Making Te Whariki visible in Playcentre

Playcentres are frequently asked how they link their work in Playcentre to Te Whāriki. Are we expected to make overt links by writing a strand and a goal on each learning story or can we achieve this in different ways?

Te Whariki is a way of being

In working with Playcentres I have often observed that for many Playcentres Te Whāriki is a way of being rather than a way of doing. In other words they don’t strive to do Te Whāriki, it becomes a way of life. This is very visible in the core principles and how these closely link with the core philosophies of Playcentre. The principles provide us the underlying beliefs of the curriculum, children learn best :

  • In relationships with others
  • When their family is involved and when their learning is embedded in the context of their community
  • When they are empowered through making their own choices
  • When we acknowledge the complexity of the learning

Whakamana: Children learn best when they are empowered through their experiences. At Playcentre children actively construct their own learning through play. Playcentre sessions are designed to help tamariki to see themselves as competent and capable learners in that children can choose what they do, how they do it and for how long they choose to do it. Constraints are kept to a minimum.

Kotahitanga: Children learn best when we acknowledge the complexity of children’s learning. A Playcentre we place a high value on play opportunities that allow exploration and experimentation. Honouring the process of the child’s work is more important than the product itself. Learning at Playcentre is integrated into every Playcentre experiences. Adults strive to understand children’s passions and fascination and build on it by providing interesting and inviting play opportunities.

Whānau tangata: Children learn best when their learning is embedded in the context of the community. Being a whānau based organisation, whānau at Playcentre not only manage the centre, but are also the teachers of their tamariki. Most Playcentre whānau attend the Playcentre down the road and as such they bring the community into their centre. Children learn about the community and develop a sense of belonging from the parents working together.

Ngā hononga: Children learn best in a relationship with someone else.  Relationships are a key part of successful Playcentre sessions. Good relationships are valued and actively fostered through the cooperative practices. Children experience an environment where they can play alongside their siblings, parents, whānau and other familiar adults. Relationships are often extended beyond Playcentre sessions. People, and the quality of their relationships, are an integral part of a young child’s developing attitudes and beliefs.

Uncovering rather than covering

The intention of Te Whariki is to uncover possibilities, rather than cover specific developmental milestones or knowledge . It does not tell us what tamariki should be learning, but how they learn best. Instead of linking the strands to play and learning outcomes, we can turn it upside down and use the strands to evaluate whether we are creating potentiating learning environments for our tamariki either as individuals or as a group.

The strands are the goals

The strands of Te Whāriki set us some goals to provide a play and learning environment that are rich with possibilities and invite children to participate. Using these strands as a guideline to assess, plan and evaluate  will make Te Whāriki visible in our work:

  • Mana Whenua: How do we provide an interesting environment where our tamariki feels at home?
  • Mana Atua: How do we provide a trustworthy environment where our tamariki can thrive?
  • Mana Aoturoa: How do we provide the right level of challenge so that our tamariki are stretched?
  • Mana Reo: How do we provide a culture of listening so that our tamariki can share their thinking?
  • Mana Tangata: How do provide a collaborative environment where our tamariki can learn to work together?

Returning to the question of whether we need to link our documentation to Te Whāriki? When our programme is embedded in Te Whariki, it seem superfluous to overtly link stories and other document to Te Whāriki for the purpose of accountability. We can expect outside agencies to be informed readers, however at times overt linking can be a good teaching tool for families who are new to Playcentre and Te Whāriki.

How do you make Te Whāriki visible in your centre?


Ministry of Education. (1996). Te Whāriki: He Whāriki Mātauranga mō ngā Mokopuna o Aotearoa: Early Childhood Education. Wellington: Learning Media.

Stover, Sue (Ed). (2003). (Revised edition). Good clean fun: New Zealand’s playcentre movement. Auckland: New Zealand Playcentre Federation. Page 38.


2 thoughts on “Making Te Whariki visible in Playcentre

  1. Interesting, Darlene. We seesaw back and forwards over this one at our Playcentre.
    I find that adding a section describing the observed learning, helps me define what I’m seeing, and also helps with coaching new members in observation (this is the behaviour that you saw, this is (some of the) learning going on.
    I don’t make formal links to strans and goals, but describe the learning outcomes from the goals.
    For me the ‘story’ part (and the photos) are for the child. The learning outcome observation is for the parent (and the Playcentre whanau).
    An example (from a narrative I wrote for my own child)
    “You are demonstrating your growing ability to think about others by developing play structures that will be enjoyed by others, and finding ways to include younger children.
    You are showing your problem-solving skills when you find ways around barriers that prevent others participating.”
    One of the things that I’ve noticed recently, in my narratives and others at Playcentre. Is that we tend to write far more narratives around exploration than the other 4 Te Whariki areas. I’ve been consciously trying to write narratives covering Communication, Well-being, Belonging and Contribution.

    • Hi Ann. I agree. I think most people will tend to focus more on a certain strand than another – the same with other learning threads. This might also change from time to time. I am very interested in children’s thinking so tend to focus on that. Te Whariki is complex. I think I tend to zoom out more and look at the big picture, where you are describing zooming in. I think regardless of whether we zoom in or out we need to often ask ourselves ‘how does it happen?’ to ensure that we are implementing Te Whariki effectively. When is your son turning five?

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