About Us 

When children move, they learn. It’s really that simple... and it’s really that powerful. Yet somehow today, in our fast-paced, over-scheduled, tech-savvy world, that idea often gets lost.

MOVING SMART was founded in 1997 by Gill Connell, Educator, Child Development Expert, and best-selling author, to help teachers and parents better understand the role movement plays in early childhood development while giving children all they need to move their bodies, build their brains, and develop the foundations they’ll need for a lifetime of learning.

Meet Our Team

Gill Connell


Mum, Grandmum, Teacher, International Lecturer, Author and Consultant

"A Moving Child is a Learning Child." Gill is a globally recognised child development authority, specialising in the foundations of learning through movement and play. Gill provides developmental expertise to parents, preschools, schools, and international companies such as Hasbro, Inc., based on her 30+ years in preschool and primary education. With her best-selling books A MOVING CHILD IS A LEARNING CHILD, MOVING TO LEARN and now MOVE, PLAY AND LEARN WITH SMART STEPS Gill has influenced the education of preschoolers nationwide in New Zealand, and is branching out worldwide with new and exciting Moving Smart initiatives.

Cheryl McCarthy

Creative Director

Writer, Author

As a writer, producer and toymaker, Cheryl has made a career of play. As the former Vice President of Intellectual Property Development for Hasbro, Inc., Cheryl was instrumental in the development of creative content and storytelling for some of the world's best known toys and games including My Little Pony, Candy Land, Mr Potato Head, and Weebles, while producing more than 30 hours of animated and live action entertainment for children. Now serving as the Creative Director for Moving Smart Ltd., Cheryl brings her playful sensibilities to the serious business of getting kids moving to learn. Cheryl is the co-author of the books A MOVING CHILD IS A LEARNING CHILD and MOVE, PLAY AND LEARN WITH SMART STEPS.

Wendy Pirie (MHSC)

Child Development and Movement Consultant

Early Childhood Educator, Teacher Training Facilitator, and Parenting Movement Consultant

Wendy Pirie MHSc has been working with children, their families, teachers and clinicians in the role that movement plays in child development since 2003. Her educational background in exercise science, population health and child development has given her a broad base from which to approach many child development related topics. She co-authored movement curriculum Move, Play & Learn with Smart Steps in 2016, whilst raising three sons with husband Colin. Her work as Australia and New Zealand Director of TimberNook, co-director of Moving Smart New Zealand, early years project lead and Trustee for the Hawkes Bay Institute of Sport and founder of The DEN, a unique and innovative early learning centre for children 2 - 6 years keeps her busy. Wendy has a special interest in connecting hauora and education for the best outcomes for children.

Wendy Perera (BEd Dip Tchg ECE)

Child Development and Movement Consultant

Teacher, Parent Educator, Early Childhood Educator, Teacher Training Facilitator

Wendy is a mother of two busy children, a qualified teacher and runs a very successful parent education business called Teeny Tiny. She is a popular presenter for Parents’ Centre nationwide as well as other organisations and brings her wonderful knowledge of how and why children move to Moving Smart.
Wendy has been involved in the Early Childhood industry since 1998, teaching in a variety of settings both in New Zealand and offshore. She has a passion for child development and learning and is specialising in Get Ready for School workshops as well as offering Moving Smart Movement programs to Auckland ECE’s.

Frances van Dillen

Child Development and Movement Consultant (B. Ed Dip Tcg ECE and Primary Post Grad Leadership, Certificate in Clinical Supervision)

Early Childhood Educator, Teacher Training Facilitator, and Parenting Movement Consultant

Frances is a highly experienced and qualified facilitator and teacher. Frances has travelled nationally and globally presenting and learning about education. Having been a reading recovery teacher for many years, she is committed to sharing her knowledge of how movement and active play builds the foundations for development in the body and the brain. She has a keen interest in neuroscience and combines this with her interest in play. Her career is defined by her motto ‘working with human potential’. She loves to find the joy in learning and teaching, and encourages adults to include fun in their work.

Kirsten Kelly

Distribution Manager

Administration and Distribution

Kirsten has a background in Arts Management, working across theatre, dance, visual art and museums in New Zealand and the UK. She has an interest in how art can be a positive change-maker in the community, whether it’s a mural project, an artist in residence programme, or inspiring young people to tell their own stories through performance. I’m a mum to two boys and live in Napier.