Principles of learning and development in early childhood

Holistic development

The early childhood curriculum reflects the holistic way children learn and grow.

Cognitive, social, cultural, physical, emotional, and spiritual dimensions of human development are integrally interwoven. The early childhood curriculum takes up a model of learning that weaves together intricate patterns of linked experience and meaning rather than emphasising the acquisition of discrete skills. The child’s whole context, the physical surroundings, the emotional context, relationships with others, and the child’s immediate needs at any moment will affect and modify how a particular experience contributes to the child’s development. This integrated view of learning sees the child as a person who wants to learn, sees the task as a meaningful whole, and sees the whole as greater than the sum of its individual tasks or experiences.

Learning and development will be integrated through:

  • tasks, activities, and contexts that have meaning for the child, including practices and activities not always associated with the word “curriculum”, such as care routines, mealtimes, and child management strategies;
  • opportunities for open-ended exploration and play;
  • consistent, warm relationships that connect everything together;
  • recognition of the spiritual dimension of children’s lives in culturally, socially, and individually appropriate ways;
  • recognition of the significance and contribution of previous generations to the child’s concept of self.

All adults working in early childhood education centres should have a knowledge and understanding of child development and a clear understanding of the context in which they are working.

To address bicultural issues, adults working in early childhood education should have an understanding of Māori views on child development and on the role of the family as well as understanding the views of other cultures in the community. Activities, stories, and events that have connections with Māori children’s lives are an essential and enriching part of the curriculum for all children in early childhood education settings.

This principle relates to The New Zealand Curriculum Framework principles of ensuring that learning is coherent and that the curriculum recognises and values the unique position of Māori in New Zealand society. It also links with the principle that children should be encouraged to understand and respect the different cultures which make up our society.


Mā te whāriki o te kōhanga reo e whakaata te kotahitanga o ngā whakahaere katoa mō te ako a te mokopuna, mō te tipu o te mokopuna.

Mō ngā mokopuna o te kōhanga reo:

  • ka āhei rātou ki te tipu i roto i te kotahitanga o ngā whakahaere ā-wairua, ā-hinengaro, ā-tinana, ā-whatumanawa;
  • ka tipu rātou i roto i ō rātou mana iwi, mana hapū, mana whānau, mana āhua ake, mana motuhake;
  • ka mana te tino rangatiratanga.

Last updated: 9 April 2009