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.

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Part C: The Principles, Strands, and Goals of the Early Childhood Curriculum

Principles of Learning and Development in Early Childhood

There are four foundation principles for the early childhood curriculum: 

  • Empowerment - Whakamana
    • The early childhood curriculum empowers the child to learn and grow.

      Early childhood care and education services assist children and their families to develop independence and to access the resources necessary to enable them to direct their own lives.

      The curriculum enables all children to:

      • take increasing responsibility for their own learning and care;
      • develop an enhanced sense of self-worth, identity, confidence, and enjoyment;
      • contribute their own special strengths and interests;
      • learn useful and appropriate ways to find out what they want to know;
      • understand their own individual ways of learning and being creative.

      Empowerment is also a guide for practice. Play activities in early childhood education invite rather than compel participation. Adults have an important role in encouraging children to participate in a wide range of activities.

      The early childhood curriculum builds on the child’s own experiences, knowledge, skills, attitudes, needs, interests, and views of the world within each particular setting. Children will have the opportunity to create and act on their own ideas, to develop knowledge and skills in areas that interest them, and to make an increasing number of their own decisions and judgments.

      To learn and develop to their potential, children must be respected and valued as individuals. Their rights to personal dignity, to equitable opportunities for participation, to protection from physical, mental, or emotional abuse and injury, and to opportunities for rest and leisure must be safeguarded.

      Particular care should be given to bicultural issues in relation to empowerment. Adults working with children should understand and be willing to discuss bicultural issues, actively seek Māori contributions to decision making, and ensure that Māori children develop a strong sense of self-worth.

      The principle of Empowerment relates to The New Zealand Curriculum Framework principles of encouraging children to become independent and lifelong learners, of providing equal educational opportunities for all, and of recognising the significance of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.


      Mā te whāriki o te kōhanga reo e whakatō te kaha ki roto i te mokopuna ki te ako, kia pakari ai tana tipu.

      Mō ngā mokopuna o te kōhanga reo:

      • ka mōhio rātou ki tō rātou reo, ki ā rātou tikanga Māori, ki ō rātou tūrangawaewae;
      • ka mōhio te mokopuna ki tōna mana āhua ake;
      • ka mōhio rātou ki ō rātou whānau me ō rātou ao;
      • ka ruruku rātou i roto i te wairua Māori;
      • ka tū rangatira rātou i roto i te ao whānui;
      • ka taea e rātou te tuku ngā taonga a ngā mātua-tīpuna kei a rātou, ki ngā uri whakatipu, ā tōna wā.
  • Holistic Development - Kotahitanga
    • The early childhood curriculum reflects the holistic way children learn and grow.

      Cognitive, social, cultural, physical, emotional, and spiritual dimensions of human development are integrally interwoven. The early childhood curriculum takes up a model of learning that weaves together intricate patterns of linked experience and meaning rather than emphasising the acquisition of discrete skills. The child’s whole context, the physical surroundings, the emotional context, relationships with others, and the child’s immediate needs at any moment will affect and modify how a particular experience contributes to the child’s development. This integrated view of learning sees the child as a person who wants to learn, sees the task as a meaningful whole, and sees the whole as greater than the sum of its individual tasks or experiences.

      Learning and development will be integrated through:

      • tasks, activities, and contexts that have meaning for the child, including practices and activities not always associated with the word “curriculum”, such as care routines, mealtimes, and child management strategies;
      • opportunities for open-ended exploration and play;
      • consistent, warm relationships that connect everything together;
      • recognition of the spiritual dimension of children’s lives in culturally, socially, and individually appropriate ways;
      • recognition of the significance and contribution of previous generations to the child’s concept of self.

      All adults working in early childhood education centres should have a knowledge and understanding of child development and a clear understanding of the context in which they are working.

      To address bicultural issues, adults working in early childhood education should have an understanding of Māori views on child development and on the role of the family as well as understanding the views of other cultures in the community. Activities, stories, and events that have connections with Māori children’s lives are an essential and enriching part of the curriculum for all children in early childhood education settings.

