Case studies

Milford Kindy making sustainable changes!

Milford Kindy Blog photo resized4LBH

Milford Kindy making sustainable changes!

Milford Kindergarten recently received their Third Pā-Harakeke Healthy Heart Award and appear to have created a culture in their centre that lends itself to perpetual Gold Award achievement. Educator Amanda Bowen shares the scientific way that the children are engaging in healthy eating experiences.

-     Milford Kindergarten’s teaching has strong biology leanings.  How did you come up with these ideas? 

I remember Mum always talking about the natural world, anatomy, digestion, respiration, and circulation. I must have really enjoyed listening to her because I have remained interested in those subjects for many years.  Now that I am a kindergarten teacher, I enjoy sharing these interests with children and whānau.

At work, our philosophy focusses on well-being, nature, sustainability, and kaitiakitanga and is a great fit for my own values. For example, we regularly facilitate a ‘Kai Moana Experience’ which I regard as a strong example of integrated learning, incorporating hauora, science, technology, mathematics, and literacy into a very interactive activity that could appeal to many children. Thanks to Devonport Kindergarten for first sharing this experience with me nine years ago.

-     You use quite confronting hands-on methods in your learning, e.g. fish and worm digestive systems. 

 How do the children react to these methods? 

Kai Moana Experience

Before the children arrive, we arrange whole fish, filleted fish, bivalves, cephalopods etc. on trays of salt-ice.

Those children that show interest are invited to look at the fish and spend time finding out more about them. The children’s most asked question is, “Can I touch it?”.

First we removing the edible fillets, before encouraging them to handle the fish, examining and feeling the lips, teeth, tongue, gills, guts, tails and scales. Some children, and whānau hold their noses and move away, others hold their noses and come to take a closer look. We get loads of comments like, “Kindy’s a bit on the nose this morning”, or, “Something fishy’s going on at kindy today”. 

Some children appear to find the fish confronting, and often we see whānau supporting their children’s learning by recalling past events, “Can you tell Amanda how many fish you caught with Grandad?”, or by enabling the child to touch by holding the child’s hands in theirs and discussing their own knowledge and experiences with the children. Throughout the morning we continue to talk about digestion, respiration, and circulation, linking what we notice to our own bodily experiences. Often we use books, internet video, or whānau knowledge to extend what we are learning.

The activity concludes with the children washing and cutting the fillets into fish fingers, and preparing the prawns and squid, before frying or steaming them ready to share at morning tea. We use the fish heads and skeleton to make fresh fish stock, which we either freeze or share with whānau. Nothing is wasted, even the intestines etc. go into our bokashi system to recycle.

-     What have been some of the children’s learning outcomes, in line with your Pa-Harakeke Gold award this time around?

Learning outcomes stemming from this activity are varied according to the interests and engagement of individuals. For example, mana atua/well-being is supported through promotion of hauora, healthy lifestyle, healthy food production and consumption. Children experience opportunities to express confidence, independence, self-help and self-care skills relating to food preparation. Knowledge of bodily systems is increased through hands-on exploration and teina/tuākana knowledge sharing. Through these activities we are able to reinforce the tikanga of kaitiakitanga, as we teach and learn about conserving, preserving and protecting nature through interactive learning activities.

-     What has been the feedback from parents?

I believe that this is the kind of teaching and learning that creates boundless curiosity and an enduring interest in the natural world. Today a parent commented, “This stuff really makes me want to be a kindy teacher”… “Me too!”

Making a show of the Healthy Heart Award

Cheviot show 2

Showing off at the Cheviot Show!

Little Oaks Preschool in Cheviot is over-the-moon to receive their Rito (Bronze) Healthy Heart Award. Since signing up to work towards their Rito Award in August 2017, Little Oaks Cheviot has recorded all the ways they incorporate healthy nutrition and physical activity into their daily programme.

“The Healthy Heart Award has enabled us to celebrate and reinforce already-present aspects of our current programme, like outdoor education, edible gardens and physical challenges and exercise” says Little Oaks teacher Nic Hiatt.

Little Oaks Cheviot has encouraged fantastic whānau and community engagement throughout their Healthy Heart Award journey.

“We were able to involve whānau through healthy-eating guides, shared kai contributions, our 'Big Heart Day', and our involvement in the Cheviot Show” Says Nic.

Every year, the Cheviot Agricultural and Pastoral Show (A&P) invites local schools and ECE to run a stall to show the community what they’re up to! This year, Little Oaks Cheviot decided to make the focus of their stall about the Healthy Heart Award.

The time and energy that Little Oaks Cheviot put into their stall is really impressive. . They showed the many aspects they have worked on over the past year – their drawings and reflections about one of their favourite books, Eat your greens, Goldilocks!, their shared produce basket, which encourages whānau to share their spare produce with each other , and a Healthy Heart karakia, which was developed especially for their Healthy Heart Award.

