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 3 - Contribution

Opportunities for learning are equitable and each child’s contribution is valued.

  • Goals
    • Children experience an environment where:

      • there are equitable opportunities for learning, irrespective of gender, ability, age, ethnicity, or background;
      • they are affirmed as individuals;
      • they are encouraged to learn with and alongside others.

      Children’s development occurs through active participation in activities. Collaboration with adults and with other children plays a central role in this development.

      The programme should recognise, acknowledge, and build on each child’s special strengths and allow each to make a contribution or to “make his or her mark”, acknowledging that each child has the right to active and equitable participation in the community. Making a contribution includes developing satisfying relationships with adults and peers. The early development of social confidence has long-term effects, and adults in early childhood education settings play a significant role in helping children to initiate and maintain relationships with peers. Through interactions with others, children learn to take another’s point of view, to empathise with others, to ask for help, to see themselves as a help for others, and to discuss or explain their ideas to adults or to other children.

      There should be a commitment to, and opportunities for, a Māori contribution to the programme. Adults working in the early childhood education setting should recognise the significance of whakapapa, understand and respect the process of working as a whānau, and demonstrate respect for Māori elders. They should also respect the process of working as āiga and showing respect for Tagata Pasefika elders.

  • Relationships of the Strand of Contribution to the Curriculum Principles
    • This strand builds especially on the principles of Empowerment and Relationships. It draws on children’s abilities to contribute their own special strengths and interests, and it aims to empower children to find out what they want to know and to understand their own ways of learning and being creative. Experiences in this strand will be supported by adults who provide the “scaffolding” necessary for children to develop and who ensure active and interactive learning opportunities that are equitable for all children. The opportunities for social interaction also relate this strand to the principle of Family and Community as children’s special contributions are encouraged and valued. The Holistic Development principle underpins the way each child’s experiences and contributions are linked to the total learning environment.

  • Adults’ Responsibilities in Management, Organisation, and Practice
    • Adults working with children should establish programmes and strategies which actively promote equity of opportunity for children and counter actions or comments that categorise or stereotype people.

      Support and encouragement should be provided for behaviour that is both socially and individually appropriate, particularly for that of children with special needs.

      All people involved in the programme should be included in making significant decisions about the programme.

      Adults should use strategies that encourage children’s social integration.

      Adults should observe and value children as individuals, so that their interests, enthusiasms, preferences, temperaments, and abilities are the starting-points for everyday planning, and comparative approaches are avoided.

      The environment and programme should be organised to reduce competition for resources and space.

      Children’s cultural values, customs, and traditions from home should be nurtured and preserved to enable children to participate successfully in the early childhood setting and in their community.

      The programme should encompass different cultural perspectives, recognising and affirming the primary importance of the child’s family and culture. Staff need to be aware of different attitudes within the community to values and behaviours, such as co- operation, physical contact, sharing food, crying, or feeling sorry, and deal positively with any inconsistencies.

      The balance between communal, small-group, and individual activities should allow opportunities for interaction, co-operative activities, and privacy.

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

      • need to perceive that their families are welcome and valued;
      • respect, and enjoy working with, children who are different in some way;
      • feel positive about their own gender and ethnicity, about the opposite gender, and about other ethnic groups;
      • have some understanding of equity and some ability to identify and challenge bias, prejudice, and negative stereotyping;
      • be confident that their interests, strengths, knowledge, abilities, and experiences will be recognised and built on in the learning programme;
      • be familiar with working co-operatively;
      • be able to see that others have different points of view and be able to understand, to some extent, others’ feelings and attitudes;
      • express their own needs and feelings and recognise some needs of others.
  • Goal 1
    • Goal 1

      Children experience an environment where there are equitable opportunities for learning, irrespective of gender, ability, age, ethnicity, or background.

