‘Ako’ – To teach and to learn

Since begining my teaching journey I have been discovering my philosphy of teaching and what leads and guides my teaching practice. What I really love about working in a childcare centre is that I can learn something new everyday from my tamariki. It’s amazing how curious and smart they are to be able to teach kaiako about the world through their eyes. It recognises the knowledge that both teachers and learners bring to learning interactions, and it acknowledges the way that new knowledge and understandings can grow out of shared learning experiences. The principle of ‘ako’ affirms the value of the pair and group learning approaches in which students interact with their peers, teacher, tasks, and resources. These are very effective approaches for teaching and learning te reo Māori.

A great example of this happened the other night, I heard my 2 year old, Kawai in the bath singing a nursery rhyme I was unfamiliar with. He was singing it over and over again and wanted me to sing along with him. I asked if he could teach me the song that he knows, and he continued to sing;

Hey diddle, diddle!
The cat and the fiddle,
The cow jumped over the moon;
The little dog laughed
To see such sport,
And the dish ran away with the spoon.

I searched the song up online to learn how the tune goes and there was a YouTube clip, once Kawai heard the song his face instantly smiled and he started to sing louder and louder telling me that this was the song he learnt at school. I was amazed to see how confident he was singing the song and the joy in his face when he got to the end of it. I sat with him while he was in the bath and he taught me the song by repeating it over and over. This links strongly within my philosophy of teaching by embracing the concept of ‘Ako’ and having a reciprocal learning relationship with our tamariki. Empowering our young tamariki to share their learnings with the kaiako and surrounding whānau to build whanaungatanga within our learning community. Kawais development in the Pukeko room at Play Learn Grow has been immense. He comes home every day singing waiata that he has learnt, telling me his favourite books that his kaiako read to him and I can see his actively taking part in their class day to day routine.

This was an incredibly proud moment I felt as a parent, observing the learning and seeing his development be nurtured throughout the centre and bringing that home to share with our whānau. Our national curriculum Te Whāriki states that, “all children will be empowered to learn with and alongside others by engaging in experiences that have meaning for them.” (Ministry of Education, 2017, p. 13).  Early childhood centres play such a massive part in our young children’s lifelong learning. I’ve experienced the impact on our tamariki being a kaiako in training also having my baby go through his early learning journey in a ECE centre.

Pros and Cons of working and studying at the same time:

I think working at a centre and studying ECE has many pros for example:

  • Studying and learning different curriculums like Te Whariki
  • Putting theories into practise
  • Gaining work experience and being able to work along side a team that is in your sector. I am able to get advice and different perspectives
  • I can discuss topics in class as I have experienced working in a centre
  • Time management skills, able to multitask
  • Being able to work for your own money and not depend on parents or caregivers. I am able to spend and save my own money
  • Having a manager that allows me to have flexible hours during school

Cons of studying and working at the same time:

  • Can be stressful as you have to stay on top of your work or you will fall behind
  • Trying to manage work, study and socialising. At times it can be a lot to take in and you just need to take a break and spend time by yourself every now and then.

I think overall the pros of studying ECE and working at the same time for me personally outweigh the cons. I know that every student is different and what works well for me may not work well for them. I believe that is why it is important to find what works best for you, so that you are able to succeed while studying and working.

The benefits of living with Grandparents


Living with grandparents is fun in so many ways and heaps of benefits as well. It helps ease the burden of child caring and stress from the parents. Grandparents provide stability, wisdom, safety and fun. Grandparents helps ease financial burden from the parents. They are important source of life lessons sharing stories in the past and grandchildren already access to this knowledge. If something happens that affects the grandchildren like illness, divorce or dying in an accident grandparents are ready to give them the love and affections they need it would save them the stress of adjusting in a new environment. Grandchildren giving the grandparents a sense of purpose again in life. They experience a new sense of energy and some exercise.  The grandchildren research was shown kids who get to spend a lot of time with grandparents tend to have fewer emotional and behavioural problems

Manaakitanga in ECE

Mā te huruhuru, ka rere te manu.

