How Children Learn

How Children Learn

As a parent or caregiver, you are your child's first teacher and understand them better than anyone else. You can help your child's development during the important early years.


How can I help my child's development during the early years?

You can get tamariki (children) off to a great start by getting involved in their learning early. It's easy and fun too.

Spending time playing and interacting with you and others helps tamariki learn the skills they need for life. These include skills like:

  • communicating
  • thinking
  • problem-solving
  • moving
  • being with other people. 

If tamariki have opportunities to try lots of different activities, it gives them lots of ways to learn and chances to practise what they are learning.

Learning starts from the very beginning

Learning to read, write and do maths starts at birth. Many of the everyday activities you do with your baby or young child help make connections in their brain and get them ready for literacy and numeracy.

There are many ways you can help your child develop a love for reading, writing and mathematics in their early years such as talking, reading, playing and counting games. The golden rule is to keep it fun for everyone.

Read to your child


Your child loves to hear you read to them, and this is one of the best things you can do to help them learn about language, learn to read and grow a lifelong love of reading. 

Talking and singing to your child builds pathways in their brain that will help them learn to understand what you are saying and how to talk.

You might also like to check out the KidsHealth page about play and your child's development.

Support your child

Your child needs your support for learning. For example, they might sometimes need you to show them what to do. But they don't need you to give them all the answers.

Letting your child make mistakes and find out for themselves how the world works is a big part of learning. Praise and encouragement when your child tries hard will keep them interested and help them feel good.

Early learning services

At their early learning service or kōhanga reo, your child will learn skills that will consolidate and build on what they have already learned at home. Early childhood education will help your child develop into a positive, confident and capable individual, and form a strong foundation for later learning.

Where can I find some useful resources on supporting my child's learning at home?

The Ministry of Education

The Ministry of Education website

The Ministry of Education has a useful section for parents on supporting learning at home.


Raising Children - The Australian parenting website

Raising children website

Raising Children is an Australian Government-funded website that provides evidence-based tips and tools for everyday parenting from pregnancy to teens. The website has useful information and videos on learning ideas, play, literacy and reading, gifted and talented children, media and technology.


Where can I find some useful resources on early childhood education?

The Ministry of Education

The Ministry of Education website

The Ministry of Education website has useful information for parents about early childhood education (ECE) including choosing an ECE service, supporting learning at home, getting involved in your child's ECE and moving on to school.


This page last reviewed 22 December 2023.

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