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George goes on royal crawl-about

Prince George has carried out his first official engagement - going on a crawl-about with other babies.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge took taken their eight-month-old son to a New Zealand playgroup where they met other parents and their children.

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, all a similar age to George, including a pair of gay fathers and a single mum.

Crawling around on the plush blue patterned carpet of the Blandor Room, which was littered with toys including building bricks and a xylophone, George was one of the biggest babies there.

Dressed in £75 blue dungaree shorts by British luxury brand Rachel Riley, a white blouse and soft blue pre walking shoes, he had no fear in pulling himself up towards the other children - and stealing their toys.

Kate watched on protectively, occasionally wiping some dribble from his chin, as William chatted to some of the other parents.

The Duke joked: "It's madness, there are babies everywhere."

At one point the Duchess pulled her son to his feet and helped him bounce up and down - showing that the Prince probably is not far off "cruising" yet.

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

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

Kate Bainbridge, 29, a tax accountant whose daughter Sophie was born on July 11, said before the meeting: "I've had a few jealous looks from other parents when they found out we were meeting the Duke and Duchess.

"Even though we come from a very different background we have got a lot in common with the Duke and Duchess because we've been through the sleepless nights and we can talk to them about our experiences.

"We are all first-time parents, like them, so it should be quite easy to chat to them."

Philip Gray, 40, who was due to meet the couple with his wife Alana, 31, and daughter Lily, born on July 16, said: "The good thing about kids is they're unpredictable so I'm sure there will be a lot of laughter. Babies are a great ice-breaker."

Also meeting the royal visitors will be gay fathers Jared Mullen and Ryan McRae and their daughter Isabella.

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.

Tristine Clark, New Zealand president of Plunket, said: 'The parents are a spread of all the communities in New Zealand, including Maoris, Samoans, people of Chinese descent and gay couples. This is a very multi-cultural country and we wanted the Duke and Duchess to meet people from all backgrounds.'

Mrs Clark said the Duke and Duchess did not specifically ask to meet a gay couple, leaving the choice of parents entirely down to Plunket.

Tina Syme, Plunket's area manager for Wellington, was the woman tasked with choosing the 10 sets of parents. She said she started by looking for local couples whose children were born around the same time as Prince George, looked for parents from diverse backgrounds - including a single mother - and tried to get an even split of girls and boys.

She said: "The first 10 people who I called and who picked up the phone are the ones who will be attending. "There are some couples who I called and who have missed out because they didn't answer."

Mr Gray said he will be the third generation of his family to meet a royal visitor. His grandfather Bob Graham met the Queen when he was serving in the Royal New Zealand Air Force and his father Robert Gray met the Prince of Wales.

Mr Gray, an accountant, said: "Now I'm meeting the next two generations down, and maybe our daughter will met Prince George's children one day."

His wife Alana, who works in marketing, said: "We followed the Duchess's pregnancy and birth because it was happening at the same that I was pregnant. It's a nice link to the UK."

The Royal New Zealand Plunket Society, known to all as Plunket, was founded in 1907 by paediatrician Sir Frederic Truby King. He wanted to help babies and mothers dying of malnutrition and disease, and 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.

Its mission is to "ensure that New Zealand children are among the healthiest in the world".

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 all children under two should be in rear-facing seats.

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

He was a lively youngster, waving his arms and and kicking his legs in excitement as he spotted the other children with their toys.

Kate, who wore a patterned dress by designer Tory Burch, frequently shifted her son from hip to hip.

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.

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

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

Mrs Steven's daughter started crying after losing her doll to George and turned to her mum to be comforted, burying her face in her arms.

The Duchess then 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 his mouth then threw to the floor.

She eventually put him on the carpet and immediately George took off, 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 is not far off "cruising" either.

During the informal reception Kate, with George still in her arms, talked to Ingrid, 29, and David, 28, Alve with their baby daughter Eden.

George was getting restless, kicking his legs against his mum, so she put him down on the floor to allow him to crawl.

The little Prince set off at quite a pave, across the New Zealand fern patterned carpet of the Blundell room.

He was stopped in his tracks by eight-month-old Amelia Howe who grabbed a plastic block from him.

Baby Amelia started yelling after this royal encounter and her mum Stephanie van Heuven apologised to Kate for the noise, but George crawled serenely on.

He then got hold of a blue plastic block which he put in his mouth.

Baby Sophie Bainbridge crawled past Kate completely oblivious to the royal visitor and when Kate tried to make friends by saying "Hello" Sophie crawled by.

George then picked up a purple tambourine and started shaking it, gurgling with delight at the noise.

Baby Eden, dressed in a floral dress and headband, got in George's way and he reached out to stroke her face.

But he stretched a little bit too far and accidentally hit his new-found friend in the face with a flailing arm and she lost her headband in the confusion but seemed unperturbed.


From Belfast Telegraph