12 Common Māori Words and Phrases for Babies


For many of our followers, the goal of learning te reo Māori is to raise their tamariki (kids) with a strong foundation in the language. Starting small with basic words and phrases is a great way to set the precedent for your whānau.

To kickstart your journey, we've curated 12 common words and phrases for interacting with pēpi from birth and beyond to help parents introduce te reo Māori to their whare. These have been chosen from our own experience as parents raising our three tamariki with te reo Māori as their first language. 

For additional phrases suitable for slightly older tamariki (3yrs+), check out our blog post "10 Everyday Māori Phrases For Kids"

awhi - hug

Ko te awhi noa iho tō pīrangi, nē?
You just wanted a hug, didn’t you?

pīwari - cute

pīwari hoki!
You’re so cute!

ārai poho - bib

He paru rawa atu tō ārai poho!
Your bib is so dirty!

taonga tākaro - toy

Anei tō tino taonga tākaro.
Here’s your favourite toy.

tangi - cry

He aha koe e tangi nei e kō/tama?
Why are you crying, darling girl/boy?

waiū - milk

Mākona katoa ana tōna hiainu i te waiū.
He/she is milk drunk.

pātara - bottle

Tēnā, whakamahanatia te pātara miraka.
Please warm up the milk bottle.

kope - nappy

Me tīni au i tō kope.
I need to change your nappy.

hiamoe - sleepy

Kei te hiamoe koe?
Are you sleepy?

waka pēpi - pram

Kaua e wareware i te waka pēpi.
Don’t forget the pram.

tāpu - bath

He wā tāpu!
Bath time!

ngōki - crawl

E ngōki ana koe ki (w)hea?
Where are you crawling off to?


To make learning even easier, we have a downloadable printout of these phrases available for your convenience.

Incorporating More Te Reo Māori into Everyday Life

To deepen your child's connection to Te Reo Māori, consider these other practical additions:

1. Pukapuka: Māori Books

Integrate Te Reo Māori books into your daily reading routine. Libraries, online resources and bookstores offer a wealth of options suitable for all ages.

2. Waiata: Māori Music

Explore Māori waiata (songs) for children. Singing along to catchy tunes is a fun way to learn and reinforce language.

3. Māori Playgroups & Kōhanga Reo

Join local Māori playgroups or language classes. These environments provide authentic language experiences for both you and your pēpi. Consider enrolling your pēpi in a local Kōhanga Reo where they will be fully immersed in the Māori language and culture. 

4. Attend Cultural Events

Attend Māori cultural events and celebrations. Immersing your whānau in Māori culture and contexts where the language is spoken openly and fluently will help deepen your connection to the language and culture, as well as strengthen your learning journey.

As you incorporate these foundational words and phrases into your daily interactions with your pēpi, know that small steps and consistency will go a long way to building a strong foundation for a household that prioritises learning te reo Māori. Karawhiua!