Adorn the bird with feathers, so it can fly. (Whakataukī – Māori proverb)

At Play Learn Grow early childcare education centre we have a number of kaiako (teachers) with māori whakapapa (ancestry). This is why we are so passionate about Te Whāriki. He Whāriki Mātauranga mō ngā Mokopuna o Aotearoa – the early childcare education curriculum for Aoteoroa (New Zealand).

We demonstrate manaakitanga which is a crucual Māori principle that is at the heart of Te Whāriki: He Whāriki Mātauranga mō ngā Mokopuna o Aotearoa. We consider manaakitanga to be the process of enhancing peoples mana, by showing care, respect, kindness and generosity for others.

Manaakitanga weaves in to the strands of the ECE curriculum. The Ministry of Education state: “Children’s learning and development are fostered if the well-being of their family and community is supported; if their family, culture, knowledge and community are respected; and if there is a strong connection and consistency among all the aspects of the child’s world”. This is where manaakitanga comes in looking at pre-schoolers well-being in a holistic sense.

Manaakitanga at Play Learn Grow ECE

We kōrero with children about sharing (why it is important, praising good behaviours, politely pointing out not such good behaviour), kaitiakitanga (caring for the environment, another tikanga māori principle), welcoming new whānau (mihi whakatau or shorted pōwhiri for whānau of bigger kids) and settling periods as tamariki transition from home to Play Learn Grow ECE, or from another centre. We teaching care and respect for other tamariki, for our outdoor play area resources and indoor resources. Our kaiako to guide tamariki to set ground rules, and we remind tamariki if or when there is a rule breach of the rules they contributed to setting.

We do a short karakia before eating lunch, as we are thankful for it, and we build and nurture strong relationship with parents and staff. Play Learn Grow teachers create an environment of respect where our highly skilled teachers develop tamariki to grow and develop physically, mentally, socially, whilst playing and learning.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic we had visited places in the community. I took my kids to a local rest home to bring smiles on the faces of the elderly. We reach out to local schools and visit them to ensure the transition is not too hard. We listen to concerns of parents about sending in children into school environments with many hundreds of children, and to ease concerns we keep children past age 5 (tamariki have to go to school by their 6th birthday though). During changes in Alert Levels we communicate with whānau and stay open to serve the needs of Auckland’s essential workers (without other childcare options), even when some other centres stay shut.

Play Learn Grow teachers have completed or are enrolled in the Incredible Years Programme on child behaviour and management techniques. This is best practice, which certainly not every centre has their staff doing. However this is an important for Play Learn Grow teachers as we strive to be the best ECE centre in West Auckland.

Manaakitanga is all about caring and support for tamariki (children) – pre-schoolers in Play Learn Grow ECE), whānau (family) and kaiako (teachers). The Play Learn Grow culture is just so special to be a part of, and manaakitanga being so engrained in it by our Centre Manager, fellow kaiako, whānau and of course our beautiful tamariki. This to me is what sets out Play Learn Grow as the best ECE centre in West Auckland, and the best out of so many I have worked up over many years.

Top 7 tips to teach pre-schoolers to share

Sharing is another skill for pre-schoolers to learn, and for most it is not innate or natural. It is a learned skill. Young kids love that special toy and don’t know when they will get it back, or worse if they will ever get it back. This is a challenge to learn to interact socially and play together. As many year 1 primary school teachers have told us, this is another benefit of quality early childcare education. At Play Learn Grow ECE our skilled and experienced teachers are about to nurture these skills.

Play Learn Grow children from our teachers encouraging sharing in a nurturing and caring way

1) Set limits in advance

With my own kids sharing a favourite toy was tough. Just like at Play Laern early childcare education centre, we set equal time limits in the interests of fairness. I am aware of some whanau telling us another great use of the Watercare four minute shower timer – as a visual cue that shows toy time!

