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Te mahi tahi me ngā whānau

Partnering with whānau for language development

Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi engari he toa takitini.

I come not with my own strengths but bring with me the gifts, talents, and strengths of my family, tribe, and ancestors.


“Children learn and develop best when their culture, knowledge and community are affirmed and when people in their lives help them make connections across settings” (Te Whāriki, page 20). Whakawhanuangatanga – building respectful and reciprocal relationships – is the key to making such connections with whānau. 1

Whakawhanaungatanga and the whakataukī on this page are useful touchstones (guiding principles) for a partnership model with whānau for oral language. It is a reminder that language is a taonga within each whānau that deserves kaiako attention and respect.

Whānau and kaiako walking together with a group of children. 


When kaiako regularly have conversations with whānau about new and fun things happening at home, they can be revisited in conversations kaiako have with tamariki. This way, tamariki are often more motivated to talk because they are the expert in a conversation.

Regular catch-ups with whānau give kaiako the opportunity to learn about languages spoken at home and plan together how they can incorporate key words into everyday interactions. In these conversations with whānau, kaiako can promote the importance of fostering the learning of home languages by family members speaking their strongest language with their children.

Sharing practice

Kaiako can share with whānau new and existing practices. These can be te reo Maōri words and phrases, sound and vocabulary games, and New Zealand Sign Language.

The idea that reading and writing "float on a sea of talk" 2 may be new to whānau. Guidance for whānau is often as simple as pointing out ways in which they can contribute to children’s expanding language and vocabulary through routines and events in everyday life.

See the Talk tools for strategies.

Whānau aspirations

Whānau have aspirations for their tamariki. This includes having their language, culture, and identity affirmed in the learning setting. Inviting whānau to share their aspirations helps to build a shared understanding of how adults can provide learning support across settings.

Two topics that may be of concern to whānau are language delay and learning English as an additional language. They are also topics where whānau and kaiako may have different expectations and desired outcomes.

Kaiako help to navigate these differences by:

  • nurturing trusting relationships as a priority at all times
  • listening carefully – being conscious that their own assumptions can get in the way of listening
  • being conscious of the messages body language conveys, for example, possible messages of doubt or mistrust facial expressions may give to whānau
  • finding common ground as a starting point, for example, kaiako and whānau often have the same goal but the expected process to get there can be different, understanding this can help lighten concerns for both whānau and kaiako
  • having a sound knowledge base from which to support and offer reliable guidance when it is asked for, for example, how and when language develops.

Father with child and kaiako in play area.