Nurturing social competence in early learning

Issue: Volume 99, Number 4

Posted: 12 March 2020
Reference #: 1HA6RM

He Māpuna te Tamaiti is a new resource aimed at supporting kaiako in early learning services to develop children’s social and emotional competence, engagement, and learning.

Mornings can be difficult for three-year-old Mason. He often struggles to settle after being dropped off at the early learning service he attends in Dunedin. 

Mason arrives excited to carry on with projects from the day before and feels disappointed when his friends have chosen different activities with other peers. He often hasn’t eaten a good breakfast because of the excited feelings in his tummy. And he finds it hard to say goodbye to his nana who drops him off on her way to work.

This is just one of many scenarios outlined in He Māpuna te Tamaiti, a new resource designed for kaiako in early learning settings. The resource is focused on promoting proactive, intentional approaches to support the development of children’s social and emotional competence.

This particular scenario looks at approaches taken by kaiako and Mason’s whānau working together to support his transition into the activities of the day. For example, Nana is supported to develop consistent ‘goodbye’ routines, involving ‘positive forecasting’ and bringing breakfast for Mason to eat at the centre. 

The kaiako support continuity and predictability by preparing Mason near the end of each day for the day ahead and providing visual supports for choosing morning activities. They develop some activities to help build Mason’s confidence and self-esteem.

This small case study is likely to resonate with many kaiako around New Zealand. As such, it is accompanied by a list of resources to help support the development of children’s social and emotional learning and a small group exercise to aid professional learning in this area. 

The exercise encourages kaiako to discuss the case, consider it from Mason’s point of view and look at additional strategies to help children develop emotional resilience. 

A practical and flexible resource

The above example is just one of many case studies in He Māpuna te Tamaiti, spliced into four key sections: creating a supportive environment; promoting emotional competence; promoting social competence; and supporting learning and engagement.

These sections are based on key pedagogical approaches promoted by Te Whāriki: He whāriki mātauranga mō ngā mokopuna o Aotearoa and highlight the important role of early learning in upholding Te Tiriti o Waitangi and making it relevant for all types of early learning services. The resource is also in line with the Government’s Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy.

The final two sections of the resource focus on understanding behaviour and reflection, inquiry, and problem solving – useful for teams working together to strengthen their collective knowledge and expertise. A self-assessment tool is also included to support this process of evaluation and inquiry.

He Māpuna te Tamaiti is designed to be practical and flexible. Kaiako can dip in and out of the resource as needed. It promotes evidence-based strategies for supporting foundational learning and emphasises the critical connections between social-emotional competence and strengthening children’s identity, culture, and language. 

There are strategies across a broad range of topics, including establishing consistent routines, developing care and empathy for others, building resilience, fostering peer friendships and supporting children to manage their learning. 

Additional support material includes a set of cards for kaiako to use in daily practice and during professional learning conversations. Te Whāriki Online also accommodates a PDF of the book, a self-assessment PDF, five short videos and a presentation to support with its implementation. 

Anticipated by the sector

Hutt City Kindergarten Association has begun embedding He Māpuna te Tamaiti into its practices.

Annie Collings, who leads the association’s Learning Support Cluster group, says the new resource has been well received by their kindergartens. Their senior management team has already discussed how they will unpack He Māpuna te Tamaiti with their teaching teams.

“The user-friendly way it is presented has encouraged teachers to engage with it,” says Annie. 

“As an organisation, we have planned professional learning and development to unpack and implement the documents within our teacher practices and our association policies and procedures.”

Annie points to the examples and scenarios woven into the text. 

“Many of our teachers are familiar with the scenarios and for some, the information provided is affirmation of their current practice – or a great refresher for them.

“The prompt cards have been used by teams to support their practices and they have found them extremely useful.

“I think having the additional links to resources is extremely helpful as are the reflective questions to support teachers’ thinking.”

Annie is also pleased to see the self-assessment sheets within the document that can be used by teachers individually or as a team.

“We have encouraged teams to use the document to support team professional discussions, develop inquiry goals and when undertaking strategic internal evaluations.”

For more information or to download He Māpuna te Tamaiti, visit TKI Te Whāriki Online(external link).

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BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 10:52 am, 12 March 2020

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