2) Recognise pre-schoolers’ feelings

Seeing that children may be concerned about not getting a favourite toy back, you can recognise their feelings. I asked today “are you worried you will not get your smiley face ball back”. This triggers the answer by body language with a head nod (for yes). I explained “I understand your concern, but you will get it back, we have to share so others don’t miss out. You can play with it later today”. It is irrelevant they choose not to play with it later in the day, that was their choice. This used manaakitanga by caring for the mana of the tamariki. Bonds get built from skilled teaching like this.

3) Correct bad sharing behavior
If or more likely when a situation occurs where a child if upset or reacts negatively to another child playing with a desired toy they wanted, then explain about sharing and they can have a turn after others also had a turn. Now a quick note for some parents expecting big things of their just turned 2 year olds – this takes a lot of practice at home and at preschool. At Play Learn Grow we have observed that very few under 3 years old are able to understand sharing without a lot of training at home and at our ECE Centre, and even then it is not perfect as they are so young. The great thing is get to practice at Play Learn Grow. We teach sharing and correct bad sharing behaviour, and after a while it becomes second nature!

4) Modelling good behaviour

Seeing sharing in action is great. At home you can do this even as an adult sharing things like chocolate, drink (from different cups or glasses) or even the TV remote. Point out when a family member sharing and praise them with “thank you for sharing {Dad} or whoever did the sharing”. This also helps create a nurturing culture of sharing.

Too often sharing opportunities are botched when it is someones turn and just a passing “cheers”, “thanks” or “ta” are stated. Until sharing is fully engrained it is best to use the sharing as a learning opportunity.

5) Share with your child

Try some activites with your kids that involve sharing, like basic games. We have done this with Duplo blocks and alternate so that one block is placed by each person participating in turn. Talk about sharing, turns and praise good behaviour.

6) Praise

Praise is such a powerful tool. When you say well done Hamish, or well done Deepika, children really feel good about themselves and their behaviour. When they do a good job of sharing make sure you tell them. Our Centre Manager at Play Learn Grow ECE has a wide range of phrases for praise including “well done Harper, great sharing”, “good playing Arihia, Sarah and Paiku love playing with you”, and “well done team, isn’t sharing fun?” asked as a question to reinforcement the teamwork and fun experience sharing is.

7) Preparation

Many parents are a bit anxious about a play-date with another child. It is important to prepare you child as the host of this event so your child(ren) understand that when Pat and Jen come over, they’ll need to share some toys. I have found it useful to pick out a few toys prior with my children, and to hide away that very special toy (or two) so they are not sharable, which minimises the risk of an emotional disregulation event or outburst.

Benefits of Clay

At Play Learn Grow, Kaiako provide clay for the children to explore, manipulate and experiment. This gives them the opportunity to be creative and understand concepts of shapes, colours, numbers, letters and form whilst having lots of fun.

 Activity set up: For this activity set up, we have dry clay, bowl of water, wooden rollers, potato mashers, string and shells.

Tamariki saw this activity in the afternoon, were seen to be sitting quietly and relaxed. They were able to explore with their senses, stay focus and concentrated on their own creation.

They were moulding, patting and pushing the clay flat on the table. Some of the tamariki added water into their clay and used both hands to squash it together, so you could see the clay running through the gaps of their little fingers.

Some had created shapes, (eg) ovals, circles, squares and triangles. One particular child made different sizes of clay balls, and sequenced them up in sizes.

Clay also helps develop the small muscles in their fingers, hand and eye co-ordination, known as fine motor skills as they pull the clay into pieces.

Children can express their thoughts and ideas as they mould the clay to take on the form of their imagination.

Clay provides children with opportunities to build on their knowledge, verbalise their thoughts and ideas.

Ministry of Education (2017), stated that Children learn through play by doing, asking questions, interacting with others, devising theories about how things work and then trying them out.

Children experience an environment where their play is valued as meaningful learning and the importance of spontaneous play is recognised.

Benefits of reading to our tamariki

Our tamariki absolutely love reading. If we continue to read books to them while they are young, we are making it fun and hopefully starting a love for reading. There are so many books that you can find, that your tamariki would love.

