfire ash for protection.  They would then carve out potatoes and turnips with scary faces to make lanterns and place them near doorsteps and in windows to scare away the legend of Stingy Jack.  Immigrants took these traditions with them when they settled in America and it was then that pumpkins were carved into the Jack o Lantern and have become the popular symbol of Halloween that they are today.

So if we were to celebrate Halloween in New Zealand in the correct season, we would celebrate it on 30th April.  It’s not exactly a festival that many New Zealanders tend to celebrate but  I think it’s important that we celebrate our seasons and it is something I like sharing with my children, even if some of the traditions are taken from other countries.

Last year was the first year we carved out a Jack o Lantern, this year I thought we would do it again and celebrate our own version of All Hallows Eve.   I have written this blog a week earlier since it’s the school holidays it could be something that many wish to do. Who knows it could be something that everyone starts to celebrate in the April School Holidays each year.  Pumpkins are plentiful at this time of year and you should be able to find the orange pumpkins at most market gardens or farmers market across New Zealand now.

What you need:

  • Sharp knife
  • Vivid Marker Pen
  • Bowl for scraps
  • Orange Pumpkin variety
  • Tea light candle and matches

To start off with draw you face onto the pumpkin and a round circle at the top for the lid. Using a sharp knife cut the lid out first and pull out the seeds, clean the inside of the pumpkin and give it a bit of a wash.   Next cut out the eyes, nose and mouth or whatever design you have drawn.

Once you have finished this, your pumpkin is ready.  Place a tealight candle in the centre and light.  Pumpkins will last a few days if they are kept out of direct sunlight so you can light a few nights in a row.

Along with making Jack o Lanterns, it’s good to talk to your children about where the traditions of Halloween originated from, the history, fables and legends that surround the festival.   It’s interesting to note that the popular trick or treating originated from the tradition of giving out soul cakes to young children who went from house to house singing and saying prayers.

From reading recipes online, Soul Cakes sound similar to a spiced scone, I thought I would give the recipe a go over the next week and see how they taste.

If you do decide to make a Jack o Lantern, we would love to see photos of your creations.  Share them to our facebook page or on Instagram with the hashtag #pumpkindownunder



Have fun and I look forward to seeing some photos of your creations.


Creating Easter Traditions and Memories

When we grew up in the 1980s, Easter was a pretty huge event, back when we were children treat food such as chocolate wasn’t something that we had often so Easter was definitely up there for my brother and I.  I was the one who would scoff all my Easter Eggs at once and my brother would manage to save his for at least a week.  I had a friend who could save hers for months.  However, I do remember a time when she was showing me her saved Easter Eggs and she had found that a mouse had eaten them.   Take that!

We grew up in a Catholic Family so some of Easter was taken up by going to church, two sessions in one weekend, this is not fun for children in any form, and yes we did moan about it and we tried really hard to stall our parents for the session on Good Friday which was soo long.  However, if we were staying at my Gran’s and this was when I was much older we could sometimes get mum to get us fish and chips for dinner on Good Friday as many will know that Catholics don’t  eat red meat on Good Friday.

At Easter time we would usually go and stay the weekend at my Grandparents house in Otaki.   My mums family all lived in the area, so we spent the weekend with our cousins.   My Grandparents always set out an amazing Easter Egg treasure hunt and it is by far one of my best Easter memories.    When were still little and not old enough to read clues, we would have a string trail to follow around the garden, when were older we would have written clues to follow.   It was such an adventure and something that I have always remembered.

Creating childhood memories is something that I love creating with my own children.   It’s special to have some traditions that you do the same each year, children will remember smells, sounds and places or even a little memento that you only have out at Easter.

Below I will list a few ideas for an Autumn Easter traditions, you don’t have to do everything, just pick a couple that can make your Easter Weekend special.

  • Good Friday Hot Cross Buns – making your own is always so much better than bought ones.
  • Making your own Chocolate Easter treats, this isn’t as hard as might think. Chocolate moulds are very cheap and all you need to do is melt chocolate and fill.
  • Making baskets to collect eggs on Easter morning
  • Collecting Feijoas (nature’s Easter Eggs)
  • Easter Eggs Hunts, write out clues for older children, hide around the house or garden similar to the rock hunting, string treasure hunts for younger children. See above photo.
  • Decorating hard boiled eggs and then racing them down a hill to see who has the fastest one.
  • Have an egg and spoon race
  • Enjoy a big family meal together, celebrating the abundance of Autumn vegetables and fruits, think – Pumpkins, Kumara, Apples.
  • Going to a park or beach or some other place to celebrate Easter Sunday.

These are just ideas of some small traditions that you could do each year with your family or friends.   Making traditions and rituals for holidays always makes them more special and memorable.

**Above is a photo of my son Alex when he was two, experiencing his first ever Easter Hunt.  We took a length of string and wound it throughout my parents garden.  At the end, he had a surprise egg to open.

Love to hear what special traditions you had as a child or you do with your family now.

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Have a lovely Easter everyone.