ECE Resources

Principle of Holistic Development | Kotahitanga

This series of guides on the principles and strands of Te Whāriki offers an overview of the key values and underpinnings of early childhood education in Aotearoa New Zealand. Each guide provides links to other resources across our website which can help in implementation of the curriculum.

The principle of holistic development | kotahitanga refers to the need to view the different aspects of children’s learning and development (cognitive, social, emotional, physical, cultural and spiritual) as an integrated and interconnected whole. This means that teachers should always consider each area of learning and development in relation to the others. It means that teachers should seek to develop each area of learning in ways which take account of and build upon children’s existing strengths.

A perspective of holism also informs teachers’ understanding of the nature of curriculum. Every aspect of the environment, resources, relationships , emotional climate, interactions, and community should be recognised as influencing the learning and teaching that take place. There is a focus on the ‘bigger picture’ in which philosophies and values are articulated as an underpinning for the learning that is valued in each setting. This bigger picture or vision is the starting point for determining curriculum, from which activities, events and experiences are derived. Activities should be meaningful, appropriate and relevant to children and their communities, so that the learning of skills, dispositions and knowledge is integrated within children’s participation in shared, meaningful activities and are not separated into discrete, decontextualised  learning tasks.

Some particular practices can be helpful in supporting young children’s holistic development. These include:

By Dr Vicki Hargraves


Dr Vicki Hargraves

Vicki runs our ECE webinar series and also is responsible for the creation of many of our ECE research reviews. Vicki is a teacher, mother, writer, and researcher living in Marlborough. She recently completed her PhD using philosophy to explore creative approaches to understanding early childhood education. She is inspired by the wealth of educational research that is available and is passionate about making this available and useful for teachers.

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