There are many benefits that our tamariki will learn from reading. While we are reading, our tamariki are using their imagination and they enter into another world where they become the character and get to see what happens. MAGIC! Some of the benefits that come with reading are that they have a deeper understanding about the sounds of the letters, the words, and the language that is used. This will help with their literacy skills as they get older and become more familiar with letters and the words. Through reading to them, and gently turning the pages over, you will get them to respect and value our books by showing them how to look after the books. While reading along, you spark the child’s imagination where they imagine themselves there in the story and be amongst it and can also create their curiosity. This can strengthen their connections in their brains and can improve their concentration with them having the ability to focus.

Reading can also help them develop both their social and communication skills by learning more language. This can help our tamariki to learn about the world around them, helps extend their knowledge and understanding their culture and others around them. It can help them with their emotions by the books talking about a wide range of topics, where it can give them some understanding around a new or frightening experience and can help them to acknowledge and work on their emotions that come with it. Especially emotions that they don’t get themselves. They can remind themselves that the character in the story felt the same way and they did this to help themselves out so they could do the same.

It would be really beneficial if you could possibly add reading into your daily routine and making it a consistent part of your daily routine.

Having a variety of books available will also be helpful and give your child the opportunity to choose a book they think they would enjoy.

Here are a list that they would love.

  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar
  • Giraffes Can’t Dance
  • Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see
  • The Day the Crayons Quit
  • We’re Going on a Bear Hunt
  • The Rainbow Fish
  • We’ve Got a Boat

The benefits of learning a second language

Here at Play Learn Grow we embrace biculturalism, multiculturalism and diversity at our centre.  There are so many ethnicities found in our suburb of Kelston, it provides a wonderful opportunity for our tamariki to learn about them. Language is often the best place to start.

We are so proud to have staff and children from many different cultures and that speak more than one language (Te Reo, Samoan, Tongan, Chinese, Hindi, Fijian, Russian – just to name a few!). 

We incorporate Te Reo into our daily life at Play Learn Grow and our children love it, especially the singing.  There are so many benefits to introducing our children to different languages and cultures.

And it is never too early to begin learning a language: it’s fun, it promotes healthy development, and the many cognitive and social benefits will last a lifetime.

As a parent, you do not need to know a second language yourself, there are so many online resources to help you.

Here is a helpful link for te reo for example:

Write out simple words, post them around the house and use them when communicating with your child.   Learn a few expressions yourself and use them in everyday life at home.  Remember singing is a great way too to teach our children, so google the most popular toddler songs in the language of your choice.  You should find yourself some great catchy examples, even some well-known English songs that have been translated into other languages. 

Here are just some of the reasons why learning a language puts your child at a significant advantage:

1)It gives them a head start

Children who are exposed to another language before age five use the same part of the brain to acquire that second language that they use to learn their mother tongue. Younger learners are also uninhibited by the fear of making mistakes, which is sometimes an obstacle for older beginners.

2)The earlier they start, the longer they stay!

The length of time a student is able to devote to learning a language has a direct and positive correlation to cognitive development. Longer sequences also provide the opportunity for learners to grow alongside the additional language and culture, developing a deeper connection as they mature.

3)Feed Their Brains

Research shows that learning a second language boosts problem-solving, critical-thinking, and listening skills, in addition to improving memory, concentration, and the ability to multitask. Children proficient in other languages also show signs of enhanced creativity and mental flexibility.

4) Boost Their Academic Achievement

The cognitive benefits of learning a language have a direct impact on a child’s academic achievement. Compared to those without an additional language, bilingual children have improved reading, writing, and math skills, and they generally score higher on standardized tests.

5) Nurture Their Curiosity, Cultural Sensitivity, Empathy, and Tolerance

Children who are exposed early to other languages display more positive attitudes to the cultures associated with those languages. The experience of learning a language introduces them to the world in ways they might otherwise have not experienced.

6) Don’t Hesitate: Go for Two… or Three

Surprisingly, young children are not confused by the introduction of multiple languages at the same time. Not only do they naturally navigate multilingual environments, but acquiring a second language early in life primes the brain to learn multiple other languages, opening a world of opportunities for later on.

