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Project Lizard Lounge

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One of ZM’s weekday breakfast hosts, and a regular on TVNZ’s “Have you been paying attention”, Vaughan Smith lives in rural West Auckland with his wife Sharde, and their two daughters Indie and August.

Oooooooh remember the COVID-19 Alert Level 4 lockdown? Thanks New Zealand for doing your part so that it didn’t last for the rest of 2020. It was a challenging time, but short-term sacrifices = long-term successes.

Check out the other great TKG actions and activities on the Toyota kiwi guardians right here: www.kiwiguardians.co.nz

It’s like Mum knew what she was talking about all those years ago when she told us to do our homework in small increments early to avoid a disastrous last-minute panic. Every parent became an essential worker during lockdown, with home schooling, full-time child entertaining and at-home crisis management expert hats all being worn at the same time.

For my wife and I, that meant scouring the internet for at-home activities before the home schooling began. When we got an email from the team behind the Toyota Kiwi Guardians project, we saw the opportunity to get an afternoon of activity underway with the girls. We had done a few Toyota Kiwi Guardians activities over summer (remember summer? Oooooh what a time. Freedom knew no bounds) and the girls had been really interested in them. So when the at-home version presented itself, we decided to get in boots and all.

Indie had spent a lot of the early lockdown watching reptile videos on YouTube, and seeing as New Zealand has no snakes (thankfully for all of us, disappointing for a small snake-loving eight-year-old) lizards are the next best thing. So we decided to build a Lizard Lounge. A design was briefly discussed while holding the printout we got from the Toyota Kiwi Guardians website (easy to navigate and fantastically designed).

But if you’ve ever worked with children, you know that plans are always just standing in the way of GETTING INTO IT AND ROLLING WITH THE PUNCHES!

Armed with the smallest of plans but the biggest of dreams, we decided to make the Lizard Lounge in the most lizardy garden we have. It’s a rock-covered garden with lots of native grasses and plants to provide cover. It’s also safe from the chickens, cats, dogs and maaaaany birds we have on our property (another hint we found on the handy cheat sheet on the Toyota Kiwi Guardians website).

Indie conducted the worksite like the site manager she was meant to be, and ordered her young, eager sister to fetch all the building materials we would need to construct this luxurious lounge for lizards to lay and lounge about in. Bricks, tiles, branches, bark, stones, pipes and a water dish. We fetched it all. Mum vetoed the corrugated iron being added to the symmetrical structure and I can see why: it’s likely to end in a child playing with the aforementioned corrugated iron and hands being injured. But with the random assembly of the parts scavenged, the Lizard Lounge was assembled and was open for business.

After water was added to the water dish (hydration is key for everyone, lizards included), we popped inside to fill out the very easy form to claim our medal for the Lizard Lounge assembly. It was while filling out the form that we explored the website and found a Department of Conservation walk that is VERY close to our house, so we earmarked that for a lower-level lockdown to do as a family (it’s the Mokoroa Falls walk in the Waitakere Ranges, which we have since done and LOVED).

Two weeks later the letters arrived, individually addressed to the girls. They were so excited (as they never get mail, even less than we did as kids in the 1990s), and they tore into them and gladly claimed their Toyota Kiwi

Guardians medals before heading back to school. They submitted their story to their teachers online and both made class presentations – AND their video of their building was played in the online school assembly. They were so proud of their efforts. Medals, pride, achievement and some time passed in lockdown that didn’t involve bribes, eating or anyone yelling at anyone!