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New research from Growing Up in New Zealand and Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage found that more than 90% of 12-year-olds regularly took part in recreational activities.

The report is the latest from University of Auckland’s Growing Up in New Zealand longitudinal research study which follows the lives of more than 6,000 young people and their families from before birth, and fills a gap in research about how young people engage with arts, culture and recreation.

"The findings show that 12-year-olds in New Zealand are highly engaged in arts, culture, and recreation activities," says Manatū Taonga Pou Mataaho o Te Aka Deputy Secretary Policy and Sector Performance, Emily Fabling.

"97% of 12-year-olds reported participating in some kind of extracurricular activity, including sport, dance and drama, community clubs and groups, arts, craft, and technology, and music. This is a really high level of participation and great confirmation that almost all children in New Zealand value taking part in arts, culture and recreational activities in their spare time.

"But most children still find time to do their homework (72%) and chores (89%) once a week or more, in amongst all their other after-school activities.

"It is a privilege to be able to make this report available on Children’s Day 2024 to acknowledge the importance of tamariki and rangatahi as New Zealand’s future artists, performers, mātanga, creatives and athletes.

"The research fills a gap in our data and insights about how young people are involved in the cultural system, and I am thankful for the mahi of all the researchers involved to bring this together," says Ms Fabling.

The illuminating findings also add "more in-depth understanding of how young people are participating in extracurricular cultural activities", says Growing Up in New Zealand Research Fellow, Dr Rebecca Evans.

"The report sheds light on some of the things that we’ve anecdotally known about Kiwi kids for some time," says Dr Evans.

"For example, sport was the extracurricular activity category with the highest level of participation, with 88% of 12-year-olds regularly doing sports activities outside of school.

"Listening to music was the activity young people most frequently did in their free time. Over half (52%) of all participants listened to music daily or more.

"Reading is also popular with approximately 3 out of 4 young people reading books at least once a week.

"We were also able to consider what characteristics (whether that be of the child, household, or neighbourhood) could enable children to have greater access, and what barriers for participation exist. Hopefully this report will encourage more young people to be able to participate in arts, culture, and recreation activities.

"This has been the first time Growing Up in New Zealand has been able to focus our attention on arts, culture, and recreation activities participation in-depth, which we hope reflects the importance of providing access to these activities across New Zealand," says Dr Evans.

Full report: Arts, Culture and Recreation Participation in the Growing Up in New Zealand Cohort at 12-Years

Report highlights

Breakdown of participation in individual categories can be found in the report, but highlights include:

  • 97% of 12-year-olds regularly do some kind of extracurricular activity.
  • Kids like to listen to music. More than half (52%) of 12-year-olds listen to music daily.
  • 3 out of 4 young people read books outside of school time at least once a week.
  • 88% of 12-year-olds regularly do sports in their free time.
  • About 4 in 10 kids (39%) regularly paint or draw.
  • 15% of young people do kapa haka in their free time. 

Find out more about the Growing Up in New Zealand study on their website.

Growing Up in New Zealand