The importance of names and how we name our babies.

"What are you going to name your baby?" People often ask expectant parents this question. Our names are important to us. They signify our identity, and we carry them through life.

Who names our baby?

In Whakatipu booklet Te Kākano, on page 32, there’s a brief piece about naming a baby. It tells us that in a traditional Māori world, whānau members held the right to name the child. This happens in many cultures around the world.

In some whānau there are very strong ‘family names’ that get repeated through the generations. In other families it’s up to the parents to decide. However the decision is made, there’s usually a story that goes with the name.

The topic of naming baby is one way to open a conversation with whānau about their pēpi, to explore how they’re thinking about pēpi, and the way things happen in their family.

Ask whānau:

  • Have you been thinking about what you’re going to name your baby?

If mum and dad have made a decision, you might explore their decision further by asking:

  • Would you like to tell me about the names you’ve chosen?
  • How did you come by the name?
  • Who was involved?
  • What’s the story behind the name?

If no decisions have been made about a name for pēpi, you might ask:

  • Are there any special things your whānau does for naming babies?
  • Do you know the story behind your own names?
  • Would you like to tell me about your name?
  • What are your thoughts about that?

The benefits of collective wisdom

Nā tō rourou, nā tōku rourou, ka ora ai te iwi – With your knowledge and my knowledge, we will thrive.

This whakataukī reminds us about the benefits of collective wisdom. As parents are thinking about naming their new pēpi, they might want to tap into some of that knowledge from whānau, especially about their whakapapa.

  • Who will be involved in choosing a name for your pēpi?
  • What will you want to consider?
  • How will you go about it?
  • Does your whānau have any special ceremonies or practices for naming babies?
  • What ceremony would you like to do for your pēpi?

What will you be able to tell your pēpi about their name in the future?

How does this relate to Tākai resources?

Baby wall frieze – Kōrero mai mō tō tātou whanau – Teach me about my family

Six things children need – Te aroha me te mahana – Love and warmth

Helpful resources for whānau