Te Whāriki

Te Whāriki is the Ministry of Education's early childhood curriculum policy statement.

It is a framework for providing tamariki (children's) early learning and development within a sociocultural context.

It emphasises the learning partnership between kaiako (teachers), parents, and whānau/families. Kaiako (teachers) weave an holistic curriculum in response to tamariki (children's) learning and development in the early childhood setting and the wider context of the child's world.

Licensing Criteria Cover

Part A: Early Childhood Care and Education for Infants, Toddlers and Young Children

  • Overview
    • Overview

      Children from birth through to eight years of age have developmental needs and capacities that differ from those in any subsequent time of their lives. The early childhood curriculum is therefore different in its approach from the curriculum for older children. The curriculum for early childhood emphasises reciprocal and responsive interaction with others, both adults and peers, who can respond to children’s development and changing capabilities. Although these needs can be met in either mixed age or separate age programmes, it is important that programmes meet the needs of the full range of children they cater for.

      The early childhood curriculum recognises that there can be wide variations in the rate and timing of children’s growth and development and in their capacity to learn new things in new places.

      Each child learns in his or her own way. The curriculum builds on a child’s current needs, strengths, and interests by allowing children choices and by encouraging them to take responsibility for their learning.

      Te Whāriki covers the years from birth to school entry age and identifies three broad age groups for consideration within the early childhood curriculum. At the same time, it acknowledges that there is considerable variation between individual children as well as different cultural perspectives about appropriate age arrangements. Infants, toddlers, and young children have distinctive and different needs and characteristics. These will determine the focus of the curriculum as it applies for each learner. The programme must be flexible enough to take into account the varying needs and characteristics of individual children.

      The overlapping age categories used are:

      • infant – birth to eighteen months
      • toddler – one year to three years
      • young child – two and a half years to school entry age.

      Ngā Mokopuna

      I roto i ēnei whakahaere e toru ngā reanga mokopuna:

      • ngā pēpi – 0 - 18 marama
      • ngā mokopuna kei te hāereere – 1- 3 tau
      • ngā mokopuna i mua o te haerenga ki te kura – 2 1/2 - 5 tau.

      Ko ngā whakahaere mō ngā mokopuna kia tika tonu mā rātou, kia eke ki ngā mahi ka taea e rātou.

      Heoi kia maumahara, he nui ngā rerekētanga kei roto i tēnā reanga, i tēnā reanga.

      He nui ano hoki ngā rerekētanga kei waenganui i tēnā mokopuna, i tēnā mokopuna. He mana motuhake tonu to tēnā, to tēnā .

      I te mutunga kia tino ngāwari ngā whakahaere mō ngā pēpi, me ngā mokopuna kei te hāereere, ā, kia aroha pai ki te marae-ātea o ia mokopuna, o ia mokopuna o ēnei reanga.

  • Development
    • Development

      Development of Learning and Capabilities

      Although the patterns of learning and development are sometimes seen as a progressive continuum linked to age, such patterns vary for individual children in ways that are not always predictable. The direction and speed of learning and growing will often fluctuate from day to day, according to where the child is and the people they are with.

      Examples of areas of development for children are:

      • increasing independence
      • growing sense of self-identity and of self as learner
      • increasing emotional robustness and sense of control
      • growing consistency and predictability of behaviour and response
      • increasing ability to cope with change
      • increasing ability to cope with delay in having needs met
      • developing memory capacity and sense of past, present, and future
      • widening social interaction, and development of a sense of others
      • increasing awareness of the world, and ability to share interests with others
      • increasing competence with techniques for communication and with tools for symbolising and representing
      • growing control of body and physical co-ordination
      • expanding experiences and understanding of people, places, events, and things
      • acquisition of domain-specific knowledge
      • increasing ability to use logic and abstract thinking

      During the early childhood years, children often demonstrate needs and capabilities at a variety of stages. For example:

      • Within minutes, a child can be both dependent and independent, according to changes in temperament, environment, or adult expectations.
      • A young infant needs an environment that is predictable but also needs and enjoys challenges and surprises.
      • A child may be using language and reasoning to order the world while continuing to use the sensory skills used in infancy.
      • Children learn through a combination of imagination and logic.

      The curriculum for the early childhood years must, therefore, be flexible enough to encompass the reality of:

      • fluctuations in individual behaviour and learning;
      • the need for repeated, familiar experiences to consolidate concepts and reassure the child;
      • the need for challenge as a medium for growth.

      There is no developmental cut-off at school entry age. During the early school years, the principles and strands of the early childhood curriculum continue to apply and can be interwoven with those of the New Zealand curriculum statements for schools.

  • The Infant
    • The Infant

      During these early months of life, the infant is totally dependent on others, has little prior knowledge or experience, and is learning to anticipate events and to communicate her or his needs in a confusing world.

      In order to thrive and learn, an infant must establish an intimate, responsive, and trusting relationship with at least one other person. Infants are able to develop close attachments with several people but not with many people. To develop a sense of their own identity and the strong sense of self-worth necessary for them to become confident in relationships and as learners, infants must experience physical and emotional security with at least one other person within each setting.

      Some special characteristics of infants

      Physical growth and developmental changes are more rapid during infancy than during any other period of life.

      Infants are very vulnerable. They are totally dependent on adults to meet their needs and are seldom able to cope with discomfort or stress.

