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 C: Strand 2 - Belonging

Children and their families feel a sense of belonging.

  • Goals
    • Children and their families experience an environment where:

      • connecting links with the family and the wider world are affirmed and extended;
      • they know that they have a place;
      • they feel comfortable with the routines, customs, and regular events;
      • they know the limits and boundaries of acceptable behaviour.

      The early childhood education setting should be like a caring home: a secure and safe place where each member is entitled to respect and to the best of care. The feeling of belonging, in the widest sense, contributes to inner well-being, security, and identity. Children need to know that they are accepted for who they are. They should know that what they do can make a difference and that they can explore and try out new activities. They should also recognise that the early childhood education setting includes their whānau and is part of their wider world. The early childhood setting will establish a programme that has meaning and purpose, just as activities and events at home do.

      The families of all children should feel that they belong and are able to participate in the early childhood education programme and in decision making. Māori and Tagata Pasefika children will be more likely to feel at home if they regularly see Māori and Pacific Islands adults in the early childhood education setting. Liaison with local tangata whenua and a respect for papatuanuku should be promoted.

  • Relationships of the Strand of Belonging to the Curriculum Principles
    • This strand is based particularly on the principles of Family and Community and of Relationships. The curriculum makes links with the everyday activities and special events of family, whànau, local communities, and cultures and welcomes the participation of the child’s extended family in decisions about the programme and about appropriate behaviours and management. The strand of Belonging builds opportunities for social interaction with adults and other children and respects the achievements and aspirations of the child’s family and community. Through these links, families and the community are empowered.

  • Adults’ Responsibilities in Management, Organisation, and Practice
    • Children should be accepted and welcomed regardless of their capabilities.

      Parents and whānau should be welcomed and be comfortable and involved in the programme in ways that are meaningful to them and their child, with opportunities provided for parents to meet each other.

      Acknowledgment of different family styles, and knowledge of the cultures of the children in the programme, are also important.

      Appropriate connections with iwi and hapu should be established, and staff should support tikanga Māori and the use of the Māori language.

      Children’s confidence in, and identity with, the cultures of both their country of origin and of New Zealand should be fostered.

      Appreciation of and respect for children’s social and cultural connections should be embodied in the programme.

      Interdependence between children, their extended family, and the community should be supported, particularly for Māori and Tagata Pasefika families and their children.

      The programme should provide opportunities for interactions with community groups and services, both by children visiting outside the home or centre and by people from the wider world being welcomed.

      Programmes should enable children and their families to be active participants in their communities, particularly Māori and Pacific Islands families, and should enable children to learn and grow as part of a community.

      Children should have some space for belongings and be able to identify with the environment and change things. Personal photographs, family names, artwork, celebrations, and so on are significant in establishing a sense of belonging.

      Familiar, unhurried, regular routines and rituals that children can anticipate, such as welcoming and farewells, provide reassurance and should be designed to minimise stress on both children and adults.

      Adults should take time to listen seriously to the views parents and caregivers have of their children’s learning and development and share decision making with them. For parents and caregivers of children with special needs, adults should share information on available specialist services and support.

      There should be clear guidelines on appropriate and inappropriate behaviour, agreed to among parents and adults who work with children and relating to children’s different ages and development. Adults should be consistent, reliable, and realistic in their expectations and responses and should foster harmonious working relationships with other adults.

  • Continuity Between Early Childhood Education and School
    • Children moving from early childhood settings to the early years of school are likely to:

      • seek opportunities to share happenings and objects from home;
      • have some knowledge about the wider community and environment and be able to take some responsibility for caring for their
      • own environment;
      • want to contribute to decisions about the class programme and to planning their own
      • activities;
      • enjoy repeating favourite stories and activities and be able to sustain projects;
      • be confident in making some new friends as well as working and playing with children
      • they know;
      • understand basic concepts about rules, rights, and fairness;
      • understand the values of reliability, honesty, and courtesy.
  • Goal 1
    • Goal 1

      Children and their families experience an environment where connecting links with the family and the wider world are affirmed and extended.

      Learning Outcomes: Knowledge, Skills, and Attitudes

      Children develop:

      • an understanding of the links between the early childhood education setting and the known and familiar wider world through people, images, objects, languages, sounds, smells, and tastes that are the same as at home;
      • knowledge about the features of the area of physical and/or spiritual significance to the local community, such as the local river or mountain;
      • interest and pleasure in discovering an unfamiliar wider world where the people, images, objects, languages, sounds, smells, and tastes are different from those at home;
      • awareness of connections between events and experiences within and beyond the early childhood education setting;
      • connecting links between the early childhood education setting and other settings that relate to the child, such as home, school, or parent’s workplaces;
      • knowledge about the role of the wider world of work, such as the hospital, the supermarket, or the fire service.

