Whānau are often given special taonga for their children. These can link them to their wider whānau, hapū, iwi, and to the person who gifted the taonga to pēpi.


Pounamu taonga like kapeu, manaia or tiki were sometimes used when tamariki were teething. They were used because their large size meant there was no risk of pēpi choking. The hard and cool stone is just right for soothing sore gums and helping teeth push through.

Ahakoa he iti, he pounamu

Although it is small, it is precious – like greenstone
This whakataukī expresses the value placed on pounamu, and anything likened to pounamu. It’s a metaphor for something to be treasured. When something is likened to greenstone, it must be very important, very precious indeed.

In 1849, Wiremu Maihi Te Rangikāheke wrote down the first version of the love story of Hinemoa and Tūtānekai. He used the to refer to the love felt between people. He wrote, ‘Ahakoa, he aroha iti, he pounamu tonu.’ (A love that is brief is love nonetheless.)

Pounamu is found in Te Wai Pounamu (the South Island) or Te Wāhipounamu (South Westland) – the place of greenstone. In 1997 the Crown returned ownership of pounamu to Ngāi Tahu.


A tiki is a carved figure, often made of greenstone, in the form of a human. Similar figures are found in many Polynesian cultures. Tiki depict the first mortal born to the gods. They're also a symbol of the human embryo, with the hands on the loins representing fertility and life.

Tiki can be large or small. Smaller versions are often worn as an adornment around the neck. They’re considered a good luck charm, and were believed to give the wearer clarity of thought and great inner knowledge.


The design is inspired by the ponga (New Zealand silver tree fern). It represents new life, personal growth, positive change and awakening. Koru are also associated with peace and harmony, so they make a wonderful gift for a new parent or pēpi, or anyone starting out on a new pathway.

Talking with whānau

It’s becoming more common to give taonga to mark significant milestones for pēpi and whānau.

Whānau might like to think about who they could approach to make taonga and what significance it will hold for them. They could store in a waka huia and them on as whānau heirlooms in the future.

Conversation ideas

What does taonga mean to you?
Do you have whānau taonga?
Has pēpi received any gifts you consider taonga?
What makes the gift special?
Who has given them the taonga?
What do you think it will mean for pēpi in the future?
How can you make sure it’s kept safe and special?
Is this is a time to get pēpi their own taonga or show them a whānau pounamu that the whole whānau use?
Is there someone in the wider whānau that you could talk to about this?

Helpful resources for whānau