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Te ao Māori

One way kaiako enact a Māori world view in practice is by paying attention to attributes or traits familiar and important to Māori. Te Whatu Pōkeka “highlights rangatiratanga, whakatoi, manaakitanga, and aroha as learning dispositions that are valued in Te Ao Māori” (page 23).

Kaiako and tamariki looking at a book together.

Below are some examples and strategies of how kaiako may recognise and support these through cultural narrative and using Māui as a mentor.


The disposition of rangatiratanga is seen through the child’s determination, problem-solving skills, persistence, courage, and assertiveness.

Māui led his whānau by having the courage to think outside of the box to solve problems that hindered their progress.

In Te Whāriki the learning outcome “te rangatiratanga” involves children's contribution to “become increasingly capable of recognising and appreciating their own ability to learn.”


Ways tamariki demonstrate rangatiratanga in everyday activities and play may include: Kaiako build on this disposition by:

Talking positively about their whānau.

Ensuring that resources reflect all children’s cultures and home settings.

Standing up for themselves or for a friend in a strong but peaceful way.

Championing equity and recognising courage in learning stories. 

Showing pride when they have accomplished something.

Identifying the attributes a child has shown to persevere at something.

Sharing waiata or karakia from home.

Providing leadership opportunities for tamariki to share prior knowledge in a variety of ways, for example, directly from the child, from a whānau member, or by the kaiako sharing a learning story about the child. 


Also referred to as haututū, whakatoi means cheekiness, curiosity, and confidence. Māui was renowned for being cheeky and curious and he is often called Māui the trickster.

These dispositions are what Māui used to obtain the jaw bone that he snuck onto his brothers’ waka to fish up Te Ika a Māui (The North Island).

For Māori, cheekiness is what helps tamariki to explore, be curious, and socialise. The humour of whakatoi is also highly regarded in Te Ao Māori for both social and speaking skills. People who are adept in this skill can lighten a difficult situation without losing focus.


Ways tamariki demonstrate whakatoi in everyday activities and play may include:

Kaiako build on this disposition by:

Pēpi acting on their curiosity in objects around the room by wriggling themselves towards them.

Providing the freedom for pēpi to practise their physical skills in safe surroundings, while offering responsive encouragement.

Moving things between areas – normally not allowed, for example, bringing sand inside to the family play area.

Guiding children’s “cleverness” towards innovation, for example, finding ways to allow this to happen or using their play to question why this rule is there in the first place.

Tamariki using resources in an innovative way, for example, a toddler stacking objects by the gate in order to “escape” to the over 2s' area.

Valuing the child’s curiosity and cheekiness by providing flexibility in the curriculum to give the child what they are striving for or taking time to carefully explain “the why” of the rules.

A toddler appearing to enjoy the response to kicking over a friend's block tower.

Valuing when tamariki test their limits and boundaries, while supporting them to be safely corrected by their peers.


Manaaki is derived from the word mana, meaning authority or prestige, and aki meaning to encourage or induce. Therefore, manaaki is the act of lifting and supporting those around you.

Manaaki is another trait of Māui who, while lifting his own mana, also ensured that his people would benefit, for example, by hiding the ability to make fire in different trees.

Te Whāriki discusses manaakitanga in relation to kaiako showing care as well as teaching tamariki to care for others and to care for their environment.


Ways tamariki demonstrate manaaki in everyday play and activities may include: 

Kaiako can build on this disposition by:

Older tamariki wanting to help feed younger pēpi.

Modelling respectful caregiving practices while also providing opportunities for tamariki to take responsibility for themselves and others.

Tamariki role-playing mealtimes.

Ensuring that actual mealtimes are unhurried, allow for conversations amongst tamariki, and provide opportunities for tamariki to contribute to setting the table and serving the food and drink.

Tamariki showing interest in plants, insects, or animals.

Developing their own ability to integrate domain knowledge into the curriculum, for example, bringing kaitiaki Māori into science and environmental education for sustainability.

Tamariki engaging in pretend play around family roles, for example, parent – child – pet.

Speaking positively with tamariki about each child’s whānau and culture, ensuring that there are resources such as posters and pukapuka that reflect a diverse range of whānau, as well as opportunities for children to care for pets.


Te Whatu Pōkeka defines aroha as respect, as well as the loyalty and commitment of love in a whānau context.

After being nurtured by the aroha of his uncle, the yearning to connect to the love of his immediate whānau led Māui on a long journey to seek out his mother who thought he had been stillborn.

Kaiako help tamariki understand how aroha feels (the lasting love of whānau connections) when they provide opportunities for tamariki to enact aroha and tell them how they have seen this.


Ways tamariki demonstrate aroha in everyday play and activities may include:

Kaiako can build on this disposition by: 

A child leading waiata time or crossing a balance beam for the first time.

Giving a child many opportunities and time to be courageous.

Toddlers dressing and undressing themselves.

Trusting a child to achieve something that may be difficult, not doing it for them – prioritising time for these important learning moments.

Tamariki working out a problem that they have with each other.

Providing time and space for tamariki to first try and resolve the issue – acknowledging and identifying children’s feelings and providing guidance if needed to come to a resolution.

Pēpi crying when put to sleep in the cot.

Holding a baby until they sleep, as was done traditionally, so that they can feel your aroha by being held close.


Tū mai e moko. Te whakaata o ō mātua. Te moko o ō tīpuna.

Stand strong, O moko. The reflection of your parents. The blueprint of your ancestors.


The above examples show how a Māori lens on everyday play can recognise dispositions that are important to a child’s development in kaupapa Māori and support educational success for Māori as Māori. While these are the dispositions that are named in Te Whāriki, there are many others. These are identified through kaiako collaborating with whānau to seek shared understandings of the aspirations they have for tamariki.


Waiho i te toipoto, kaua i te toiroa.

Let us keep close together, not far apart.