‘He taonga te tamaiti. — A child is a precious treasure.’

This whakataukī refers to the child itself being the taonga or treasure, and it’s not unusual for whānau to think of their tamaiti as a taonga. Our future depends on today’s children. They are precious. If they are not nurtured and looked after now, there is little hope for the future of the human race.

During this stage, our child is growing from pēpi to tamaiti — from a baby to a toddler. Their world is expanding and they’re learning new skills every day. They won’t want to stay in one place, and they’ll want to mouth, touch and bang anything they can reach. They’ll want whatever other whānau members have.

This period can be both exciting and frustrating for the whānau. Keeping the message from this whakataukī in mind, that pēpi is a taonga, might be a helpful strategy during some of the frustrating times. And remembering that every stage is just that — a phase that will not last forever.

Encouraging curiosity, exploration and learning

‘Ko te manu kai i te miro, nōna te ngahere. Ko te manu kai i te mātauranga, nōna te ao. — The bird that feeds on the miro berry, his is the forest. The bird that feeds on the tree of knowledge, his is the world.’

This whakataukī links to our pēpi and their capacity and appetite for learning from the ‘tree of knowledge’, which is clearly evident at this stage of their development.

Whānau can help pēpi in so many ways, especially by encouraging their growing independence and curiosity. This includes making sure they have access to safe things to explore; that they hear lots of positive language, waiata and stories; and that they have books and rhymes shared with them regularly.

Overview of ‘Kaitiaki pēpi’

This section of the Parenting Resource website, ‘Kaitiaki pēpi’, explores aspects of traditional Māori parenting practices and how child development at this stage can relate to that tikanga. The focus here is on the stage between 13–18 months; however, there may be customs or references relevant to the pēpi at different stages in their development.

While the topics relate to a Māori worldview, they may also be relevant to other cultural practices and ethnicities who share similar tikanga.

This section isn’t comprehensive, but links to the ‘Kaitiaki pēpi’ sections in the SKIP Whakatipu booklets. These sections include ‘Whakataukī’, ‘Pakiwaitara’ and ‘Waiata kōhungahunga’.

The ‘Supporting information’ on this website gives more background on topics, while the ‘Session notes’ offer ideas for introducing the topics to whānau.

Where to begin?

We understand that people accessing this resource (and the whānau that you may be working with) will come from a wide range of different backgrounds and experiences. Identity, connection to Māori culture, and knowledge of tikanga and te reo Māori varies greatly from person to person.

So, take your cue from each whānau to guide you on where to begin your conversations with them.

We’ve provided links to additional information so that you and the whānau can find out more about topics of interest.

We encourage you to explore this information, as it will help to reinforce the concepts and increase your knowledge and understanding.

Further information

  • Joan Metge (1995): New growth from old — The whānau in the modern world. Victoria University Press, Wellington.

This book provides basic information for the many Pākehā who interact with Māori as spouses, friends, work colleagues and service providers, and helps them to understand a family type different from their own.

Other related external links