      Infants have urgent needs that demand immediate attention.

      Infants need the security of knowing that their emotional and physical needs will be met in predictable ways.

      Infants are subject to rapid fluctuations of health and well-being.

      Key curriculum requirements for infants

      The care of infants is specialised and is neither a scaled-down three- or four-year-old programme nor a baby-sitting arrangement.

      Any programme catering for infants must provide:

      • one-to-one responsive interactions (those in which caregivers follow the child’s lead);
      • an adult who is consistently responsible for, and available to, each infant;
      • higher staffing ratios than for older children;
      • sociable, loving, and physically responsive adults who can tune in to an infant’s needs;
      • individualised programmes that can adjust to the infant’s own rhythms;
      • a predictable and calm environment that builds trust and anticipation;
      • partnership between parents and the other adults involved in caring for the infant.

  • The Toddler
    • The Toddler

      The behaviour and development of toddlers tends to vary and swing back and forth more than is the case for other age groups in the early childhood years.

      Toddlers are struggling to evolve a sense of self and to achieve independence from the adults to whom they are emotionally attached while at the same time needing continuing emotional support. Their desire for independence, knowledge, and increasing control over everyday life is often in conflict with their ongoing dependence on caregivers to make things happen.

      Toddlers are rapidly acquiring physical, social, reasoning, and language skills, but these skills still need a lot of practice. Toddlers tend both to resist and to find comfort in rituals and routines. Swings such as these can cause a wide variety of conflicting feelings, ideas, and actions, which challenge the resourcefulness and knowledge of parents and adults who work with toddlers.

      Some special characteristics of toddlers

      Toddlers are energetic and on the move.

      Toddlers are gaining control of their world by checking out limits, causes and effects.

      Toddlers' desires are oftern ahead of their language or physical abilities to achieve what they want.

      Toddlers are active and curious, determined to become competent and to make sense of happenings, objects and ideas.

      Toddlers' feelings are intense and unpredictable.

      Toddlers thrive on opportunities and on being encouraged into exploration and creativity.

      Toddlers are impulsive and can lack self control.

      Toddlers focus on the here and now.

      Toddlers seek social interaction and learn by imitating others.

      Toddlers learn with their whole body and learn by doing rather than being told.

      Key curriculum requirements for toddlers

      Toddlers have distinctive development needs and characteristics, but they are often caught between the specialised arrangements made for infants and the independence and busyness of programmes for young children. Programmes designed specifically for toddlers will lessen the tendency for toddlers to become bored, frustrated or disruptive, as can happen when expectations are set too low or too high.

      Toddlers need:

      • a secure environment and a programme that provides both challenges and predictable happenings;
      • opportunities for independent exploration and movement;
      • a flexible approach which can accommodate their spontaneity and whims at a pace that allows them to try to do things for themselves;
      • adults who encourage the toddlers' cognitive skills and language development;
      • responsive and predictable adults who both understand and accept the toddlers' developmental swings.

  • The Young Child
    • The Young Child

      Young children have increasing capacities for language and inquiry, increasing ability to understand another point of view, and are developing interests in representation and symbols, such as pictures, numbers, and words. An early childhood programme for young children should provide a rich bank of experiences from which the children can learn to make sense of their world and the world around them. Children in this older age group are still likely to swing back and forth in development, depending on their moods and the context, but they have a growing capacity for coping with unpredictability and change, especially if they are anchored by emotional support, respect, and acceptance. The children’s increasing abilities to plan and monitor their activities are evident in their developing awareness of themselves as learners.

      Some special characteristics of the young child

      Young children can recognise a wide range of patterns and regularities in the world around them. This encourages them to question when things are puzzling and different from what they expect and to respond to “nonsense” and humour.

      Young children have an increasing ability to see the family, home, or early childhood education setting in the perspective of the wider world.

      Young children have new capacities for symbolising and representation, creating art, music, and dance, as well as developing abilities with words and numbers.

      Young children’s developing literacy and numeracy skills include new purposes for language and cognition, such as reasoning, verbal exploration, puzzling, and finding out about both their social and physical world.

      Young children’s greater working memory contributes to their capacity for telling stories, for more complex problem-solving strategies, for longer periods of focused attention, and for more persistent curiosity.

      Young children are developing social skills for establishing and maintaining friendships and are beginning to be able to see another person’s point of view.

      Young children are consolidating and refining their physical skills.

      Young children are developing their awareness of themselves as learners by planning, checking, questioning, and reflecting on activities and tasks.

      Young children use their imaginations to explore their own and others’ identities.

      Key curriculum requirements for the young child

      It is important to make opportunities for the young child to experience new challenges, co-operative ventures, and longer term projects. These experiences also help to meet their expanding capabilities and provide a smooth transition to school.

      Young children need:

      • adults and environments to provide resources, challenges, and support for their widening interests and problem-solving capacities;
      • opportunities for unfamiliar routines, new and self-directed challenges, co-operative ventures, and sustained projects;
      • adults who can encourage sustained conversations, queries, and complex thinking, including concepts of fairness, difference, and similarity;
      • opportunities to use language to explore and to direct thinking and learning tasks;
      • a widening range of resources for creative expression, symbolising, and representation;
      • recognition of their developing sense of humour, which springs from new understandings about how things “ought” to be;
      • challenging opportunities which keep pace with their physical co-ordination and development.