Matariki appears in the eastern sky sometime around the shortest day of the year, and is thought to determine how successful the harvest crop will be in the coming season. The brighter the stars, the more productive the crop will be.

The ancestors of Māori used Matariki (as well as other stars and natural signs) to navigate across the Pacific Ocean to Aotearoa. Traditionally, Matariki was both a time to commemorate those who had passed on, and celebrate a time of plenty when stores were abundant from horticulture, hunting and fishing. Nowadays, Matariki is seen as an important time to celebrate the earth, and show respect for the land on which we live.


The Matariki star cluster is a kaitiaki (guardian) of the year to come. As an organisation that is 100% New Zealand owned, our teachers take pride in celebrating Matariki with children in as many distinctive ways as possible. 


Educating, connecting communities and stimulating children’s imaginations are all opportunities that Matariki brings. Here are some of the stories and activities that have captured the children’s imaginations during Matariki.


Would you like to see how our West Coast kindergartens celebrated Matariki? Click here.


Kidsfirst Lady May in Upper Riccarton had a special focus on looking to the stars. They learned a new Matariki waiata which names each of the Seven Sisters stars, and tells the children the story of Matariki. Hūhana Carter, one of Kidsfirst’s Māori education advisors, visited and shared the story of Rata, who wanted to build a waka, and had to learn to ask permission from Tāne to take a tree. To finish their celebrations, children shared a morning tea with friends and whānau.


Sharing food is such a big part of Matariki. At Kidsfirst Wales Street in Halswell, they made their own invitations to send out to family members to come and share kai together. Grandparents, parents and siblings all turned up to join in the fun as a community.


Kidsfirst Lyttelton have an annual concert and Head Teacher Liz Davey says it's the "highlight of the year for both the children and whānau".


"Matariki is marked by joining as a kindergarten community to share kai and for the children to sing their favourite waiata they have learnt over the year. The children take the responsibility of putting on the concert very seriously and put a lot of effort into practicing and preparing. They are very proud to participate, and the support of this event is so high that the Kidsfirst family bursts at the seams!" 


Across at Kidsfirst Ilam, they had a grandparent week, inviting them to experience kindergarten again for a day. Teacher Julie O’Flaherty said that “this was to support the value of whanaungatanga, the connections we develop with people, places and things over time, and respect our heritage.”


The children loved showing their grandparents their favourite activities and skills. They also made lolly cake and citrus slice to offer their grandparents as they took on the role of hosts.


They had a shared lunch and concert out at Kidsfirst Richmond. Head Teacher Liz Hinchey said that it was the first time the kindergarten had celebrated Matariki, and the community came out with huge support for the children’s performances. Because they had it at lunchtime, they made the Seven Sister stars of Matariki out of glitter and placed them on the ceiling. They listened to the story of Rata as well, and the children sung six songs as well as their own waiata before having a shared lunch of many different cultures' foods.


Kidsfirst Templeton had a community meal together, where children and parents were involved in making the soup. As a presentation for whānau, the children performed with poi and sung the well-known ‘Paki Paki’. Everyone brought along a plate to share together, and along with the homemade soup, there was a lot to go around. A telescope was set up outside so that everyone could see the constellation of Matariki, which was a great learning experience for children and parents alike, said Trish Ralston, Head Teacher of Kidsfirst Templeton.


ABOVE: Looking to the stars out at Kidsfirst Templeton.


Heading north now to Kidsfirst Vickery Street in Kaiapoi, they also made a vegetable soup, which they shared with the new entrant class from Kaiapoi Borough School. They welcomed the school children by singing to them, and then they all played together until kai time. Head Teacher Barbara Forrester said, “It was a great time of community building and celebrating the wonder of Matariki together.”


Just down the road from them, Kaiapoi North children and teachers voted on how to celebrate Matariki, with a disco being the most popular idea. Jill Chatterton, Head Teacher at Kidsfirst Kaiapoi North, said, “After that, it was up to us to involve the children as much as we could.” A lot of help went into making the disco the success it was, with the community contributing by bringing glow sticks, sewing curtains to separate the dancing from the kitchen, organising the playlist of music, cooking hotdogs and moving furniture so the dance floor was as accessible as possible. Jill mentioned that having the children prepare for the event makes it very inclusive and empowers them to take ownership of the occasion, which is exactly what the teachers wanted.


There were also a range of activities at Kidsfirst Nuffield in New Brighton for the children to immerse themselves in the celebration of the stars. They played string games, replenished the garden, made bird feeders out of old fruit to hang, learned a mihi and waiata to perform for the families, had a shared lunch and a “starry night disco”.


This is a truly uniquely New Zealand celebration, and it’s great to see the variety of ways in which Kidsfirst Kindergartens observe Matariki. 







The ascent of Matariki in late May or June signals the change of season and heralds the start  of the Māori New Year.

Read about how our kindergartens celebrate the Māori New Year.





From Rachel Ryan at Kidsfirst Nuffield:


By celebrating Matariki the tamariki had the opportunity to learn about some principles of tikanga (the meaning and custom):


  • Ūkaipōtanga– taking strength from where we come from, who we are and what we have around us.
  • Kaitiakitanga– sustainable practice including connections with the land culture and heritage.
  • Kotahitanga– all are encouraged to make their contribution– all on board the same waka!
  • Whanaungatanga– appreciating that the contributing factors and components necessary for learning and sharing are people and relationships.




The pre-dawn rise of Matariki is the Māori name for the star cluster known as the Pleiades, or the Seven Sisters.  About 500 stars make up the cluster, but only seven can be seen clearly with the naked eye.









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