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The power of simple play

Imagine a future where all parents feel safe letting their tamariki play outside beyond the backyard, in their streets and neighbourhoods, where whānau have the gift of time to be present with their tamariki and enable and role model play, and rangatahi have spaces to just be themselves, with access to healthy and safe places.

Our play vision at Healthy Families NZ is to ensure that everyone in Aotearoa has the ability - and right - to play safely. And play doesn’t have to be expensive, complex, or time-consuming!

Examples of simple play include: playing in our local streets and neighbourhoods, like we did back in the day. Neighbourhood activities such as water fights, cricket, and riding bikes are the fabric of many childhood memories, but these cherished past-times have been on the decline in recent years.

‘Play Streets’, funded as part of Waka Kotahi’s Innovating Streets for People initiative, is a community-led approach, working to revive childhood past-times and provide whānau and communities with the right to play on the street once again in West and South Auckland. Healthy Families Waitākere and Healthy Families South Auckland partnered with community champions to create small, local events for street residents to get out and play with one another!

Keeping it simple in the South, Healthy Families Ōtautahi initiated “Poipoia! Time to Play”, creating and enabling play pods across several schools in Christchurch. These brightly coloured pods, co-designed by our Christchurch-based whānau and students at West Spreydon School, are filled with all sorts of equipment and toys, with the idea of using imagination to create games and play.

'Play in the Hutt' is a movement kick-starting action to get Lower Hutt communities playing again. A partnership between Hutt City Council, Sport NZ and Healthy Families Hutt Valley, Play in the Hutt is a series of play events, ensuring tamariki are able to be physically active throughout their life-stages, starting with play at a young age. As well as tamariki having a great time, the team gathered valuable insights from parents on the barriers to play in Lower Hutt, including how to get even more kids playing in the community.

National Play Week’ was celebrated in November with the aim to bring communities together in their neighbourhoods to play. Healthy Families Invercargill drove a local initiative called Chalk It Up, which gave people space and permission to indulge their inner child and create chalk art and activities in their neighbourhoods. Keeping things on the pavement, Healthy Families Far North worked alongside Sport Northland to connect with rural kura in Te Tai Tokerau to design and produce their own play courses through the ‘Play on the Way’ initiative, allowing tamariki to re-invent classic concrete games and create play spaces that are important to them.

We see first-hand the difference supporting and enabling play can make in our communities - community wellbeing is improved, social connectedness becomes more commonplace, and barriers to equity are largely removed. The impacts demonstrate the value of taking a whole of community approach to help identify the systems and the social and physical environments at play. We all have a role to play to ensure these environments continue to develop and grow to ensure generations to come have the same - if not better - opportunities for play.


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