Baby George reigns at NZ play date

Baby George reigns at NZ play date
The Duchess of Cambridge, with Prince George, talking to other parents at a Plunket play group at Government House in Wellington yesterday.

WELLINGTON - Britain's baby Prince George hosted his first official function yesterday - maintaining a regal calm on a play date with a group of New Zealand toddlers, even as some of his tiny guests burst into tears.

The play session at Wellington's Government House was organised by non-profit childcare group Plunket to give Prince William and Kate a relaxed start to a three-week tour of New Zealand and Australia after their arrival in the capital on Monday.

Formalities were cast aside for the occasion, with the eight-month-old prince crawling on the floor alongside 10 local babies while his proud parents looked on.

George, who was born on July 22, looked comfortable in the spotlight, playing with a purple tambourine and exercising his royal prerogative at one point to snatch a doll from the mouth of a little girl.

Wellington photographer Grant Collinge, whose eight-month-old Lukas was among the babies, said George showed an inquisitive nature and it was clear he "was his own little man".

"He took control and went into the middle of the circle of toys. He hunted out the biggest toy, propped himself up and owned the place, basically," Mr Collinge said.

The babies mingled in a room with a large portrait of George's great-grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, looking down from the wall, with cushions and toys scattered on the floor, including a giant blue teddy bear.

There were tears from some of the other infants as introductions were made but George, dressed in navy-blue dungaree shorts and a white T-shirt, appeared calm even after dropping a toy to the floor.

He was content to chew Kate's hair as his mother gently bounced him in her arms while chatting to his playmates' parents, pausing occasionally to wipe a spot of drool from the royal chin.

Plunket said the babies were all roughly the same age as George and were born to first-time parents, just like William and Kate. They were also selected to reflect the diversity of New Zealand society, including various ethnic groups and a same-sex couple.

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