Tooth-conscious mokopuna win oral health challenge

Staff and children at the Te Kohanga Reo o Maketu Kokiri celebrate winning the Western Bay of Plenty oral health challenge. Photo: Supplied.

The mokopuna and whanau of Te Kohanga Reo o Maketu Kokiri in Maketu have triumphed in a Western Bay of Plenty oral health challenge.

Kohanga Reo from across the Western Bay were invited to enter the annual challenge, run by the Bay of Plenty District Health Board’s Oral Health Promotion team, which looks at initiatives employed by Kohanga Reo to inspire tamariki and their whanau towards greater oral health awareness and practice.

To embrace the use of Te Reo Maori, which is a central practice within Kohanga Reo and Puna Reo early learning services, the challenge and the entries were written and submitted in Te Reo Maori.

The staff of Te Kohanga Reo o Maketu Kokiri engaged in lots of activities to get its 13 pre-schoolers thinking about their oral health and simultaneously incorporated areas of the curriculum.

“We covered off numeracy, literacy and co-ordination of skills all through referencing teeth,” says Maketu Kohanga Reo Kaiako Bella Rapana. “We tried to keep it as fun as possible, I lose them otherwise.

She laughs.

“We wrote a song to teach the children how to brush their teeth properly and get a beautiful smile. We had them identify good and bad foods, cut and pasted pictures of teeth, and planted lemon, lime and feijoa trees in the Kohanga garden," says Bella.

“We took them down to the Community Garden and taught them to identify different vegetables, and made little notebooks to take home and tick off that they had brushed their teeth properly each day.

And we also went on a visit to see a Dental Therapist at Te Akau Hauora in Papamoa to experience a dentist trip and normalise it so they wouldn’t be afraid. They were all quite proud of themselves about that.”

The theme for the Western Bay of Plenty Te Wero Oranga-a-Waha challenge was ‘E whakahamama…Te Wero Oranga-a-Waha’, which means ‘Say Ahhhh…Act on Mouth Health’.

The message behind the theme was a motivational one for individuals to take charge of their own oral health, by taking specific action to prevent oral disease and safeguard their overall health.

Twenty-one Western Bay Kohanga Reo/Puna Reo participated in the challenge. First place went to Te Kahanga Reo o Maketu Kokiri at Maketu, second place to Te Kohanga Reo o Opopoti at Maungatapu, and third place to Te Kohanga Reo o Te Akau at Papamoa.

Prizes included a big box of fruit and vegetables, water bottles, toothbrushes, toothpaste, certificates and laminated activities books.

BOPDHB Oral Health Promoter Zirsha Wharemate congratulated the winners and said the promotion had included activities such as teaching the tamariki about teeth health and wellbeing through various creative learning activities.

“Good oral health is an important part of general health,” says Zirsha. “He mihi nui ki nga Kaimahi me nga whanau o nga Kohanga Reo me nga Puna Reo hoki mo to koutou tautoko o tenei kaupapa nui.” 

In English this means ‘Thank you to the staff and families of Kohanga Reo and Puna Reo for your support of this important event’.

Zirsha also thanked those that helped with the judging, who included Kura Martin from the Kohanga National Trust, Barbara Laing, Jane Grierson, Terri Cook from the Te Manu Toroa Dental Team, and Aroha Tito from Ngati Ranginui Iwi Society Inc.


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