      Questions for reflection


      What procedures are used to communicate with parents about a persistent problem, such as biting or not wanting to eat, and how effectively do these procedures contribute to resolving the problem in ways that are beneficial for the child?

      In what ways do the environment and programme reflect the values embodied in Te Tiriti o Waitangi, and what impact does this have on adults and children?

      In what ways are staff able to be a resource for parents, and families able to be a resource for staff? Can this be done in any other ways?

      What kinds of opportunity do the children have to go on outings or be part of cultural events?

      How is daily information about children shared with parents or family and between adults who work with children? How well does this meet the needs?

      Examples of experiences which help to meet these outcomes

      For infants

      Mothers who are breastfeeding are supported and provided for.

      Language, key words, and routines that infants are familiar with at home are used in the early childhood education setting.

      Adults talk to infants about family members.

      The programme includes short visits to see other people and other places.

      For toddlers

      Conversations with adults about family members and happenings are a natural part of the programme.

      Special playthings from home are accepted and cared for.

      Toddlers have regular small outings around the neighbourhood.

      Toddlers are encouraged to show parents things they have done, made, or found.

      The programme provides toddlers with widening experiences of the world through a range of playthings, books, pictures, and happenings.

      For young children

      There are opportunities to locate the early childhood education setting in the wider world by finding out about places of importance in the community, for example, through stories, visitors, or trips.

      There is time for young children to talk about home to interested adults and to share special news.

      Opportunities are arranged for families and whānau to meet each other and the children in the early childhood education setting, such as a morning tea, a trip, a shared lunch, or a barbecue.

  • Goal 2
    • Goal 2

      Children and their families experience an environment where they know that they have a place.

      Learning Outcomes: Knowledge, Skills, and Attitudes

      Children develop:

      • an increasing ability to play an active part in the running of the programme;
      • skills in caring for the environment, such as cleaning, fixing, gardening, and helping others with self-care skills;
      • the confidence and ability to express their ideas and to assist others;
      • a feeling of belonging, and having a right to belong, in the early childhood setting;
      • an ability to take on different roles in different contexts.

      Questions for reflection


      How is knowledge about children collected and shared among adults who work with them, and does this provide sufficient information for those who need it?

      What arrangements are made for personal space and personal belongings, and are these suitable for the children, the adults, and the setting?

      How does the programme ensure that all children are receiving attention and affection and that children will always find familiar adults who know about them? How well are these goals achieved?

      What are the procedures for individual welcomes and farewells and for settling in new children?

      How, and to what extent, is it possible to allow for children’s attachment to particular people and things?

      What aspects of the environment help children feel that this is a place where they belong?

      Examples of experiences which help to meet these outcomes

      For infants

      Each infant has a familiar sleeping space and meal area.

      A familiar adult has primary responsibility for each infant’s care, so that infants can anticipate who will welcome and care for them.

      Infants’ favourite cuddly things are available to them.

      The programme is flexible enough for infants’ needs and preferences for a particular person or way of doing something to usually be met.

      For toddlers

      Adults affirm toddlers’ growing recognition of things which belong to themselves or others, such as shoes, clothing, or toys.

      The programme provides opportunities for conversations with toddlers that affirm their identity and self-knowledge.

      The programme enables toddlers to take part in group activities, for example, at the water trough or the dough table.

      Adults recognise and respect toddlers’ passionate attachment to particular people and things.

      For young children

      Young children are asked for their ideas and allowed to make some significant decisions about the programme.

      Young children are able to express spontaneous affection to one or more of the people with whom they spend a lot of time.

      Young children help to arrange and put things away in their right place, if this is physically possible.

      A place for personal possessions and projects is available for each child.

      Children are encouraged to take opportunities for fixing, cleaning, gardening, and caring for the environment and the people in it.

  • Goal 3
    • Goal 3

      Children and their families experience an environment where they feel comfortable with the routines, customs, and regular events.

      Learning Outcomes: Knowledge, Skills, and Attitudes

      Children develop:

      • an understanding of the routines, customs, and regular events of the early childhood education setting;
      • an understanding that these routines, customs, and events can be different in other settings;
      • capacities to predict and plan from the patterns and regular events that make up the day or the session;
      • enjoyment of and interest in a moderate degree of change;
      • constructive strategies for coping with change.

