Teaching Kids About Matariki All You Need To Know

If you live in New Zealand then you may have heard of Matariki. Matariki is an important celebration for Maori and New Zealanders and today I’ll be answering some basic questions such as what does Matariki mean? and how can I celebrate Matariki with children?

Teaching children about different cultures and celebrations is super important. It allows little ones to learn more about their own identity and to understand the greater and wider world. Being part Maori, I feel it is important for me to share what I know about Matariki and I’m excited to provide this robust online resource for both teachers and parents and anyone wanting to learn more about Matariki.

There’s a lot to learn and I’m keen to share my knowledge with you. I’ll also be sharing some fantastic Matariki resources and colouring pages along with one or two fun Matariki activity ideas to help you celebrate this special occasion with the little ones.

What Is Matariki All About?

The term Matariki is used to describe both the Maori new year celebration and the cluster of stars known traditionally by Europeans as Pleiades. (Matariki in Te Reo Maori).

Matariki is an important cultural event for New Zealanders. It celebrates the time when new crops are sown and coincides with the Maori months of harvesting, which means that there can be lots to eat around this time! Matariki begins around June or July each year and is an important celebration for Maori and New Zealanders.


Starting in 2022, New Zealand will hold a public holiday every year marking the celebration of Matariki. The date may vary from year to year but the celebration of Matariki will always be around June or July.

Why is Matariki Important? 

Celebrating the Maori New Year is important to Maori. Maori traditions, beliefs and stories have been passed down through the ages and this taonga and knowledge is to be treasured and taught to each generation.

Matariki signals the Maori New Year, which is a time of remembrance, peace and thanksgiving.

Traditionally Matariki was a time to think of our tipuna (ancestors) who have passed on and was a time to release their spirits to become stars in the skies above.

Matariki is a great time to remember those we love and those we have come to know through stories, and oral histories passed down to us as well as through learning our whakapapa known in English as family history.

Matariki is a good time to reflect and show gratitude. It is a great opportunity to come together with family and friends to share what we have, feast together and help those in need.

Here are a few Matariki Facts:

  • The constellation of Matariki is found in the northern skies and is made up of 7 stars, Matariki is the mother and the other six stars are her daughters.
  • Matariki or matariki koronui means ‘little eyes’ or ‘tiny eyes’ in Te Reo Maori. 
  • Matariki’s rising is used to mark the beginning of the Maori new year and it signals that summer will soon arrive.
  • Matariki has also been known as takurua (the star cluster), ururangi (eyes of god) and ngutu-kārearea (red eye).
  • Matarikitanga is the act of celebrating the stars by looking at them with family and friends.

Where are the matariki stars? 

The Matariki stars can be seen from the northern hemisphere in winter, starting mid-June and ending a few days before summer starts. The best time to look at them is just after midnight on June 15th when they rise about six degrees above Taurus’ horns.

Matariki’s stars are the first to appear in our night sky at this time of year, representing new beginnings according to Maori culture . The beautiful sight marks an end-of-winter holiday season full with festivities like public concerts held by cultural groups or mihi , where iwi share their knowledge about whakapapa (the genealogy) through song and dance.

Matariki Star Names

According to Maori legend, the Matariki Stars are made of of Matariki, the whaea (mother) who is surrounded by her six daughters. Each daughter has a name and each year Matariki and her daughters travel across the sky to visit their tupuna wahine also known as Papatuanuku or Mother Earth.

Here are the names of the six daughters of Matariki

  • Waitī
  • Waitā
  • Waipuna-a-rangi
  • Tupu-ā-rangi
  • Tupu-ā-nuku
  • Uru-a-rangi

Matariki Lesson Plan And Activity Ideas

You may want to spend the day celebrating Matariki in the Kindergarten, the classroom or at home. If so, then here are some great Matariki activities the kids will love.

Read The Matariki Story

Why not begin with the Matariki story! You might want to read The Little Kiwi’s Matariki which is a great children’s book all about Matariki, the Maori new year and the traditions that go along with Matariki.

little kiwis matariki

Make The Matariki Constellation

Create your own Matariki constellation with the little ones. Tie some wooden twigs together and hang seven stars using string.


If you want to teach children how to find Matariki then you can watch this 2 minute video over on the Te papa museum website. Watch the video here!

Paint The Matariki Star Cluster

If you have kids who love to paint then why not create your very own Maori new year art project. Have the children paint the Matariki stars. Older children might want to paint their ancestors or choose one of stars to paint.

Use Matariki Colouring Pages

You could have older children create a Matariki Poster and for younger children you might like to use our free Matariki colouring page to have fun with the kids on this special occasion.

Having children draw their own Matariki stars and or colour in fun Matariki printables can create a great environment for teaching and telling stories as well as encouraging conversations about Katiakitanga (guardianship).

We are all Kaitiaki, guardians of the land and the Maori new year is a great time to teach the importance of protecting both the land, sky and sea.

Teach Children a Matariki Waiata or Song

Another fun way to bring your matariki activities together is by teaching children a waiata about matariki. One of my personal favourites is “Tukuna Mai Te Matariki” which tells the story of matariki and how it lit up our sky bringing in the new year. You can listen to Tukuna mai te matariki below or find suggested lyrics below as well.

Te Whaea o Matariki

Tukuna mai te matariki, whakawhiti te ra,

Tupu nui, tupu roa, tupu whenua nui ia raua ko Rangi

Whiti atu koe i runga i to matou rangi

Whiti atu ki runga ki te matou rangi.

Te whaea o matariki, tukuna mai te ra!

Tupu nui, tupu roa, tupu whenua nui ia raua ko Rangi.

Whiti atu koe i runga i to matou rangi,

Whiti atu ki runga ki te matou rangi.

Write A Matariki Poem

Matariki is more than making a simple decoration or creating an art work. It’s about remembering where you come from and acknowledging a culture (the Maori culture which should never be forgotten but celebrated always in New Zealand.

You could have the children write poems about ancestors, family, thanksgiving and traditional Maori beliefs. You might want to write poems in Te Reo Maori (The Maori language) or write about New Zealand culture.

Play Matariki Bingo

Create some Matariki Bingo cards with the little ones and have a fun game of bingo to help teach the different Matariki star names.

Make A Matariki Flag

You could create a flag and sew the seven Matariki stars to the flag. You could also make paper flags if you’re looking for something a little more simple to make.


Celebrating Matariki with children is an experience you will love. There are plenty of activities to do to help little ones learn more about the Maori culture, traditions, beliefs and legends. How will you celebrate Matariki this year?

Te Papa Museum – Finding Matariki Video Link: https://tepapa.govt.nz/video/131105-finding-matariki

Te Papa Museum – Te reo song lyrics to matariki song (Tukuna mai te matariki) http://www.tepapa.gov

About Angela Milnes

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