More needs to be done to encourage kids to rediscover traditional forms of entertainment according to All Black star and Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM) recipient Keven Mealamu, who says children follow our own example when it comes to our choice of pastime.
With a backdrop of toy manufacturers and retailers around the world closing due to a drop off in demand, All Blacks stars are saying it’s time to return to play as they knew it or it will be lost to the next generation.
Auckland fitness centre owner Mealamu says having diversity in playtime is essential in the development of more well-rounded children.
He joins three current All Black dads, Dane Coles, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi and Karl Tu’inukuafe, in a new campaign to encourage Kiwi families to reconnect with each other.
Research by Sanitarium Health Food Company* has shown eight in ten parents (81%) feel their children’s lives are too complicated.
Mealamu says the results are worrying and he’s hoping to do his bit to change things in a new campaign for Weet-Bix, which includes a new collectors card game found in the product boxes.
The new game (Weet-Bix Stat Attack) features 33 current players, 6 All Black legends and 1 head coach. Each card includes All Blacks player statistics, with the game requiring players to take turns to call out a statistic they think will be a winner. The winner of the hand collects all of the cards.
The idea is to get Kiwi families to spend time together away from any distractions – something Mealamu, a dad of two, says he’s passionate about.
“I think we have to role model the information that we’re sharing with our kids. I know these days our phones are a part of our work, but we need to find that balance as well. For our family we try to have dinner together – and obviously our kids have homework and assignments due – but it’s a time when they can put the books, computers and phones down and catch up.”
“I think initiatives like Weet-Bix Stat Attack are great for families because they’re a conversation starter! They provide a platform to get dialogue going between the kids and their parents or siblings – there’s something quite special about sitting around a table and playing a simple card game or board game together,” he says.
Mealamu, who features on one of the six special “Legends” cards, says the messages behind the cards are also important.
“I like to be able to share with the kids how I got there, how tough it was and the importance of working hard – that everything isn’t easy. I collected those cards myself growing up and they provided a huge amount of inspiration for me,” he says.
“I feel really privileged to have my stats on a card, and I want my kids to know that with success comes failure and I want them to understand it’s how you pick yourself up from those setbacks that count in life, no matter what path they take.”
All Black front rower Coles says he’s also thrilled to be part of a campaign which encourages kids to engage in play with others.
“I think it’s great that we are able to help encourage the kids to head outdoors and hang out with their mates and have a bit of fun in the backyard. It’s great to be promoting healthy habits.”
As a father of two boys Coles says he feels a responsibility to lead by example and tries to get his boys to be active.
“We really are living in a different world to the one we grew up in, so it’s awesome to promote something that we did as kids. As well as having a lot of fun a game like this is teaching them social skills like interacting with their mates.”
“I try and play little games with my kids, you know like hide-and-seek and stuff like that. I just try and get them outside as much as I can and show them how I grew up and put these little traditions in place. It takes me back to when I was a kid as well,” he says.
One of the traditions he also took part in as a child has come full-circle, with Coles now featuring on one of the cards which were prized possessions during his own youth.
“I used to collect the cards when I was a young fella, obviously the legend Keven Mealamu was a guy I looked up to, so I used to rip the pack open and get the cards from the bottom.”
All Blacks prop Karl Tu’inukuafe says he’s lucky his own five-year-old son is already pretty active.
“He doesn’t like sitting down too much, so I don’t have to try too hard. He always wants to go to the park, get outside and stuff, he’s lucky he’s got his younger brothers now so he’s not alone and he’ll have some younger kids to play with.”
Rotorua-born halfback Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi says, like Tu’inukuafe and Coles, he tries to make sure his own son gets plenty of time outside encouraging hobbies like hunting, fishing and swimming to keep him busy.
Tahuriorangi, like his team-mates, says he’s honoured to be featured on a Weet-Bix Stat Attack card that has such a great family message behind it.
“It’s got a bit about yourself, your weight, your height, how many times you’ve scored and test caps and stuff like that. It’s great that we are part of a game which not only encourages Kiwi kids to reach for their dreams but also to hang out more with their families and friends,” he says.
The research was commissioned by Sanitarium Health Food Companyand conducted online among 345 parents of children aged 16 or under by an independent market research agency using a nationwide sampling methodology which was weighted to the population. The data was collected in June 2018.