      Learning Outcomes: Knowledge, Skills, and Attitudes

      Children develop:

      • an understanding of their own rights and those of others;
      • the ability to recognise discriminatory practices and behaviour and to respond appropriately;
      • some early concepts of the value of appreciating diversity and fairness;
      • the self-confidence to stand up for themselves and others against biased ideas and discriminatory behaviour;
      • positive judgments on their own gender and the opposite gender;
      • positive judgments on their own ethnic group and other ethnic groups;
      • confidence that their family background is viewed positively within the early childhood education setting;
      • respect for children who are different from themselves and ease of interaction with them.

      Questions for reflection


      What do adults do when children are excluded by others, and what effects do the adults’ actions have?

      How do adults challenge negative and stereotyped language and attitudes, and what impact does this have?

      How are books and pictures selected, and do these procedures ensure that books and pictures show children of different gender, ethnicity, age, and ability in a range of roles?

      Are there situations where, for reasons of age or ability, a child is not included in something, and how can the situation be adapted to ensure inclusion?

      In what ways and how well is the curriculum genuinely connected to the children’s families and cultures?

      What kinds of response do adults give when children ask questions about ethnic differences, and how well do these responses reflect the principles and strands of the curriculum?

      In what ways do adults encourage children of different ages to play together, and how well is this achieved?

      Examples of experiences which help to meet these outcomes

      For infants

      Both infant girls and boys are encouraged to enjoy challenges.

      Picture books are selected which show girls, boys, men and women in a range of roles.

      Adults avoid making developmental comparisons between children, recognising that infants’ development is variable.

      The programme encourages care practices which are culturally appropriate in relation to feeding, sleeping, toileting, clothing, and washing.

      For toddlers

      Toddlers are provided with clothing that does not restrict play.

      Adults expect and encourage boys and girls to take similar parts in caring and domestic routines.

      Adults expect and encourage exuberant and adventurous behaviour in both girls and boys and respect the needs of toddlers to observe and be apart at times.

      In talking with toddlers, adults do not link occupations to gender, for example, by assuming that doctors are men or that nurses are women.

      Activities, playthings, and expectations take account of the fact that each toddler’s developmental stage and mastery of skills is different.

      Each child’s culture is included in the programme through song, language, pictures, playthings, and dance.

      For young children

      All children have rights of access to activities, regardless of gender, ability, ethnicity, and background.

      Children see parents and families being welcomed to the programme.

      Language and resources are inclusive of all children’s gender, ability, ethnicity, and background.

      The programme provides successful, enjoyable experiences in nontraditional pursuits, for example, boys in caring roles and girls with construction materials and in “fixing” roles.

      The programme provides opportunities to discuss bias.

      Children see prejudice and negative attitudes being challenged by adults.

  • Goal 2
    • Goal 2

      Children experience an environment where they are affirmed as individuals.

      Learning Outcomes: Knowledge, Skills, and Attitudes

      Children develop:

      • a sense of “who they are”, their place in the wider world of relationships, and the ways in which these are valued;
      • a realistic perception of what they know and of what they can and cannot yet do;
      • a perception of themselves as capable of acquiring new interests and abilities;
      • abilities and interests in a range of domains – spatial, visual, linguistic, physical, musical, logical or mathematical, personal, and social – which build on the children’s strengths;
      • awareness of their own special strengths, and confidence that these are recognised and valued.

      Questions for reflection


      How often do staff observe individual children? In what ways are these observations carried out and shared, and what are the observations used for?

      In what circumstances is it appropriate for the needs of the group to take priority over those of individual children?

      How often, and in what circumstances, can children obtain individual attention?

      In what ways does the programme accommodate children’s individual strengths, interests, and individual ways of doing things? What impact does this have on children, and are there other ways children’s individuality could be encouraged?

      What staffing provisions are made for ensuring that individual attention is given to children with special needs, and are these provisions sufficient?

      In what ways, and how well, does the programme provide for children with unusual interests or exceptional abilities?

      Examples of experiences which help to meet these outcomes

      For infants

      Infants are carefully observed so that adults know individual infants well, respect their individual ways, and respond to them appropriately.

      Individual likes and dislikes, for example, in food or handling, are known and respected.