Nic also says “The Cheviot Show 2018 was a wonderful way to be able to celebrate our current learning and achievement of our Healthy Heart Award with the wider community. We have loved embarking on our Healthy Heart Award journey, strengthening our environment to ensure the promotion of healthy eating and physical activity.”

“Our focus is for children in our centre to develop and demonstrate confidence independence, knowledge, and positive attitudes towards self-help, and care skills relating to food preparation, healthy eating and drinking, hygiene, resting and sleeping– instilling a foundation for healthy and positive lifelong habits.”

Healthy Heart Award Nutrition Advisor, Mikaela Battaerd, says it’s been a pleasure supporting Little Oaks Cheviot to gain their Healthy Heart Award.

“Their energy and passion for healthy living is fantastic. I have enjoyed all my visits to Cheviot to see them. I am looking forward to watching them progress to higher levels of their Healthy Heart Award,” says Mikaela.

Happy first birthday to Healthy Celebrations!


Pirate party


It’s one year since the Heart Foundation’s Healthy Celebrations book was released – encouraging healthy eating for children every day of the year, so we’re checking in to see what impact it has made so far!  We are delighted to showcase our early learning services around the country, who are putting the Healthy Celebrations’ ideas into practice for birthday celebrations and other special occasions.

Wonderful Waikato

In the heart of Hamilton, Lollipops Vickery has incorporated healthy-eating practices inspired by Healthy Celebrations. They have made birthday celebrations healthy and inclusive for all children without losing an ounce of fun along the way.

Now, the in-house cook provides parents with healthy low-fat and low-sugar recipe ideas, and parents are supportive of the shift to healthy celebrations. One family created an impressive birthday cake with 100% fresh, healthy, nutritious and delicious fresh fruit: watermelon, strawberries, grapes, pineapple and kiwifruit. And the children’s response? A resounding “yum”!

To add to the sense of occasion, they also introduced a special birthday celebration tray with a beautiful teacup, jug and flower vase for the birthday child. The children love this new ritual which keeps the focus on celebrating the child’s milestone, building relationships, and helps children with food allergies feel more included.

Lollipops Vickery Manager, Pam Smith, is proud of what they have achieved.

“We are providing a consistent message around promoting healthy behaviours towards food. We want to continue these celebrations to reflect our philosophy of growing healthy children who are competent and confident learners, healthy in mind, body and spirit.”

In the Heart of Northland

Heading up north to Whangarei’s Educare Hikurangi, Healthy Celebrations’ ideas are being used to support their philosophy of promoting healthy environments. Teacher, Sam Wyrsch, believes that children are better able to learn and develop when they are active and have nutritious food. However, her team noticed that many families were in the habit of providing a sugary treat to celebrate their child’s birthday, so they introduced alternative options.

“As we look at the child’s portfolio during our birthday celebration, we decided our tamariki could sit on a special chair or throne to give their day more importance. We started creating different thrones with our tamariki, now we use the chosen one to celebrate special occasions.”

This fresh approach to celebrating birthdays has been welcomed by the children, who love to take their turn sitting on the birthday throne. Families think it is a great alternative to sugary birthday treats, and say it has the added bonus of taking the pressure off them to provide a treat or cake. 

All heart in Taranaki

At the foot of Mt. Taranaki, New Plymouth’s Orapa Kindergarten hosted a fun ‘Pirate Day’ celebration as a part of their Healthy Heart Award. Using the Heart Foundation cookbooks and website they created a delicious and nutritious menu for their ‘Pirate Day’ celebration.

Morning Tea

  • A fresh fruit salad boat
  • Shark teeth (cheese)
  • Pirate teeth (plain popcorn)
  • Pirate legs (pretzel sticks)
  • Pirate swords (cucumber on a carrot stick)


  • Fresh minced pork hot dogs
  • Rice and vege pirate legs
  • Fruit and vege platters

The ‘Pirate Day’ celebration is a perfect example of how special occasions can be just as exciting when they go hand-in-hand with a healthy menu. Some families were so impressed they said they’ll be trying out these healthy party food ideas at home!

“It has been a great morning. The food was healthy and nutritious but presented in an attractive and fun way, which encouraged the children to try the veges, like the swords. The teachers put in a lot of effort for today with games and the food. It was awesome to be a part of.” – comment by Orapa Kindergarten whānau.

Our Nutrition Advisors are excited about the positive change that Healthy Celebrations has already inspired up and down the country one year in, and can’t wait to hear about more great Healthy Celebrations from Cape Reinga to Bluff !

The Heart Foundation’s Healthy Celebrations  book is available for order from your local Nutrition Advisor or for more ideas on how to create healthy meals go to