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 4 - Communication

The languages and symbols of their own and other cultures are promoted and protected.

  • Goals
    • Children experience an environment where:

      • they develop non-verbal communication skills for a range of purposes;
      • they develop verbal communication skills for a range of purposes;
      • they experience the stories and symbols of their own and other cultures;
      • they discover and develop different ways to be creative and expressive.

      Language is a vital part of communication. In early childhood, one of the major cultural tasks for children is to develop competence in and understanding of language. Language does not consist only of words, sentences, and stories: it includes the language of images, art, dance, drama, mathematics, movement, rhythm, and music. During these early years, children are learning to communicate their experience in many ways, and they are also learning to interpret the ways in which others communicate and represent experience. They are developing increasing competence in symbolic, abstract, imaginative, and creative thinking. Language grows and develops in meaningful contexts when children have a need to know and a reason to communicate. Adults should understand and encourage both verbal and non-verbal communication styles.

      There should be a commitment to the recognition of Māori language – stories, symbols, arts, and crafts – in the programme.

  • Relationships of the Strand of Communication to the Curriculum Principles
    • This strand is grounded particularly in the principle of Empowerment. Communication is vital for children to be able to contribute their strengths and interests, to find out what they want to know, and to take increasing responsibility for their own learning and care. Experiences in this strand also help to build Relationships, as children develop the “give and take” of communication and learning and have opportunities to work effectively with others in ways which have an impact on their environment. The ability to communicate increases their enjoyment and involvement with Family and Community, helping them to make sense of, and participate in, the wider cultural and social world. Communication reinforces the child’s Holistic Development of a concept of self, enhancing their recognition of their spiritual dimension and the contribution of their heritage and environment to their own lives.

  • Adults’ Responsibilities in Management, Organisation, and Practice
    • The environment should be rich in signs, symbols, words, numbers, song, dance, drama, and art that take account of and extend the children’s different understandings and cultures.

      Adults should recognise children’s non-verbal communication styles, which may include signing. Adults should also monitor their own body language so that they interact appropriately with children, using expressive actions, songs, poems, and dance to aid communication.

      Adults should have realistic expectations of children’s language development and help to identify assistance if language delays are observed. Children’s hearing should be monitored and checked regularly, with information readily available for parents on ear infection, treatment, and hearing aids.

      There should be plenty of opportunities for one-to-one communication between adults and children. Adults should encourage children to initiate conversation, listen to children attentively, and help develop interaction.

      The programme should provide opportunities for children to interact with a range of adults and with other children (of the same and different chronological and developmental ages), particularly for children with special needs.

      The use of the Māori language and creative arts in the programme should be encouraged, and staff should be supported in learning the language and in understanding issues relating to being bilingual.

      Adults should respect and encourage children’s home language. Policies should be in place to support children for whom English is not the home language and to support those who do not have verbal skills.

      Children should have easy access to resources that enable them to express themselves creatively and that help them to develop concepts of mathematics, reading, and writing. These resources include counting and number rhyme books, games that use numbers, such as cards and dominoes, equipment that relates to shape, colour, pattern, and weight, and art and music materials.

      Adults should read and tell stories, provide books, and use story times to allow children to exchange and extend ideas, reinforcing developing concepts of, and language for, shape, space, size, and colour as well as imaginative responses.

      Children should see adults using print and numbers for creative and meaningful activities, such as following a recipe, sorting objects, following timetables and calendars, and counting out groups.

      Programmes should help children learn skills valued in their own cultures, such as oral traditions involving listening, memorising, observation, and story-telling in Māori and Pacific Islands cultures.

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

      • have language skills for a range of purposes;
      • have had considerable experience with books and be rapidly developing secure vocabulary, grammar, and syntax;
      • enjoy returning to favourite books and recognising the distinctive characteristics of book language and be ready to consolidate concepts about print, such as directionality, how words are made up, and the correspondence between written and spoken words;
      • have had opportunities to hear and use Māori;
      • have some awareness of other community languages;
      • enjoy writing and be keen to play with language and to hear and use new language;
      • have some practical concepts about numbers, counting, numerical symbols and applications of numbers, and have used mathematical understandings for everyday purposes, such as sorting, labelling, perceiving patterns, and establishing “fair shares”;
      • have developed a repertoire of expressive body movements for communication, especially in dance and drama;
      • have developed some techniques for expressing themselves in music, art, crafts, and design;
      • enjoy and experience music as an expression of mood, situation, and culture;
      • enjoy making music, and be developing a feeling for rhythm, singing, and improvisation.
  • Goal 1
    • Goal 1

      Children experience an environment where they develop non-verbal communication skills for a range of purposes.