It’s Another Lockdown (parody song)

We are in Alert Level 3 so another lockdown for COVID-19 for our mighty city of 1.7 million people. If you want some light hearted relief, take a look at this amusing coronavirus parody of Europe’s The Final Countdown song:

We are hoping this helps you a little with your time at home!

Nurturing Our Treasures At Home

Tena Koutou Katoa, Talofa lava, Malo e lelei, Ni sa bula vinaka, Ni hao, and warm greetings to you all.

It is all becoming familiar with these lockdowns, stay safe in our bubbles and our minds are full of many different thoughts and one important thought is our ‘Tamariki’s Education’.

Here at Play Learn Grow our Philosophy/Rapunga Whakaaro We believe that people are the heart of the matter.

We acknowledge all our Whanau Families as you are the first educators to your beautiful treasures and We understand the importance in building relationships through unconditional support, respect and understanding to create a true sense of trust and belonging for everyone.

Create a home programme plan, keep it simply make it fun! focus on:

  • From children’s interests or needs

The purpose of planning to contribute and provide experiences towards positive outcomes to show more positive good behaviors around your home and to ensure that their development and learning are interconnected.

Actions: take time to collect materials e.g., Child interest might be trips to the ‘Beach’ or walks through the ‘Bush’

  • Shells
  • Seaweed
  • Driftwood
  • Stones
  • Flowers
  • Leaves
  • Seeds and cones

Learning outcomes through stimulate thinking communication open and ended questions, encourage the tamariki, be flexible, give them a lot of time, use soft tone, listening to their voices, provide a range of experiences, and remember make it fun, sing songs, play games, read books.

Reflections can be writing a learning story together with your tamariki and illustrate it with some of the samples discovered, and you are most welcome to forward the learning story on your tamariki portifolio   playleargrow.educa.nz and Kaiako’s are able to follow through with comments/feedback/notes on how to extend the tamariki’s learning.

Encouragement to our Whanau and together with Play Learn Grow Kaiako’s will continue to work together and stay positive to help nurture our treasure’s “The Tamariki” and find their place in the world.

Reference Te Whariki p.g 17

Principles Kaupapa whakahaere 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 curriculum is underpinned by four principles: empowerment | whakamana, holistic development | kotahitanga, family and community | whānau tangata, and relationships | ngā hononga. These principles are the foundations of curriculum decision making and a guide for every aspect of pedagogy and practice. This whakataukī encourages mokopuna to stand strong, proud in the knowledge that they are the embodiment of all those who have gone before them. [In Te Whāriki] children are valued as active learners who choose, plan, and challenge. This stimulates a climate of reciprocity, ‘listening’ to children (even if they cannot speak), observing how their feelings, curiosity, interest, and knowledge are engaged in their early childhood environments, and encouraging them to make a contribution to their own learning. Smith (2007)

Reference Te Whariki p.g 19

Principle 2 Holistic development | Kotahitanga Early childhood curriculum reflects the holistic way children learn and grow. Mā te whāriki e whakaata te kotahitanga o ngā whakahaere katoa mō te ako a te mokopuna, mō te tipu o te mokopuna.

Human development can be thought of in terms of cognitive (hinengaro), physical (tinana), emotional (whatumanawa), spiritual (wairua), and social and cultural dimensions, but these dimensions need to be viewed holistically, as closely interwoven and interdependent. For Māori the spiritual dimension is fundamental to holistic development because it connects the other dimensions across time and space. Because children develop holistically, they need a broad and rich curriculum that enables them to grow their capabilities across all dimensions. When focusing on a particular area of learning, kaiako need to consider how this focus relates to and connects with other aspects of learning and how it builds on the children’s strengths. Every aspect of the context – physical surroundings, emotional state, relationships with others and immediate needs – will affect what children learn from any particular experience. A holistic approach sees the child as a person who wants to learn, the task as a meaningful whole and the whole as greater than the sum of its parts. It is important that kaiako have knowledge and understanding of the holistic way in which children develop and learn. They should also be aware of the different views that the cultures represented in their ECE setting may have of child development and the role of family and whānau.