Play idea: Music – Waiata

Children are born into a world of sound and movement. Music helps their intellectual, imaginative, emotional, social and cultural growth.

Level of complianceMain audienceOther


  • All Early Learning Services 
  • Educators, Teachers and Kaiako
  • Service Managers
  • Parents, Caregivers and Whānau

Children learn through play. Below is some information about a play idea for your children.

Music is enjoyable, soothing and assists in the development of listening skills, concentration, coordination, cooperation, communication and memory, as well as being a valuable resource for creativity. It is important to value children’s desires to repeat activities as this is one way children practise being musical and gain control of musical forms.

Music can help children to

  • express feelings through voice and body
  • develop rhythm and harmony
  • be creative and have fun
  • recognise and enjoy sounds, instruments and different music
  • value their own cultural music knowledge and participate in the music of other cultures.

Adults can support children by

  • singing and chanting as often as they enjoy it
  • responding when they make up their own songs and chants
  • dancing and moving to music with them
  • making up chants and songs while doing other activities e.g. at the playdough table
  • making music fun and enjoyable
  • making a wide variety of music available
  • playing instruments and using other musical equipment
  • exploring sounds and making music out of any everyday items that come to hand
  • providing plenty of opportunities for making music at any time.

Providing for music

Having a display unit for musical instruments with easy access for children is ideal. An open area for music and movement where children are able to move freely without bumping into each other to participate as a group is also recommended.

Ideas for equipment

  • selection of music instruments (commercially made and homemade)
  • CD player and CDs with music diverse in culture, style and genre
  • items for dancing such as scarves and streamers
  • adults singing  using their voices and bodies.

Waiata: Māori music and singing

Many examples of Māori music and singing are available on tapes and CDs. Local music shops have these available, or copies could be ordered through them.

There are also Māori radio stations that could be approached about titles suitable for children, and from whom copies could be purchased. Remember to request copies of words for the waiata if these are available, or have someone write them with translations.


Instructions for making poi are widely available, but remember to make them to match the small size of young children’s hands. Used in conjunction with Māori music, poi can provide rhythm exercises for children and adults.

For young children, it is more important that the poi movements be associated with music, rhythm and singing than to perform intricate actions. Seeing adults using poi (for example, on video or in real life) is a valuable experience for children.

Tītī tōrea

For young children, tītī tōrea can be created using rolls of paper rather than wood. However, some light types of timber are suitable.

Tītī tōrea can be used with music, singing and rhythm exercises, and help children to learn about the sound and timing of clicking sticks together (rhythm).

Te Whāriki

Music supports learning across all strands of Te Whāriki. In particular, children’s developing musicality is supported in the Communication strand, where they discover and develop different ways to be creative and expressive. They make music, sing songs − including songs of their own − and can keep a steady beat through speech, chants, dances and movement to rhythm. They discover that music, dance and drama can amuse, delight, comfort, illuminate, inform and excite.

Music is a useful activity to encourage children to participate and to feel comfortable with the routines of the ECE service. This is part of the Belonging and Contribution strands.

This play idea has been developed for playgroups. Feel free to use it at other types of ECE service, but make sure you're still following the regulations and licensing criteria that apply to your service type. Parents may also find this information useful.

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