Having fun and learning

Tamariki (children) learn by watching, listening, and doing. They learn to talk by copying those around them. Tamariki are also learning about themselves and how to behave.

Learning by playing, being active and copying what you do

Your tamariki may enjoy playing with friends and whānau. Playing with their toys and pretending to talk to them is also a fun activity. Dreaming, pretending and talking to themselves are important parts of your child’s play.

Your local library, daycare and kōhanga reo will have more ideas and information about play. The library may also have special reading sessions for tamariki. These are fun for your tamariki and for you.

Help your tamariki to learn and develop

Being active and moving also helps your tamariki to learn and their body to develop. You can help by giving them some fun and safe activities to do, such as:

  • let them make a mess and have fun using water, sand, clay, pots, and pans
  • give them interesting things to play with
  • give them ideas for new thing to try and do 
  • have them play with other tamariki
  • learn to roll, throw and kick balls
  • draw, paint and cut up paper with child-safe scissors
  • build huts and ramps
  • sing and dance to music
  • play make believe and dress-ups
  • help you set the table and fold the washing (when older)
  • walk along low walls, with you holding their hands
  • go for walks and stop to look at or pick up things such as twigs and leaves
  • climb in safe places.

If you are active, your tamariki is more likely to be active. Do activities together — walking, swimming, running.

Screens can help tamariki to learn, but they learn better when an adult shares with them. Make sure that programmes are suitable for your child's age. Limit screen time to 2 hours a day, and not last thing at night.

Learning to talk

Between ages 1 and 2, use short simple sentences when talking to your tamariki. Leave a pause so they can talk back to you — they will learn about taking turns in a conversation.

Between the ages of 1 to 3, most tamariki are beginning to understand and to say more. Talking to your child is the best way to help them learn to talk. 

By 2 years of age most tamariki can be understood by familiar adults (parents, whānau, caregivers) most of the time.

By 3 years of age most tamariki can be understood by unfamiliar adults most of the time.

Between the ages of 3 and 5, tamariki are learning to say and understand many words. This involves a range of skills. They may:

  • be able to understand and use more complex words and sentences
  • be asking lots of what and why questions to find out new information 
  • know the names of some letters and recognise their own written name.

Help your tamariki learn to talk

To help your tamariki learn to talk you could:

  • play with them — join in with what they are doing and interested in
  • make sure you are face to face when playing with them — you may need to sit on the floor (this is so you can see what your tamariki is interested in)
  • give them plenty of time to speak — focus on what they are saying, not how they are saying it
  • share your family stories, songs, waiata and poems.

Learning about 'me'

As babies grow, they begin to find out who 'me' is. Their behaviour may change and they may start to have tantrums. No becomes a favourite word. You can be one step ahead — try asking questions that cannot be answered with no.

Give positive attention. If you want to encourage a behaviour, notice it. Let them know how proud you are of them. Ignore little things. Respond only when your tamariki is behaving really badly or is in danger. Giving attention to a child’s bad behaviour usually makes it worse.

Managing your child's behaviour (internal link)

Tamariki learn a lot by watching you. If you are kind and loving with a child, even when you have to be firm, it will help them to learn self-control from you. When you listen to tamariki they know that you care about how they feel. Do not expect too much of them. They still learning to understand how you want them to behave.

If there is a new pēpi (baby), spend some special time alone with your older tamariki. Make them feel proud of being able to help with care of the new pēpi.

If you are worried

There is a wide range of what is normal for a child’s development. Talk to your healthcare provider, nurse or doctor if you are worried about your tamariki.