Learning traditional Māori games and cultural activities is important for passing on knowledge and skills to tamariki and helps contribute to their physical and mental development.

‘Ngā mahi a te rēhia’ refers to games and pastimes. With whānau, read booklet Te Pihinga 3, ‘Kaitiaki pēpi’ (page 26). It explains the legends and games in traditional Māori culture.

Ngā mahi a te rēhia included the art of , playing , waiata, haka, poi, kōrero and . It also included aquatic games, activities requiring manual dexterity, agility, calculation, mental alertness and memorising.

Some pastimes were specifically for children, and some were elementary training exercises for boys.

Benefits of playing games

Pūrākau and waiata are rich in traditional knowledge, history and tribal wisdom. Haka, poi and musical instruments enhance physical and mental development. were sports and games enjoyed by both children and adults. Children gained physical skills and knowledge of tribal traditions through them.

Ask whānau:

  • How does ngā mahi a te rēhia feature in your whānau?
  • What sorts of games or activities have you enjoyed or been involved in?
  • What traditional games do you know of or have taken part in?
  • Do you have hopes that pēpi will enjoy certain games?
  • Which ones?

Tūpuna Parenting: Pūrākau

Tūpuna Parenting: Pūrākau (transcript)

Past and present toys and games

Traditional toys were made from natural resources. For example, and were used to make gliders and small waka. (string games), (puppets) and (hand games) all helped tamariki develop hand-eye coordination and skills with their hands.

A few of the pastimes common in pre-European times that have survived into the present day include tree climbing, water games and exercises, swimming races (kau whakataetae), canoe races (waka hoehoe), diving, hand games (tī ringaringa and ) and cat’s cradle (whai).

Conversation ideas

Why do you think games and pastimes are important for the way we learn and develop?
What do you think we might learn through music, singing and dance?
How do you think enjoyment influences our learning?
What’s an activity that your pēpi likes to do now?
What do you think they are learning from it?
At this stage, what games could pēpi play that involve natural resources?

Helpful resources for whānau