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How did the
Play Festival
come to be?

In 2021, the Playfully team had the opportunity to attend one of the most successful Play Festivals in the world: the Tocatì held every year in Verona, Italy. One of Tocatì’s main takeaways was the realisation that traditional games are part of everyone’s cultural identity, and are a natural, fun and inter-generational way that can bring us together without boundaries nor discrimination.

The Play Festival is the first manifestation of Playfully’s vision of exploring Play as a universal channel for learning, wellbeing, integration & culture. Once having returned to Aotearoa, Playfully strived to create an occasion for communities to get together and learn about their own roots and each other, all the while having fun together. 


It is a one-day event which will close the wider World of Cultures Festival, organised in collaboration with the Waitematā Local Board, Aktive and Conscious Kids – and is intended to be the first of many more events and initiatives that will celebrate the power and importance of Play, including all the friends, laughter and learnings it gifts us with.

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Meet the team!


Maria is the Play Festival Director.  She is an Italian mum who has been travelling around the world with her family (her husband and three kids, each born on a different continent) to study and learn from indigenous cultures, different philosophies, and natural therapies. Maria has a Master Degree in Engineering Management but worked in the Corporate world only for one year of her life – the rest has been in community projects and initiatives. Her passion is to share the life, joy, and creativity that arise freely in everyone when there is balance and harmony with nature and within ourselves! 

As the Co-Founder of Conscious Kids, she has extensive experience in nature-based, sustainable educational programmes through free-play, and is excited to embrace and explore the more intergenerational, all-encompassing and diverse gifts, opportunities and teachings play can provide us with.




Francesco is a proud dad of three, as well as a traveller, coach and mindfulness practitioner. He is passionate about change and transformation, and loves working in creative, high-energy environments.

 Coming from an engineering background, he has been leading programmes for large companies in NZ and overseas. He currently focuses on facilitating, inspiring, coaching people and businesses towards their purposeful and sustainable transformation. 


In his work he uses play as an extremely powerful way of developing skills, resilience, confidence, collaboration, and why not.. have fun! Change is inevitable, growth is optional. When we become active and deliberate about change, that’s when transformation happens!


Project Manager


Dinny is an Italian Artist, Graphic Designer, Art Yoga co-founder and facilitator. Since she was little, art has always been an essential part of her life along her journey. This powerful tool encouraged her to deepen her knowledge in the native art world and achieved Kāwai Raupapa Certificate in Māori and Indigenous Art. Exploring core beliefs, dreams and purpose. 


She has created national and international projects, as well as all the advertising campaigns for important festivals such as New Zealand’s International Yoga Festival and Voices of Sacred Earth Festival for two consecutive years, 2019 and 2020.


Event Coordinator and Design


Bhanavi is the Play Festival’s Volunteer and Marketing Coordinator, and is very excited to be a part of this project! She is originally from Italy, but spent the majority of her life in Aotearoa. Travelling around the world at a young age fueled her passion for the exploration of different cultures and philosophies, and is looking forward to seeing and learning more about different traditions through the Festival. She has volunteered and worked with Conscious Kids for six years, an experience which helped her understand that playing is extremely important – not only in the early stages of one’s life, but also as one ‘grows up’. 


Marketing and Volunteer Coordinator


Our wonderful Marketing and Design Coordinator has just come back to Aotearoa after spending five-months backpacking around Europe (very eye-opening and hands down one of the best times of her life!). As someone who spent the majority of their childhood in the concrete jungles of Brazil, Gabi has developed a deep appreciation for free-play and nature-play philosophy. She has now been in the play sector for a while, having worked both on the ground and behind-the-scenes with Conscious Kids facilitating nature-based, free-play and community events. Gabi has studied Digital Media and Design at Whitecliffe College, and is excited to be continuing her studies in 2023!​


Marketing and Design Coordinator

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