      Learning Outcomes: Knowledge, Skills, and Attitudes

      Children develop:

      • responsive and reciprocal skills, such as turn-taking and offering;
      • non-verbal ways of expressing and communicating imaginative ideas;
      • an increasingly elaborate repertoire of gesture and expressive body movement for communication, including ways to make requests non-verbally and appropriately;
      • an increasing understanding of nonverbal messages, including an ability to attend to the non-verbal requests and suggestions of others;
      • an ability to express their feelings and emotions in a range of appropriate nonverbal ways.

      Questions for reflection


      In what ways, and to what extent, are adults able to identify and accept each child’s non-verbal communication?

      How aware are adults of their own styles of nonverbal communication?

      In what ways do children communicate with each other without talking, and how effective is this non-verbal communication?

      How effectively do the adults read each other’s body language as a way of improving communication?

      Examples of experiences which help to meet these outcomes

      For infants

      Adults are aware of infants’ sensitivity to adult body language and of the need to use expressive body language to assist infants to read signals.

      Adults communicate with infants through eye and body contact and through the use of gestures, such as waving goodbye or pointing.

      Adults respond positively to infants’ gestures and expressions, which can include infants turning their heads away from food, stretching out hands, or screwing up faces.

      Adults are promptly aware of the physical signs of tiredness or stress in infants.

      The programme includes action games, finger plays, and songs.

      For toddlers

      The programme includes action games, listening games, and dancing, all of which use the body as a means of communication.

      Adults are aware of the physical signs of discomfort and stress in toddlers.

      Toddlers’ requests and suggestions are carefully attended to.

      Toddlers are helped to communicate feelings and ideas through a variety of medium.

      For young children

      Young children use a creative range of non-verbal communication, which may include signing.

      Children experience the communicative potential of the whole body through dance, gesture, and pretend play.

      Children have opportunities to “read” pictures for meaning.

      The programme includes action songs and action rhymes in Māori and Pacific Islands languages as well as English.

      The programme includes activities which emphasise watching and imitating.

  • Goal 2
    • Goal 2

      Children experience an environment where they develop verbal communication skills for a range of purposes.

      Learning Outcomes: Knowledge, Skills, and Attitudes

      Children develop:

      • language skills in real, play, and problem-solving contexts as well as in more structured language contexts, for example, through books;
      • language skills for increasingly complex purposes, such as stating and asking others about intentions; expressing feelings and attitudes and asking others about feelings and attitudes; negotiating, predicting, planning, reasoning, guessing, story-telling; and using the language of probability, including words such as “might”, “can’t”, “always”, “never”, and “sometimes”;
      • a playful interest in repetitive sounds and words, aspects of language such as rhythm, rhyme, and alliteration, and an enjoyment of nonsense stories and rhymes;
      • an increasing knowledge and skill, in both syntax and meaning, in at least one language;
      • an appreciation of te reo as a living and relevant language;
      • confidence that their first language is valued;
      • the expectation that verbal communication will be a source of delight, comfort, and amusement and that it can be used to effectively communicate ideas and information and solve problems;
      • the inclination and ability to listen attentively and respond appropriately to speakers.

      Questions for reflection


      In what ways does the programme provide for one-to-one language interaction, especially between an adult and child?

      In what ways is Māori language included in the programme?

      To what extent do adults include phrases from children’s home languages when talking with them?

      What strategies do adults use to extend conversations with children, and how effective are these strategies?

      What opportunities are there for children to hear stories, poems, chants, and songs? How well do these connect to the child’s culture?

      What range of adult voices do children hear?

      What opportunities are there for oral storytelling, and how effectively are these opportunities used?

      How is the use of community languages incorporated into the programme, such as at story time?

      Examples of experiences which help to meet these outcomes

      For infants

      Infants are regarded as active participants in verbal communication.

      Adults respond to infants’ early attempts at verbalisation by, for example, repeating or expanding infants’ attempts and by offering them sounds to imitate.

      Simple words are used to make consistent connections with objects and people who are meaningful to the infant.

      Adults interpret infants’ sounds and gestures, including crying and babbling, as attempts to communicate and respond accordingly.

      Many and varied opportunities are provided to have fun with sounds.

      Language is used to soothe and comfort.

      For toddlers

      Adults help to extend toddlers’ verbal ability by accepting and supporting early words in their first language, modelling new words and phrases, allowing toddlers to initiate conversation, and giving them time to respond and converse.

      Adults use simple, clear phrases with toddlers and have realistic expectations of toddlers’ verbal and listening skills.

      Toddlers have plenty of opportunities to talk with other children, to play verbal games, and to encounter a widening range of books, songs, poems, and chants.

      For young children

      Opportunities are provided for young children to have sustained conversations, to ask questions, and to take the initiative in conversations.

      The programme includes frequent and varied opportunities for playing and having fun with words and also for sequenced activities, experiences, problems, and topics that encourage complex language.

      Children are able to have private conversations together.

      Māori phrases and sentences are included as a natural part of the programme.

  • Goal 3
    • Goal 3

      Children experience an environment where they experience the stories and symbols of their own and other cultures.

      Learning Outcomes: Knowledge, Skills, and Attitudes

      Children develop:

      • an understanding that symbols can be “read” by others and that thoughts, experiences, and ideas can be represented through words, pictures, print, numbers, sounds, shapes, models, and photographs;
      • familiarity with print and its uses by exploring and observing the use of print in activities that have meaning and purpose for children;
      • familiarity with an appropriate selection of the stories and literature valued by the cultures in their community;
      • an expectation that words and books can amuse, delight, comfort, illuminate, inform, and excite;
      • familiarity with numbers and their uses by exploring and observing the use of numbers in activities that have meaning and purpose for children;
      • skill in using the counting system and mathematical symbols and concepts, such as numbers, length, weight, volume, shape, and pattern, for meaningful and increasingly complex purposes;
      • the expectation that numbers can amuse, delight, illuminate, inform, and excite;
      • experience with some of the technology and resources for mathematics, reading, and writing;
      • experience with creating stories and symbols.

      Questions for reflection


      To what extent are the children’s cultural backgrounds well represented in the arts and crafts, stories, and symbols found in the early childhood education setting?

      What is the most effective group size for telling and reading stories, and what factors influence this?

      How often are stories read aloud, and are there more opportunities for this to happen?

      In what ways, and for what purposes, do children see mathematics being used, and how does this influence their interest and ability in mathematics?

      Are children regularly hearing and using mathematical ideas and terms in their play?

      What opportunities are there for children to observe and work with adults in the setting using numbers for meaningful purposes?

      Examples of experiences which help to meet these outcomes

      For infants

      Adults read books to infants, tell them simple stories, and talk to them about objects and pictures.

      Infants are able to feel and manipulate books and to see and handle mobiles and pictures.

      Numbers are used in conversation and interactive times, such as in finger games.

      Everyday number patterns are highlighted, for example, two shoes, four wheels, five fingers.

      Adults draw attention to concepts such as differences between “more” and “less”, “big” and “small”.

      The programme includes songs, rhymes, and chants that repeat sequences.

      The infant has playthings of a variety of colours, textures, shapes, and sizes to experiment with and explore freely.

      For toddlers

      Toddlers have many opportunities to play simple games and to use an increasing range of playthings, which feature a variety of symbols, shapes, sizes, and colours.

      Adults’ conversations with toddlers are rich in number ideas, so that adults extend toddlers’ talk about numbers.

      Adults model the process of counting to solve everyday problems, for example, asking “How many children want to go on a walk?”

      Toddlers are encouraged to develop the language of position (for example, “above” and “below”, “inside” and “outside”) and the language of probability (for example, “might” and “can’t”).

      The toddler’s name is written on belongings and any personal space, and names or symbols are used to enable toddlers to recognise their own possessions.

      The written language of the child’s culture is used as well as the English language.