      This principle relates to The New Zealand Curriculum Framework principles of ensuring that learning is coherent and that the curriculum recognises and

      values the unique position of Māori in New Zealand society. It also links with the principle that children should be encouraged to understand and respect the different cultures which make up our society.


      Mā te whāriki o te kōhanga reo e whakaata te kotahitanga o ngā whakahaere katoa mō te ako a te mokopuna, mō te tipu o te mokopuna.

      Mō ngā mokopuna o te kōhanga reo:

      • ka āhei rātou ki te tipu i roto i te kotahitanga o ngā whakahaere ā-wairua, ā-hinengaro, ā-tinana, ā-whatumanawa;
      • ka tipu rātou i roto i ō rātou mana iwi, mana hapū, mana whānau, mana āhua ake, mana motuhake;
      • ka mana te tino rangatiratanga.
  • Family and Community - Whānau Tangata
    • The wider world of family and community is an integral part of the early childhood curriculum.

      The well-being of children is interdependent with the well-being and culture of:

      • adults in the early childhood education setting;
      • whānau/families;
      • local communities and neighbourhoods.

      Children’s learning and development are fostered if the well-being of their family and community is supported; if their family, culture, knowledge and community are respected; and if there is a strong connection and consistency among all the aspects of the child’s world. The curriculum builds on what children bring to it and makes links with the everyday activities and special events of families, whānau, local communities, and cultures. Different cultures have different child-rearing patterns, beliefs, and traditions and may place value on different knowledge, skills, and attitudes. Culturally appropriate ways of communicating should be fostered, and participation in the early childhood education programme by whānau, parents, extended family, and elders in the community should be encouraged.

      New Zealand is the home of Māori language and culture: curriculum in early childhood settings should promote te reo and ngā tikanga Māori, making them visible and affirming their value for children from all cultural backgrounds. Adults working with children should demonstrate an understanding of the different iwi and the meaning of whānau and whānaungatanga. They should also respect the aspirations of parents and families for their children.

      This principle relates to The New Zealand Curriculum Framework principles of relating learning to the wider world and of providing the flexibility to respond to different conditions, different needs, and the expectations of local communities.

      Whānau Tangata

      Me whiri mai te whānau, te hapū, te iwi, me tauiwi, me ō rātou wāhi nohonga, ki roto i te whāriki o te kōhanga reo, hei āwhina, hei tautoko i te akoranga, i te whakatipuranga o te mokopuna.

      Mō ngā mokopuna o te kōhanga reo:

      • ka tipu mai rātou i roto i te whānau aroha;
      • ka tipu mai rātou, anō he taonga hirahira nā te whānau;
      • ka tipu mai rātou hei whakaata i ō rātou iwi.
  • Relationships - Ngā Hononga
    • Children learn through responsive and reciprocal relationships with people, places, and things.

      Interaction provides a rich social world for children to make sense of and gives opportunities for them to learn by trying out their ideas with adults and other children. Co-operative aspirations, ventures, and achievements should be valued.

      The learning environment will assist children in their quest for making sense of and finding out about their world if:

      • adults know the children well, providing the basis for the “give and take” of communication and learning;
      • adults provide “scaffolding” for the children’s endeavours – supports and connections that are removed and replaced when and where they are needed;
      • appropriate and interesting play materials are provided that children can change and interact with;
      • there are active and interactive learning opportunities, with opportunities for children to have an effect and to change the environment;
      • there are opportunities for social interaction with adults and other children.

      Adults provide encouragement, warmth, and acceptance. They also provide challenges for creative and complex learning and thinking, helping children to extend their ideas and actions through sensitive, informed, well-judged interventions and support.

      The curriculum should include Māori people, places, and artifacts and opportunities to learn and use the Māori language through social interaction.

      This principle relates to The New Zealand Curriculum Framework principles of enabling programmes to be designed and implemented appropriately to the individual needs of children, to recognise the significance of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, and to reflect the multicultural nature of New Zealand society.

