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'Bubbly' George joins playgroup

Prince George showed he is growing up fast when he joined a baby playgroup for the first time - and went on a crawl-about.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's son was described as a "bubbly" and "feisty" eight-month-old who is advanced for his age by the other impressed parents.

George was boisterous and lively, waving his arms and kicking his legs in excitement when he spotted the other babies - all a similar age to the Prince - with their toys.

Dressed in a pair of £75 blue dungaree shorts by British luxury brand Rachel Riley, a white blouse and soft blue pre-walking shoes, he crawled around interacting with the other children and stole their toys - after escaping the attentions of mum at the event staged on the third day of the Duke and Duchess' tour of New Zealand and Australia.

When Kate chatted to the other parents she revealed her son is sleeping well and has moved on to solid food while William said the best way to get over jet-lag was to sleep and distract his son.

In the plush surroundings of Wellington's Government House - the official home of the Governor General - William and Kate chatted informally with the parents of 10 babies including a pair of gay fathers and a single mum.

All of the children were from local families and chosen by the organisation, which provides health care and support to new parents, known in New Zealand simply as Plunket.

Grant Collinge, 38, and Magda Gurbowicz, 35, met the royals with their baby boy.

Mr Collinge said: "George is bubbly, quite feisty and he took control.

"He crawled to the centre of the room and he owned the place.

"He honed in on certain toys and took the ones that he wanted. No-one was going to stand in his way."

He added: "We chatted to the Duke first and asked about how they and George coped with the jet-lag.

"William said sleeping and distracting (the baby) was the best thing to get over jet-lag and that's what they'd done with George.

"We spoke to the Duchess about group play - George had never played with so many babies before.

"She said it was the most amount of babies they'd ever had in a room with George. He does see other babies, but not many in a group like this."

As a proud dad he could not resist comparing his son's development with that of the baby prince who will one day be king:

"We found out Lucas had more teeth than George so he's winning that race.

"George has got about four or five teeth coming through. Lucas has got his seventh coming on."

Gay parents Jared Mullen and Ryan Tunstall, whose baby daughter Isabella is adopted, also spoke about their encounter with the Duke and Duchess.

Jared, from Oregon, US, and Ryan, from Australia, were chosen to represent the growing numbers of same-sex couples in New Zealand who use Plunket's parental support services.

Mr Mullen said: "Isabella and George had a little play together, they were chums.

"In a way all we did was talk about babies.

"The Duke and Duchess were lovely, they were both very relaxed and we chatted about our experiences as first-time parents.

"He is a lovely little boy, very intrepid. The whole thing has been a huge privilege.

"It was lovely to meet the Duke and Duchess and share our beautiful children with them. They are both very lovely and loving parents."

The idea of the reception was to give William and Kate the opportunity to introduce George to the world in a less formal way, and give the couple a chance to swap anecdotes about the trials and tribulations of being first-time parents.

William revealed he is very much a modern dad, helping out with childcare duties at the end of the day, when he chatted to Sheila and Soani Lemalie who had brought their baby son TJ - Tagiilima - to the playgroup.

Mrs Lemalie, who works in childcare, wore a traditional blue Samoan dress, with white flowers and a red necklace.

She said: "It was a very special time. We had a chance to cuddle George - he is very strong and very advanced.

"We talked to the Duke and Duchess about parenting - and to the Duchess about her role as both a mother and a royal. She said she was lucky to have help with George from her family and her friends.

"She is very down-to-earth and charming - they both are.

"Prince William said he supported his wife by giving George his bottle at night and putting him to bed."

At one point during the reception Kate held George on her hip as the teething Prince pulled at her hair and put it in his mouth.

The Duchess, who wore a patterned dress by designer Tory Burch, frequently shifted her son from hip to hip and nearby was George's nanny Maria Teresa Turrion Borrallo.

The future king then turned to a little girl called Paige who was with her parents, Jenny Stevens, 34, originally from the UK and Kiwi dad Mark, 43.

Mrs Stevens, 34, originally from the market town of Wednesbury in the Black Country, emigrated with her husband, an engineer with the Royal New Zealand Air Force, to New Zealand in 2002 after the pair met while masters students at Cranfield University.

George waved his arms to get their daughter's attention and touched Paige's face - before grabbing her wooden doll.

Mrs Stevens told the Duchess: "Paige grabs toys, she's just started teething," and Kate replied "George too".

Paige started crying after losing her doll to George and turned to her mum to be comforted, burying her face in her arms.

The Duchess stroked Paige's hair in an attempt to comfort her, as George looked around bored, waving his arms and indicating he wanted to be put down.

To distract her son Kate gave him a blue plastic block that George instantly put into his mouth then threw to the floor.

She eventually put him on the carpet and immediately George took off after taking a particular liking to a toy tambourine.

He grabbed at several other toys being held by other youngsters before Kate encouraged him to crawl to her and then pulled him to his feet.

George excitedly bobbed around, indicating that as well as mastering crawling, he isn't far off cruising either.

The playgroup was organised by the Royal New Zealand Plunket Society, known to all as Plunket.

It was founded in 1907 by paediatrician Sir Frederic Truby King who wanted to help babies and mothers dying of malnutrition and disease.

In 1908 the influential Victoria Plunket, wife of the then Governor-General, became its patron, giving the organisation her name.

Today Plunket, a non-profit organisation, helps more than 90% of all babies born in New Zealand, with free childcare advice, home visits and other services.

Earlier this week it caused controversy by fitting a forward-facing car seat for eight-month-old Prince George in the Cambridges' official car, despite recommending children under the age of two should be in rear-facing seats.


From Belfast Telegraph