Imagine this: each morning you walk your children across a bridge and over a pond brimming with wildlife. You enter a bespoke early childhood centre set amongst trees and nestled in a bush-clad landscape.
Inside is a space with earthy tones, wooden walls and abundant sunlight. Shelves are stocked with natural resources; the scent of delicious home cooking wafts out of the kitchen. Each room flows effortlessly out onto a protected central courtyard, where children are free to roam.
It’s not a fairy tale: it’s New Shoots Greenhithe.
Children lucky enough to live near this family-friendly neighbourhood on Auckland’s North Shore get to spend their days in a treehouse-like children’s centre where nature reigns supreme.
The Greenhithe story
The site sat under-utilised for a long, long time. It was home to an old, rundown house and the vegetation was overgrown. It’s a spacious section tucked away on a cul-de-sac in a suburban neighbourhood.
It was a stunning piece of land just screaming out to be rejuvenated, tidied up, restored.
Luckily, one of New Shoots’ owners, Michelle Pratt, has an eye for potential. Michelle could picture a place children would thrive in. She fell in love with the pond, which was in desperate need of restoration, and the nature surrounding it.
Standing on the site, it was hard to walk away – so she bought the land.
Transforming into a secret oasis
Michelle explained her vision to Copeland Associates Architects who designed a centre that would seamlessly connect with the natural landscape all around it. They enlisted the help of Peak CM Construction who worked tirelessly to bring the space to life.
It’s a makeover story like no other.
Outside, the land was repurposed and restored, the pond revitalised. Replacing that old house now sits a newly designed and purpose-built early childhood centre made up of three separate pods that open up onto a gorgeous central courtyard. Inside the building, nature permeates every cell.
From the very first glimpse
You witness it even before you arrive. Driving down the hill towards the centre, you get a bird’s eye view of the pods and the protected courtyard within. You park your car and walk along a bridge over the beautiful pond. Children – and their parents – get to start the day by really experiencing that nature that exists all around us
Within the walls
The interior of our architecturally-designed early childhood centre was designed to mimic the abundant nature beyond the walls. It offers…
The warmth of our unique XLam timber walls.
The cool solidity of the concrete floors underfoot.
Soft, muted tones that bring the colours of nature into the building.
Our toddler’s room is green, representing trees and bushes, leaves and grass. The infant’s area is painted in earthy shades to reflect the earth. Our blue preschooler’s pod represents the water running through the site.
Dried floral bouquets and plenty of potted plants.
Natural resources – made out of materials like felt and wood, steel and ceramic – lining shelves and filling baskets.
The magical courtyard
A communal space for all ages, the courtyard is the perfect place for quiet contemplation.
There are low hanging palm trees, available to children at their own level.
Children playing in the sandpit can catch views of the pond and surrounding bush.
Pockets of space between the pods offer different physical challenges perfectly suited to young children – hills and decks, sandpits and slides.
The pond: our pride and joy
When we first found this site, we knew the pond and its amazing wildlife needed protecting. We tidied it up and planted native New Zealand flora around it to attract wildlife back to the water.
Walking over the revitalised pond each morning and afternoon is a visual cue: the sights and sounds of the water and its natural inhabitants are a reminder that nature is all around us.
As it continues to thrive, our older children will get to head out on excursions to visit the pond; watch the water; collect sticks and stones from the surrounding area.
A sustainably built children’s centre
In New Zealand, land is a premium – and nowhere more so than Auckland – so it just didn’t seem right that this building was sitting empty and under-utilised before inevitably getting knocked down.
By repurposing the building we extended the life of many materials and reduced our environmental impact. By gifting the window joinery that was removed to make way for our new doors to a school in the Cook Islands, we helped out a community in need and stopped these supplies going to landfill. Refurbishing this centre is good for the planet and upholds our values of sustainability.
The benefits of connecting with nature
Have you ever had a hard day and felt a compelling desire to get outside? Breathe in fresh air? Go for a stroll in a park? Nature is restorative – it’s something we all need regular doses of.
The ability to observe and experience nature regularly gives people – children and adults alike – the chance to rest and reflect. And it’s not just a theory – the importance of nature on our health has been well-researched and the benefits proven.
Designing spaces with nature in mind
With busy lives spent increasingly inside, it’s more important than ever to find ways to bring nature to us, rather than the other way around. This intuitive desire to connect with nature has led researchers to study the phenomenon and designers to put it into action.
A team of researchers at Harvard University coined the term biophilic design, or design that incorporates the love of life. It’s centred around the findings that nature benefits people’s physical and mental health. It makes us feel good, relieves stress and improves our mood.
Knowing this, architects and designers can incorporate nature into their design.
A place where children thrive
For young children in particular, life is busy and everything is new. Having the opportunity to connect with nature gives children a chance to take a pause from their usual busyness. To rest their minds and observe, letting their experiences sink in.
When children get to experience a built environment working with nature, not impeding it, their brains have time to comprehend the world around them. It helps develop their confidence, improve their concentration and inspire their creativity.
Want your children to spend their days at an oasis?
Give your children the gift of days spent surrounded by nature.
Contact us to register your child at our oasis-like childcare centre in Greenhithe.
To learn more about New Shoots Children’s Centre: