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Encouraging kids to play for health

Encouraging kids to play for health

Hutt City Council, with the support of naming rights partner Cummings Kilgariff and Co, is launching a new programme for Lower Hutt schools, designed to address a lack of free, undirected play in children. Build & Play will be launched at Belmont School next Monday (21 May) at 12.30 pm.

Build & Play will offer children opportunities for free, creative and, occasionally, risky play with a trailer load of tools: saws, hammers, hand drills; timber, PVC pipes, tennis balls and recycled items. The programme will be rolled out at Belmont and Waterloo Schools this term, with plans to expand it to other schools through 2018 and community groups in 2019, with a goal of reaching 6000 Lower Hutt Children in 2020. Each school will receive a risk assessment and programme training, along with recommendations on running the programme for the best results.

Council’s ‘Play in the Hutt’ research gathered information from children and families across Lower Hutt. The research showed that 96% of Lower Hutt parents surveyed report their children are not playing every day. Parental fears (such as traffic, strangers and dogs) and constraints account for more than 53% of the barriers that children face to play freely in their neighbourhoods.

Sport New Zealand says that play is the vital starting point for equipping children with the motivation, confidence, physical competence, knowledge and understanding that allows them to value and engage in physical activity for life. Lower Hutt’s Healthy Families programme found that 33% of Lower Hutt children are classified as obese and that 56% of them watch more than the Ministry of Health’s recommendation of a maximum two hours of television/screen time per day.

“We have specific needs in Lower Hutt. We know that regular quality play experiences will change lives and reduce obesity rates and screen time of kids in Lower Hutt. We aim to give children access to a wide selection of items to engage them in play. Teachers will run the programme in each school allowing children to create and take risks without adult interference but under adult supervision, says Mark Curr, Hutt City Council Sport and Recreation programmes manager.

Diane Cummings, co-director of Cummings, Kilgariff &Co was a teacher before moving to real estate before setting up the new Petone real estate company last year. She is thrilled to support the programme. “We like the fact that Build&Play comes pre-packaged and ready to go. Teachers are overloaded with all of the things they are expected to do and parents also don’t have much time. As a company we are very family focused - we are all parents and work long hours and know that children from all walks of life don’t get the opportunities to play that they used to,” she says.

A Milo/Nestle report on The State of Play in New Zealand showed that about 98% of New Zealand parents and grandparents believe play is not only important, but essential for a child’s development. The research also revealed that 40% of Kiwi kids say they want more play time outside and 63% of them said they want more time playing with their parents.

“Play is where children practice life and unfortunately, Hutt Valley children are not experiencing these essential life skills every day. We believe there is an opportunity to adopt the best ideas for play for kids, so that we grow a generation of healthier and happier tamariki and whanau,” Mr Curr says.

The Build & Play programme is a result of ‘Play in the Hutt’, a joint project by Hutt City Council, Healthy Families Lower Hutt and Sport NZ which advocates the importance of play and works to increase access and opportunities for play in our communities. Schools interested in booking Build & Play can contact Sam Dickie, senior recreation programmer, email

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