5 Winter Activities For Kids To Enjoy

by Sarah Watkins

When the weather is cold and sometimes wet, what do you do with the kids?Here are five fun winter kids activities you can enjoy at Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre to engage the whole family. The forest reserve is an easy 20 minute drive north of Masterton in the Wairarapa and only one hour south of Palmerston North in the Manawatu.

1) Watch the tuna (eels) being fed

Tamariki (kids) of all ages love watching the big, beautiful long finned tuna (the Māori name for eel) being fed.

Brave adult volunteers can go down the steps to the river’s edge with a Ranger. They feed the tuna with a long metal spoon. Just watch out for the eel’s 300 teeth! These guys are wild and are creatures of habit. They hang out near the bridge at any time of day in the hopes of catching a stray morsel. But at 1:30pm they are fed every day, one of the centre’s four daily talks.

2) Check out the giant tree

Stay dry and warm inside the Visitor Centre and let the kids crawl inside the giant tree. There are all sorts of fascinating bugs, insects and worms to discover! Tamariki pick up the torches and search every square inch inside the trunk to find them all. The look of concentration and wonder on their faces is priceless.

The giant tree is located in the gallery and is free to explore. Just make sure you grab lunch, a hot chocolate or fluffy at Kākā Café afterwards. Great for a rainy day.

3) Watch movies

Did you know you can go to the movies at Pūkaha? In the nocturnal house is a purpose-built theatre. There are a variety of shorts running on a loop all day. Cosy up on the comfy seats and settle in for the films.

Learn how the first kiwi were translocated to the forest from Little Barrier Island. Discover the whakapapa Rangitāne have to this whenua (land) and why it’s so special

4) Hike the loop track: Te Arapiki o Tawhiki

The loop track is great for older children (as well as māmā and pāpā) to stretch their legs.

The hike takes roughly two hours.

Say “kia ora” (or “kōkako”!) to Kahurangi on the way to the start of the track. On wet days you are protected from the rain by the forest canopy for the most part. The slog up the hill is rewarded by stunning views at the lookout to Mount Holdsworth to the south and into the Tararuas to the north. The good news? The downhill bit is easy!

5) Eye spy…

A classic game that can be adapted to a conservation theme; or forest focus. Enjoy a walk in the park playing eye spy. The whole whānau can join in. It encourages you to look deeper and really appreciate the peaceful surroundings. There’s so much to discover during winter too: fungi, bugs, feathers, leaves… Enjoy!

Check out Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre’s website for tickets and more info.