      Questions for reflection


      What kinds of regular events are celebrated, and how are they celebrated?

      How do adults find out and make use of children’s favourite stories, songs, and rhymes?

      In what situations can children have choice, and when is this not possible or acceptable?

      If staff are stressed during busy times, how are the effects on children minimised?

      In what ways are routines used as positive and interactive learning experiences, and are there other ways this can be done?

      How is staffing arranged to ensure that individual children’s needs are met during routines, and how can this be improved?

      Examples of experiences which help to meet these outcomes

      For infants

      A regular but flexible pattern is established for the day, for example, going in the pushchair for a walk or going outside.

      The programme includes familiar rhymes, songs, and chants.

      The pace and time of routines is guided, as far as possible, by the infant’s needs.

      There is a reassuring emphasis on the familiar, with new elements introduced gradually and thoughtfully into the programme.

      For toddlers

      Toddlers’ favourite games and happenings are identified and included in the programme.

      Adults are prepared to read the same story again and again.

      Toddlers are able to have their own rituals and regular ways of doing things, such as wearing a favourite hat.

      Rules are kept to a minimum through the establishment of comfortable, well-understood routines.

      The programme provides many opportunities to participate in regular events, such as a walk or music time.

      For young children

      The programme allows ample time to return to favourite activities and areas and for the repetition and practice of developing skills and interests.

      The fact that routines, rituals, and regular events may be different in other settings is acknowledged and talked about.

      The programme includes activities and events which allow young children to develop their sense of order.

      Young children have time and opportunities to complete longer term projects and space to store them.

      Adults accept children’s different and personal ways of doing things as being part of their developing sense of self.

      Adults take time to talk with children about coming events which are out of the ordinary, such as trips, so that they can anticipate and be comfortable with them.

  • Goal 4
    • Goal 4

      Children and their families experience an environment where they know the limits and boundaries of acceptable behaviour.

      Learning Outcomes: Knowledge, Skills, and Attitudes

      Children develop:

      • the capacity to discuss and negotiate rules, rights, and fairness;
      • an understanding of the rules of the early childhood education setting, of the reasons for them, and of which rules will be different in other settings;
      • an understanding that the early childhood education setting is fair for all;
      • an understanding of the consequences of stepping beyond the limits of acceptable behaviour;
      • an increasing ability to take responsibility for their own actions;
      • the ability to disagree and state a conflicting opinion assertively and appropriately.

      Questions for reflection


      In what ways are the children shielded from the effects of stress on adults? Are there other, more effective, ways of approaching the issue?

      What kinds of support and back-up are available for parents to enable them to manage their children effectively? How well do these support systems work?

      How are parents involved in the child-management and child guidance policies of the programme?

      How are disagreements on a child-guidance issue resolved, and how empowering and equitable are the processes for children and parents?

      How is unacceptable behaviour dealt with to ensure that children are not demeaned or their self-esteem damaged?

      Which “rules” are necessary, which are flexible, which are negotiable, and how well do the rules achieve their intended function?

      Examples of experiences which help to meet these outcomes

      For infants

      Infants’ behaviour on both their good days and their bad days is accepted without judgment, and the programme has sufficient flexibility to accommodate natural variations.

      Adults gently encourage infants to accept that the adult will also attend to and care for other children.

      Familiar, unhurried adults are always nearby.

      For toddlers

      Adults help toddlers begin to manage their feelings appropriately.

      Adults offer only genuine choices and respect the toddler’s decisions.

      Possible causes of frustration and conflict for toddlers are minimised.

      Toddlers are given support in dealing with conflict and frustrations.

      Toddlers’ intensity of feelings is understood, accepted, and dealt with, and their conflicting feelings are seen as a normal and important part of their development.

      Consistent and manageable expectations and limits are set.

      For young children

      The programme provides opportunities to discuss and negotiate rights, fairness, and justice with adults.

      Young children have opportunities to discuss their feelings and the feelings and expectations of others.

      Strategies for managing behaviour are used not only to prevent unacceptable behaviour but also to develop ideas of fairness and justice and to introduce new social skills.

      The programme provides frequent opportunities for children to make their own decisions and be self-reliant.

      The environment and routines are planned to minimise confrontation and conflict, for instance, from crowding and queueing.