      Ngā Hononga

      Mā roto i ngā piringa, i ngā whakahaere i waenganui o te mokopuna me te katoa, e whakatō te kaha ki roto i te mokopuna ki te ako.

      Mō ngā mokopuna o te kōhanga reo:

      • ka mōhio rātou ki ō rātou tūrangawaewae, ki ō rātou kāinga tipu;
      • ka tū pakari rātou i roto i te ngākau pono, te ngākau māhaki;
      • ka mōhio rātou ki ō rātou whanaungatanga.

Strands and Goals

The strands and goals arise from the principles and are woven around these principles in patterns that reflect the diversity of each early childhood education service. Together, the principles, strands, goals, and learning outcomes set the framework for the curriculum whāriki.

  • The Strands
    • The Strands

      The strands and goals of the curriculum arise from the principles. Each strand embodies an area of learning and development that is woven into the daily programme of the early childhood setting and has its own associated goals for learning.

      There are five strands.

      • Well-being – Mana Atua
      • Belonging – Mana Whenua
      • Contribution – Mana Tangata
      • Communication – Mana Reo
      • Exploration – Mana Aotūroa

      The strands are defined in terms of the goals and learning outcomes needed to achieve them, of each strand’s relationship to the principles, and of adult responsibilities associated with each strand.

  • The Goals
    • The Goals

      The goals identify how the principles and strands can be incorporated into programmes at a practical level.

      The goals for learning and development within each strand are described in terms of:

      • learning outcomes for knowledge, skills, and attitudes;
      • questions for reflection;
      • some examples of experiences to help meet these outcomes for infants, toddlers, and young children.

  • Learning Outcomes
    • Learning Outcomes

      Knowledge, skills, and attitudes

      The outcomes of a curriculum are knowledge, skills, and attitudes. The list of outcomes in this document is indicative rather than definitive. Each early childhood education setting will develop its own emphases and priorities.

      In early childhood, holistic, active learning and the total process of learning are emphasised. Knowledge, skills, and attitudes are closely linked. These three aspects combine together to form a child’s “working theory” and help the child develop dispositions that encourage learning.

      In early childhood, children are developing more elaborate and useful working theories about themselves and about the people, places, and things in their lives. These working theories contain a combination of knowledge about the world, skills and strategies, attitudes, and expectations. Children develop working theories through observing, listening, doing, participating, discussing, and representing within the topics and activities provided in the programme. As children gain greater experience, knowledge, and skills, the theories they develop become more widely applicable and have more connecting links between them. Working theories become increasingly useful for making sense of the world, for giving the child control over what happens, for problem solving, and for further learning. Many of these theories retain a magical and creative quality, and for many communities, theories about the world are infused with a spiritual dimension.

      The second way in which knowledge, skills, and attitudes combine is as dispositions – “habits of mind” or “patterns of learning”. An example of a learning disposition is the disposition to be curious. It may be characterised by:

      • an inclination to enjoy puzzling over events;
      • the skills to ask questions about them in different ways; and
      • an understanding of when is the most appropriate time to ask these questions.

      Dispositions are important “learning outcomes”. They are encouraged rather than taught. To encourage robust dispositions to reason, investigate, and collaborate, children will be immersed in communities where people discuss rules, are fair, explore questions about how things work, and help each other. The children will see and participate in these activities.

      Dispositions to learn develop when children are immersed in an environment that is characterised by well-being and trust, belonging and purposeful activity, contributing and collaborating, communicating and representing, and exploring and guided participation.

      Dispositions provide a framework for developing working theories and expertise about the range of topics, activities, and materials that children and adults in each early childhood service engage with.

      Questions for reflection

      Questioning and reflecting on practice are first steps towards planning and evaluating the programme. They encourage adults working with children to debate what they are doing and why they are doing it and lead to establishing an information base for continued planning and evaluation of the curriculum.

      Examples of experiences that help to meet learning outcomes

      For each goal, examples are given of ways in which the programme should respond to the specific needs of infants, toddlers, and young children. The goals should be interpreted according to the individual needs of each child, but it is implicit that many of the examples which apply to younger children continue to apply to children of an older age group.