Nelson's family-friendly army of Active Dads
Putting fathers in the frame during their child's early development is one of the key aims of a Nelson parents group that continues to go from strength to strength.
Active Dads is a Barnardos New Zealand initiative that is funded by Strategies for Kids, Information for Parents (SKIP).
The programme encourages dads with children under six to be active in their role as a parent, with a range of free events and fun activities, including kindy gym, visits to the local zoo and much more.
But while encouraging dads to connect with their kids, and other dads, is key, it's not all fun and games. Active Dads is also a great opportunity for Barnardos staff to share their expertise around topics of parenting and child development.
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The programme was first introduced by the Barnardos office in Blenheim before being adopted soon after by the Nelson team.
Social worker Nikita Picugin has taken on the role of Active Dads Nelson co-ordinator for 2017 after starting with Barnardos in September 2016. As well as working as a social worker for Barnardos he has dedicated himself to co-ordinating Active Dads in the office or holding various events at the weekend.
The timing for taking charge was ideal for Picugin, who will become a first-time dad in August.
"The aim is to be getting dads to interact with their kids and thinking about the really important role they've got in the life of their children, strengthening that role and making sure they're not overlooked and they can be part of such a wonderful thing," he said.
So far this year, free pizza at Pioneers Park and a pirate-themed treasure hunt at Tahunanui Beach have brought more than 50 people along.
"The events are a good opportunity to get out there and see what you can do with your kids," he said. 'It's great to see dads connecting with their kids and also with other men in the local community. Active Dads is open to all guys in a parenting role, granddads, uncles and other male role models."
A well-visited Facebook page had more than 460 likes and a database of about 200 dads currently registered, which Picugin said continued to grow.
Feedback from parents was overwhelmingly positive, with many saying the easy-going, organised structure of events and outdoor environment helped them connect with their children.
"It's great to see how many people engage and respond to the activities."
Later in the year, after establishing a core group of regulars, Picugin hoped to build a focus group to help develop the programme further.
Anyone interested in joining Active Dads or wanting more information can go to http://www.activedadsnelson.co.nz/ or the Facebook page.