      Adults learn each infant’s individual preferences and rituals, for example, for going to bed or feeding.

      Adults respond to infants’ signals of pleasure, discomfort, fear, or anger.

      Adults help to extend infants’ pleasure in particular activities, such as hearing specific music, responding to colours, and enjoyment of certain rhythms.

      For toddlers

      The programme builds on the passions and curiosity of each toddler.

      Toddlers are encouraged to do things in their own particular way when this is appropriate.

      Toddlers’ preferences in play activities, such as liking sand but not water, are respected.

      Toddlers’ preferences for solitary or parallel play are allowed for in the programme.

      Toddlers are encouraged to contribute to small-group happenings, for example, joining in the dance, or bringing chairs around the table for snack time.

      Adults talk with toddlers about differences in people, places, and things.

      For young children

      The programme provides opportunities and encouragement for children to develop their own interests and curiosity by embarking on long-term projects that require perseverance and commitment.

      The programme provides activities for children to develop their strengths, interests, and abilities, such as in music, language, construction, art, sorting and organising, and doing things with others.

      The programme allows time for adults to listen to children’s ideas and questions.

      Children’s strengths and interests are extended by sensitive interventions and encouragement.

  • Goal 3
    • Goal 3

      Children experience an environment where they are encouraged to learn with and alongside others.

      Learning Outcomes: Knowledge, Skills, and Attitudes

      Children develop:

      • strategies and skills for initiating, maintaining, and enjoying a relationship with other children – including taking turns, problem solving, negotiating, taking another’s point of view, supporting others, and understanding other people’s attitudes and feelings – in a variety of contexts;
      • a range of strategies for solving conflicts in peaceful ways, and a perception that peaceful ways are best;
      • positive and constructive attitudes to competition;
      • an increasing ability to take another’s point of view and to empathise with others;
      • a sense of responsibility and respect for the needs and well-being of the group, including taking responsibility for group decisions;
      • an appreciation of the ways in which they can make contributions to groups and to group well-being;
      • ways to enjoy solitary play when they choose to be alone.

      Questions for reflection


      How does the programme allow children to care for and support other children, and how well do they do this?

      What do the children learn best from each other, and how is this learning facilitated?

      How does a child get a turn?

      To what extent is sharing important, or should there be enough playthings to prevent conflict?

      What sorts of happenings and activities do the children enjoy most as a group?

      Are there creative and constructive problem-solving activities that encourage children to cooperate with and support each other? How effective are these activities?

      Examples of experiences which help to meet these outcomes

      For infants

      The programme enables infants to be safely in the company of other children or older children.

      Adults talk to infants about what other children are doing and encourage the infant’s interest in other children.

      Adults provide solutions to conflicts, for example, over sharing floor space.

      Adults respond to infants’ social communication, such as smiles, gestures, and noises.

      Infants are included in appropriate social happenings.

      For toddlers

      Toddlers have opportunities to help with the care of others.

      Group activities for toddlers have an individual aspect to them as well. For example, using brushes to paint water on concrete involves both individual and team efforts.

      Sufficient playthings are available for parallel play, and adults mediate in toddlers’ conflicts over possessions.

      Adults support toddlers’ attempts to initiate social interactions with other children and adults.

      There are realistic expectations about toddlers’ abilities to co-operate, take turns, or wait for assistance.

      Many opportunities are provided for small-group activities, such as action songs, listening to stories, or going for a walk.

      For young children

      Adults help young children to feel positive about themselves, especially if the children compare themselves with others.

      Young children’s increasingly complex social problem-solving skills are encouraged, for example, through games or dramatic play.

      Children are helped to understand other people’s attitudes and feelings in a variety of contexts, for example, in play, conversations, and stories.

      Time and opportunities are provided for children to talk about moral issues.

      The programme encourages co-operative play by providing activities that are more fun and work better when done co-operatively.

      Children’s growing capacities for empathy are fostered by reading or telling stories about other people.

      Children’s developing capacities and understanding about rules and social strategies are fostered through routines, such as sharing and taking turns.