Embracing Our Kiwi Culture

From a young age, we identify ourselves as a member of a family unit and in time the wider community and culture that supports us. Being a nation of multiple cultures, in New Zealand we are lucky to be exposed to a range of traditions and celebrations. Passing on your own cultural traditions, as well as teaching your toddler about others, helps them to learn about what it means to be a New Zealander. Check out our tips for introducing your little one to Kiwi culture:

It begins with tradition: We all have deep-set memories of growing up with traditions in our homes. Think about why they are important to you and how you can pass these traditions and celebrations on. Perhaps it’s a special ritual or song at meal times or family celebrations - these will build a path of memories for your toddler.

Take a step back in time: The local museum or marae is a perfect place to start when learning about the Māori culture and the history of New Zealand. Through images, carvings and items used from the past, your toddler will start to grow an awareness of where New Zealand began. Many visits also include a hands-on element where your toddler can learn about traditional Māori crafts.

Using the Māori language: In many countries around the world, children are taught more than one language, which opens up a great deal of opportunities as they get older and helps them relate to other cultures more easily. New Zealand is working hard to promote the Māori language, and you may find your local kindy or pre-school incorporates this into their curriculum. To keep the momentum going it’s important we encourage this at home. Have a go at teaching them a few words or phrases and use them regularly each day. It may be a learning experience for you both. Some good words to start with are greetings such as Kia Ora, and actions such as the hongi. Playing ‘Simon says’ in Māori is a great way to learn body parts and counting from 1-10 and colours can be used in many different settings.

Learning through music: Toddlers love to sing, particularly if there are actions, dress ups or other props included, such as this E Rere Taku Poi. There are many books and CDs available that have both traditional and modern Māori songs to learn, such as the range by Sharon Holt. There are also plenty available on the internet, including the collection Hei Waiata, Hei Whakakoakoa. These songs are great to keep you toddler entertained during bath time or in the car and provide the perfect opportunity to learn about another language and culture.

Story time: There are many Māori myths, legends and more contemporary stories available. These stories have been passed down through generations and help to understand the history that shapes Māori culture. Spend an afternoon at your local library to hunt down your favourites, such as Tangaroa’s Gift by Mere Whaanga-Schollum.

Dancing and self-expression: Māori songs and dances sometimes use Ti rakau sticks or poi which add a fun element, and teach your toddler about coordination and rhythm. You could get crafty by making your own at home to practice with (you can find the full video here), or if you wanted a quick option, try this version. You might like to introduce the idea of a family concert, inviting your toddler to display their newly learnt skill in front of other family members. This provides a great chance for self-expression and the encouragement they receive from the family will reinforce their learning.

Useful sources for more information:






Embracing Our Kiwi Culture