Celebrating Languages at Buckle My Shoe!

At Buckle My Shoe, our families come from different parts of the world and we enjoy celebrating & getting better acquainted with their many different cultures and languages. Over the last two weeks, we have been exploring Tongan Language Week and Maori Language Week.


We are lucky enough to have one of our very own teachers with a Pasifika background. Becky’s family heritage has links to Tonga, and she planned a special mat time for our little ones - bringing in different treasures from home that represent her culture. A big turtle shell caught our little ones’ attention. We passed it around - examining how hard it was, the unique patterns on it and the story behind it. After that, we decided it would be fun to learn some Tongan words!


Becky role modeled how to say “hello” in Tongan (Ma lo e lelei). Sounding out each syllable, our tamariki practiced a new word they could add to their existing vocabulary. Many of our tamariki know how to count to 10 in Te Reo, and so Becky taught them how to do this in Tongan as well. We were surprised to hear that many of the words sounded quite similar!

Later on in the day, the turtle was still a hot topic on many of our little ones’ minds, so we set up an art experience that provoked the creation of cultural patterns upon a turtle shell. Using a special cloth from the Islands to provoke our thinking even further, our little ones began their own cultural designs.


The following week, we acknowledged and celebrated Maori language week – Te Wiki o te Reo Maori. The timing was perfect – with special books in Te Reo (with an English translation) being delivered to the centre, that captured the interests of our little learners. Each story had a fun topic and after challenging ourselves with pronunciation, we unpacked the meaning by reading the English translation in the second part of the book.


Children learn so much through song, and at Buckle My Shoe we have many favourite waiata that we enjoy singing during our morning mat times. “Tena Koe”, “Ma is White” and “One day a Taniwha” are just a few of the many waiata that make up our favourite playlists!

We also explored poi and rakau sticks as special items used in performances, and our tamariki loved exploring poi dancing. The waiata “E rere Taka poi” explores different movements with poi – moving it up, down, in and out all whilst keeping it twirling. This exercise requires coordination (hand-eye) and of course concentration! By the end of the week we had many confident poi dancers. 😊

Using different games at our mat times like “What’s in the kete?”, we learned object names in Te Reo and very soon at our mealtimes, we could hear the children saying “I have a panana (banana) in my lunchbox” with another replying, “I have an aporo (apple)”.

Even though Tongan and Maori language week are officially over, we will continue to expand our vocabulary with the various languages that represent the cultures of our tamariki and whanau of our centre. 😊