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Steph Reichardt - Back in the Bay and Encouraging Play

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Steph Reichardt

When adults encourage children to play and engage themselves, they are helping to build the resilience of the next generation and improve their fundamental movement skills.

That’s the message from Sport Bay of Plenty’s play expert Steph Reichardt, who wants to see more Bay of Plenty children experience the freedom to play and more local parents understand their role as enablers of play.

In doing so, Steph says children are better able to develop emotionally, physically, socially and mentally.

“It’s also where they develop and practice life skills,” Steph says.

Steph came to Sport Bay of Plenty as our new Regional Play Systems Lead in November and in that time has been supporting a number of play initiatives through the Tū Manawa funding stream, working with various organisations to help them find ways of incorporating play in their work stream and encouraging the community to learn about the benefits of play.

One of the ways she has been helping the community to understand the importance of play is through free community workshops throughout all areas of the Bay of Plenty. So far, workshops have been held in Whakatāne, Rotorua and Tauranga and Steph says they have been well-received, with attendees eager to learn more.

The next ‘Let’s Talk Play’ workshop is being held at Sport Bay of Plenty’s Tauranga office on Monday, April 12 and Steph says it is a great opportunity to learn why Sport New Zealand has identified play as essential to the future of our tamariki.

“We talk about the barriers and how we, in our work, can help reduce some of the barriers and we talk about how the future of play can look in Bay of Plenty.

“The workshops provide an opportunity to shape and articulate our approach to play. It is an opportunity for organisations to connect and helps to raise play awareness and confidence in having play conversations.”

Sport Bay of Plenty is a not-for-profit organisation that works to get more people more active, more often - and play is just one of the many ways to encourage just that. In the lead up school holidays, which start at the end of next week, Steph is encouraging parents, grandparents and caregivers to allow their children to play and to get involved.

“There is definitely no age restriction on play. In fact intergenerational play can be the most memorable, having grandad play in the sandpit, or nan teach knucklebones would be a great experience for all kids. As we age, play tends to get more structured and more rule-bound, let’s let the kids make the rules and be open to having fun.

“We, as adults, are the enablers of play. If we say yes a little more often, and actually take time to listen to the kids then I’m positive more play will be enabled.”

With two adventurous sons, the Te Puke-born mum knows first-hand how important it is for children to actively explore, be creative and experience fun, joy and laughter through play and tries to incorporate as much play time in their everyday lives as possible.

“I had a great childhood, outdoors, with friends, climbing up trees or exploring the neighbourhood on our bikes. My kids are also very playful and love getting dirty, being outdoors and using their imagination to create games. Play is that freedom to explore, to discover and to use your imagination.

“My lounge is currently a Lego airport. As a family we love to do double bounce competitions on the trampoline, dig trenches at the beach or play a big game of spotlight with the neighbours.”

Steph grew up in the Bay of Plenty, attending schools in Rotorua before moving to Wellington and spending her working life undertaking roles that have included an Active Families Advisor, Community Recreation Advisor and personal training. She is excited to be back in her home region with her children and closer to her whānau.

The Ngāti Raukawa descendant is also looking forward to creating normalcy around play across the generations and seeing Bay of Plenty residents, young and old, embrace it.

“Play provides a great opportunity for kids to take risks and to learn to communicate how they are feeling. It is a wonderful way to distract from the pressures of work and school and it's something we can do individually or with others.

“It is important in building children’s resilience and fundamental movement skills.”

The benefits of play:

  • Being physically active in a fun way that develops fundamental movement skills
  • Encouraging self-directed creativity and innovation
  • Improving social and emotional connection
  • Improving a young person’s understanding of their relationship with the physical environment
  • Improving resilience, independence and leadership by determining their own outcomes
  • Aiding better decision-making based around elements of challenge and risk.

Steph’s Top Five Tips to Incorporate Play:

  • Make time! That email can wait, your child would love to have you zooming a toy car around the coffee table with them!
  • Play on the way. Walking along a street doesn’t have to be boring, swing around that pole, skip or even play ‘step on a crack’ games.
  • Get out. Create opportunities for your tamariki to have fun in nature. Climb trees, look for tadpoles, build a sand castle.
  • Challenge others. Put your phone away at the park and get involved, sit on the swings or climb the tower, role model to other adults that it is ok to still play!
  • It’s okay to get wet. Jump in the puddles or play in the mud. Your children won’t remember how frizzy your hair becomes, they will remember that fun day you all played at the park in the rain.

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