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Nurturing a culture of kindness and respect

Story of practice: Rātā playgroup

A toddler climbing on wooden equipment.

Key points

  • Mixing generations to build wellbeing and belonging
  • Capable and confident babies

He pēnei tonu te pāharakeke i te whānau

The flax is like a whānau. In the middle grows the rito (the child), who blossoms within the caring embrace of their mātua (parents), siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and wider community

Mixing the generations

The Rātā playgroup was established 2017 in the Wesleyhaven Village (a retirement complex). It offers something special for tamariki, their whānau, and the wider community.

Coordinator and founder Bronwen Olds says that a unique feature of the playgroup are the relationships that have developed between the elderly residents and the whānau who come to the playgroup. Even though the Wesleyhaven Village has since closed, the Wesley Rātā Village hosts an elderly wellbeing group that meets each week and there are regular visits between this group and the playgroup.

Bronwen says, “There is something magical about mixing generations and so the participation of the elderly within the young child’s playgroup experience adds a unique feature. Everyone benefits. Children have exposure to the elderly that they may not have elsewhere. Parents and caregivers expand their ‘village’ and have the wisdom of an older generation to draw from. The elders gain the energy and joy that comes from being with young children and their families.”

Building Wellbeing and Belonging

The playgroup provides a nurturing space for whānau to play together with babies and toddlers. In this early learning environment the principles and strands of Te Whāriki are clearly present, especially Wellbeing | Mana atua and Belonging | Mana whenua.

The playgroup's philosophy honours Te Tiriti o Waitangi and te ao Maori (a Maori world view). The playgroup draws on indigenous models for wellbeing and teaching like Te Whare Tapa Whā and Te Wheke. Both these models take a holistic approach which is something Bronwen talks about with whānau. Wellbeing, feeling connected emotionally and spiritually and secure in the knowledge that their parent/caregiver is close by, enables tamariki to explore the environment and equipment.

Babies are capable and competent

The playgroup is founded on the belief that babies and toddlers are capable and competent. They know when they are ready to try something new and explore their environment. For whānau this means slowing down and being present with tamariki, giving them their full attention.

The equipment supports free movement and choices for tamariki. This lets them decide for themselves when and how they will begin to roll over, sit, crawl, and walk.

The adults at the playgroup let the tamariki explore and play, uninterrupted, at their own pace. This enables them to follow their interests in their own time. Care moments like nappy changing and kai time, are also opportunities for building relationships.

Bronwen says, “It is a wonderful place to play. We have been very selective with the resources we offer, focusing on those that are high quality, natural materials, and provide for open ended play. We have lots of everyday materials and loose parts. We support products made here in Aotearoa. We recognise patterns of play (schemas) and share this knowledge with our parents and caregivers.”

Action points

Think about the following questions:

  • Is there a philosophical approach for your playgroup?
  • What is special about your playgroup?
  • How do you use Te Whāriki to guide your discussions with whānau?


Durie, M. H. (1984). "Te taha hinengaro": An integrated approach to mental health. Community Mental Health in New Zealand, 1(1), 4–11.

Pere, R. R. (1997). Te wheke: a celebration of infinite wisdom. Ako learning New Zealand.