Marae offer tamariki a sense of their connection with their whanaunga and te ao Māori. There is a lot they can learn through the history, tikanga and kawa of the marae.

Ka haere au ki te marae, ā ka ako au.

provide a , ‘a place to stand’, for whānau, and iwi. With many whānau living away from their ancestral lands, urban marae provide a local gathering place in many larger towns and cities. Whether (ancestral) or urban, marae offer tamariki a sense of their connection with their and te ao Māori.

Although the information here is specifically about marae, the concepts relate to other situations where families and groups gather together to strengthen their connectedness, cultural practices, language and social behaviours. If whānau say they’re not connected with their marae, or if they’re not Māori, you can ask about their social opportunities and adjust your conversations accordingly.

What tamariki learn

There are learning opportunities for tamariki everywhere on a marae. They learn the appropriate way to behave at specific times or during certain rituals, such as:

  • when to pay attention and listen
  • when to move, how to walk
  • when to bow their heads, when to join in, when to wait for karakia
  • how food is served and when it’s right to eat.

Mostly they’ll learn all of this by being surrounded by role models. They’ll watch and learn.

They'll also learn about themselves and practise their skills, for example:

  • Through gatherings on the marae, tamariki learn about their family’s identity, values and responsibilities.
  • and help them learn about the roles, groupings and responsibilities on the marae, and their place in them.
  • Connecting with a wider social group is perfect for tamariki to practise their growing social skills.

Mana whenua – Identity and belonging

As tamariki get older, they'll learn more from marae visits. They'll meet whānau, see photos, hear stories and be treated as someone who belongs to this place. Where else can tamariki have such a rich experience?

Tamariki can experience the enjoyment of being together on the marae with their whanaunga.

  • The cross-generational connections are invaluable for them. Opportunities to eat, sleep, wash, play, learn and work together as a group with , , , other tamariki and pēpi are great opportunities for their overall development.
  • Tuakana-teina relationships with older and younger children have a role in guiding tamariki and their learning at the marae, and helping them grow a sense of belonging to their place and people.

Tangata ako ana i te whare, te tūranga ki te marae, tau ana.

A person who is taught at home will stand collected on the marae.
This whakataukī tells us that a child who is cherished and learns proper values at home will behave well in the family and society throughout life.

Tīpuna and whakapapa

Mokopuna are the descendants of many who have gone before them. They are linked to their through whakapapa. This connection joins the past with the present and the future.

If whānau links to ancestors or grandparents are weak or estranged for any reason, spending time on their marae can be a way to connect and strengthen those relationships.

Caregivers who aren’t the child’s birth parents may find it an extra challenge to make these connections. The birth whānau may be able to play a supporting role. It is very worthwhile investigating this for the benefit of tamariki.

There is more information about whakapapa in these articles:

Whakapapa – Ko wai au?

Whakapapa – He kākano ahau

Conversation ideas

You may wish to talk with whānau about some of the central questions that surround their sense of identity and belonging, and their whakapapa. These include:

Ko wai au? Who am I?
Whakapapa – Ranginui and Papatūānuku te whānau tuatahi. Do I know about them?
Tōku maunga, tōku awa, tōku waka, tōku iwi, tōku hapū, tōku whānau. Where do I belong?
Who are my grandparents and other older relatives?
Who features in the old stories of my iwi?
How do I belong with them? How are they part of my identity?
I recognise those who I see often, but who else are members of my whānau whānui (extended family)?

Tikanga and kawa

A young tamaiti is learning there is tikanga everywhere. Some tikanga is the same from place to place, some is different.

  • Some ways of doing things are the same at home and at a marae, for example, not sitting on tables and taking off shoes before going inside.
  • Some may be different, for example, where and when kai or drink can be consumed.

Tikanga and kawa can vary from marae to marae. An inexperienced adult may feel uncomfortable with the unknown, but for tamariki finding out is just another part of the vast amount of learning they’re already doing.

There are different jobs and responsibilities for everyone around a marae. Everyone can contribute in some way. Tamariki will need guidance, but they’ll have responsibilities at the marae too.

When talking with whānau about tikanga and kawa, keep in mind Ngā tohu whānau, the 6 principles of effective discipline, especially:

  • guidance and understanding
  • limits and boundaries

Te anga karaka, te anga kōura, kei kitea te marae.

The shells of the karaka berry and the shells of the crayfish should not be seen from the marae.
This whakataukī has a hygiene message, but it also refers to discipline. A tribe or war party that doesn’t care where they leave their rubbish and gear reflects poor leadership and organisation, making them easy prey for a more disciplined force.

Karanga and whaikōrero

and waiata are constants on the marae. They're an opportunity for tamariki to hear and participate in te reo Māori. They may understand very little, but they will experience the (rhythm) of the reo.


Karanga is known as the ‘first voice’ heard from the marae when manuhiri arrive. This call will be answered by a kaikaranga (caller) on the visiting side.

Karanga is said to arouse the spirits of those who have passed on, as the high-pitched call reaches beyond the limits of the physical world and into the spirit realm.


Whaikōrero is mainly performed by males on the marae, although there are some marae – Te Tai Rāwhiti and Kahungunu in particular – where females can and have spoken on the .

Whaikōrero commonly follow a pattern. They may:

  • begin with a chant, followed by acknowledgements to those who have passed on, the and Papatūānuku.
  • continue with a mihi to the living and a kōrero about the kaupapa of the gathering.
  • conclude with a waiata. Usually a female will stand to lead this waiata. Females will also acknowledge any that has been laid down for the .

He tangata takahi manuhiri, he marae puehu.

A person who mistreats his guest has a dusty marae.
This whakataukī tells us that treating visitors poorly will soon mean we have no visitors at all. It accentuates the importance of manaakitanga in Māori society and culture.

Waiata and karakia

There are so many benefits from hearing and participating in waiata and karakia, especially at a marae.

  • Many voices singing together can create special healing, calming and stirring elements.
  • Waiata, karakia, rhymes, folk songs or (hymns) are great ways to learn language, at any age, in te reo Māori or any language. This includes words not commonly used in everyday kōrero.

Repetition is how we learn language and words that sound alike make us pay attention to language. If we’re soaked in te reo, over time we’ll absorb it. We’ll remember the sounds, the words, the tunes and the way it makes us feel.

Helpful resources for whānau