Tamaiti haututū refers to a child who is playful, curious, busy and active – which are great attributes for a pēpi who is learning about the world. Keep pēpi safe and support their mana aotūroa as they become more mobile and explore their world.

Curiosity and exploration are what’s on top for pēpi – these are their main activity. Making and keeping their environment a safe place for them means they are free to learn about the world through looking, touching, banging and mouthing everything. Through this discovery learning they’re not only quenching their thirst for exploring but also building and strengthening brain connections in the process.

A curious pēpi will want to explore – everything! They will put hands in their kai, pull at glasses and earrings, and want the remote or phone that’s in your hand. If pēpi is mobile, crawling, or pulling themselves up to stand, it can be an extra busy and sometimes stressful time for whānau.

Mana Aotūroa (Exploration)

One of the strands or essential areas of learning and development in Te Whāriki, the New Zealand Early Childhood Curriculum aligns Exploration with the term Mana . When 'ao-tū-roa' is divided into its three separate sections, it relates to the infinity of the universe, and implies an extensive breadth of all the elements that make up the universe.

The relationship between people, the natural environments and other elements of the universe is referred to in many waiata and kōrero tawhito. Through these examples we can see that traditionally Māori maintained a positive and caring relationship with the universe. Exploration was ongoing, as tribes travelled far and wide to make new discoveries. There are other examples that refer to both spiritual and intellectual journeys of self-discovery.

When this tradition of fostering mana aotūroa is maintained, pēpi will grow in self-worth, identity, confidence and enjoyment. Combined with warm relationships where whānau encourage them to explore and to understand for themselves through guided, yet free play, pēpi will develop their own individual learning and creativity. With support and freedom to explore, pēpi will grow to take on the many challenges that exist in the wider world.

How we view haututū

At this stage of their development to describe pēpi as , naughty, a nuisance or trouble, and respond to them that way will not benefit them at all. We know that negative labelling is not great for their learning or their sense of self-esteem. It may be said jokingly but the problem with labels is they can stick.

It’s much better for pēpi to hear themselves described as clever, curious or inquisitive rather than naughty or mischievous. A curious, busy and active child who is given encouragement, understanding, and realistic expectations will be seen as bright, quick and intelligent.

This is an example of how the way we view certain behaviours and respond to them can influence how a child is seen by others and also how they learn to see themselves. Te Whāriki reminds us that the attitudes and expectations that are formed at an early age will continue to influence a child’s learning throughout their life.

Conversation ideas

Have you heard of the term haututū? What does it mean in your whānau?
Are there people in your whānau who have been described as haututū?
What are they likely to be doing to be described as haututū?
Do you think their behaviours are to be expected for their developmental age?

See the positives

It’s worthwhile helping parents to see haututū in a positive light. Much of the information in the Whakatipu booklet Te Pihinga 2 focusses on the growing pēpi and the fact that they’re very likely to be on the move and curious! This requires whānau to be ever watchful, ensuring the environment is kept safe for that little person who is ‘into everything’.

The legends of Māui

The legends of Māui are worth reading and thinking about here. Māui is described as a demi-god who was mischievous and very clever. He managed to steal fire from his grandmother, slow the sun using the jawbone of his grandfather, fish up the Te Ika-a-Māui – the north island of Aotearoa, to name just a few of his adventures.

And although some people may have called Māui haututū, would he have achieved these great feats without a lot of curiosity, creativity and confidence?

Conversation ideas

Ask whānau to think of some people whose achievements they admire.

What is it about them that makes you feel this way?
Do you think they would have ever been described as haututū?

Helpful resources for whānau