      Books are available for the toddler to read and carry about, and reading books and telling stories are frequent, pleasurable, intimate, and interactive experiences.

      For young children

      Children experience a wide range of stories and hear and practise story-telling.

      Children have opportunities to develop early mathematical concepts, such as volume, quantity, measurement, classifying, matching, and perceiving patterns.

      Children have opportunities to learn through purposeful activities using, for example, sand, water, blocks, pegs, and the materials and objects used for everyday play, such as dough, fabrics, and paints.

      Children gain familiarity with mathematical tools, such as rulers, tape measures, calculators, scales, and measuring cups, and use them in their play.

      Adults comment on numerical symbols which are used every day, such as calendars, clocks, and page numbers in books.

      The programme fosters the development of concepts about print, such as the knowledge that print conveys a message that can be revisited, that spoken words can be written down and read back, and that written names represent a person. The children also learn that both the text and the illustrations carry the story, that print can be useful, that books can provide information, and that stories can allow one to enter new worlds.

  • Goal 4
    • Goal 4

      Children experience an environment where they discover and develop different ways to be creative and expressive.

      Learning Outcomes: Knowledge, Skills, and Attitudes

      Children develop:

      • familiarity with the properties and character of the materials and technology used in the creative and expressive arts;
      • skill and confidence with the processes of art and craft, such as cutting, drawing, collage, painting, print-making, weaving, stitching, carving, and constructing;
      • skills with media that can be used for expressing a mood or a feeling or for representing information, such as crayons, pencils, paint, blocks, wood, musical instruments, and movement skills;
      • an ability to be creative and expressive through a variety of activities, such as pretend play, carpentry, story-telling, drama, and making music;
      • confidence to sing songs, including songs of their own, and to experiment with chants and pitch patterns;
      • an increasing ability to keep a steady beat through speech, chants, dances, or movement to simple rhythmic patterns;
      • an increasing familiarity with a selection of the art, craft, songs, music, and stories which are valued by the cultures in the community;
      • an expectation that music, art, drama, and dance can amuse, delight, comfort, illuminate, inform, and excite;
      • familiarity with a variety of types of music, art, dance, and drama as expressions of feeling, mood, situation, occasion, and culture.

      Questions for reflection


      In what ways do the creative happenings in the early childhood centre reflect children’s cultural backgrounds?

      What opportunities are there for children to experience Māori creative arts in an appropriate way and at an appropriate level?

      What kinds of opportunity are there involving music, and how well do these opportunities enable children to develop an interest and ability in music?

      What kinds of creative opportunity are offered regularly, which children engage with them, and what outcomes do the children achieve?

      In what ways are all the children able to be included in creative happenings and to explore the creative area that most interests them?

      Examples of experiences which help to meet these outcomes

      For infants

      Adults respect and enjoy the variety of ways that infants sense and interact with the environment.

      Infants see, hear, and participate in creative and expressive happenings in their own way, for example, by putting a hand in the paint, clapping hands, or burbling.

      Infants have opportunities to experience patterns and sounds in the natural environment, such as leaves in sunlight or the sound of rain.

      Adults respond to infants’ expressive and creative actions, such as reflecting back movements, or joining in clapping.

      For toddlers

      Toddlers are introduced to tools and materials for arts and crafts and allowed to experiment with them.

      The programme provides experiences with creative materials, such as paint, glue, dough, sand, and junk, and gives opportunities for creative play using natural materials, for example, collecting leaves or arranging pebbles.

      Toddlers have opportunities for movement that involves their whole bodies with abandon and opportunities to participate in dance.

      Props for fantasy play are available, and adults interact with toddlers’ emerging make-believe play.

      The programme provides opportunities to learn skills with musical instruments, including drums, shakers, or bells.

      For young children

      Children experience a wide variety of the materials and technology used in the creative and expressive arts, such as clay, fabric, fibre, pencils, drama props, cassette players, brushes, rollers, stamp pads, scissors, calculators, computers, musical instruments, different types of paper, sticky tape, glue, and carpentry tools.

      The programme allows for creative events and activities to continue over several days.

      There are regular opportunities for group activities in art and music.

      Creativity is not confined to activities such as art, craft, and music but also extends to challenges and changes to environments, rules, and ideas. It includes humour and jokes.