Who needs PlayStation when you can have a blade of grass?
04 October 2006

Forget Xbox, Nintendo or hi-tech computer games ? today's children are being urged to turn back the clock by playing with a blade of grass, a pine cone or a piece of string.

Traditional Maori games have entertained children for centuries, but a Wairoa College physical education teacher is trying to restore the pastimes to the mainstream.The games can also enthral today's youngsters, as proven by Val Irwin at a Wellington presentation yesterday.

Addressing the Fusion Down-Under Recipes for Movement congress, Mr Irwin demonstrated a range of Maori games with the help of young children. He made bird calls blowing on a blade of grass held between his fingers and completed intricate patterns by manipulating a loop of string held taut between his hands.

Simple manuka sticks were thrown between two people in a rhythmic game and a tiny slab of wood spinning on a piece of string ? porotiti ? produced a whirring sound that could put someone in a "state of meditation".

Mr Irwin showed how to use animal movements when brandishing the taiaha and played an ancient movement game called "hei tama tu tama" that developed mental alertness and speed.

He has helped to prepare an Education Ministry website detailing the games and there are moves to have them taught in New Zealand schools. He said the games were philosophies that should be shared. You did not have to spend a lot of money for children's games to be enjoyable.

"My presentation today is about trying to show where these things come from," he said. "Some of (us scholars) would like to record some of these old philosophies so our treasures (children) understand why we play games."

Visiting Australian boy James Hickey, 9, learned to spin a pine cone like a spinning top with a piece of string. He said the new games were "fun and challenging" and he planned to play them with friends at home.

"If I remember how to do them."

- The Dominion Post