Resources for Teaching Poi (Rauemi Whakaako Poi)

The information here is intended for use with complete beginners. We've used the material to run workshops in Playcentres and Schools, and it works very well.

Whakapapa of the Poi


Long, long ago before time began there was no light in the world, only darkness all around. This was the time of Io the creator, the guardian of the world.

In the quiet of the dark lay Ranginui, the Sky Father holding the Earth Mother, Papatūānuku tightly in his arms. Crushed between them in the darkness were their children, all longing for light, space and freedom.

One of the children was Tāne Mahuta, the guardian and father of the forests. Tāne was big and strong. At last he could bear to be crowded no longer and Tāne rose up between his parents and used his great strength to separate them. He thrust Ranginui high, high above Papatūānuku – making sky and earth. Light and air filled the great space between them.

Tāne Mahuta became the father of a great family. Two of his children were Harakeke the flax, child of Pakoti and Raupō, the native bulrush, who was the child of Repo the swamp. Together, Harakeke and Raupō created Poi.

History of the Poi


‘Poi’ is the Maori word for "ball" on a cord.  The Poi was used, many years ago, by the indigenous Maori people of New Zealand to increase their flexibility and strength in their hands and arms as well as improving coordination.

Poi were made from flax blades, raupo, corn husks and core pith. Maori men used rocks (helping to build those muscles). Still today, the shape of the Poi doesn’t matter.  It can be ball or egg shaped. Cord length came as 82cm (long poi), 30cm (three-quarter), 25cm (short poi).

The Poi Today


While Poi design has changed over the years, Poi still consists of the Poi head, cord and grip/handles.  Modern Poi consists of paper, foam, plastic, wool and strings. Weight is very important. A lighter Poi suits a short cord, and heavier Poi suit a longer cord. This weight is necessary to overcome gravity on the upward swing. A light Poi on a long cord may not swing properly at the top of its flight. Also, if you are performing outside, a light Poi could be blown about and difficult to control. A very heavy Poi may be good in the wind, but it could damage and strain your muscles, or even worse break the cord/chain and fly off and hit your audience. Imagine that!

Ngā Tohutohu


All you need is some socks. This is a great way to get into Poi spinning, especially if you have some socks with funky patterns on them.  This is a particularly good activity for inclusion in pre-school settings – the tamariki will thoroughly enjoy selecting the socks and making these. 

To make Poi, all you need are:

  • A pair of long socks or stockings

  • A smaller pair of socks of any size.



1. Roll each smaller sock into a ball shape. If you want you may add extra weight to the inside of these socks like seeds or rice etc.

2. Push the sock ball down into the toe of the long sock. If you want something heavier you could use a tennis ball instead. Repeat process for the other sock. 

3. Pull and stretch out the top end of the sock and tie a knot. This makes a knob that you can swing the sock poi from.

4. You can also sew ribbons onto the ball end of the sock for extra decoration. It also adds to the visual effect of the Poi when spinning.

5. Be aware that you will want to keep the Poi soft and light enough so that it doesn't bruise, especially for our tamariki nohinohi.  Also, the heavier you make the Poi, the slower you can spin it and the less likely the Poi will be affected by the wind.

He Waiata Māmā


Poi are great fun (and can be rather noisy as you become more proficient and incorporate hits and beats).  An all-time favourite in pre-schools around the country is the song below, E Rere Taku Poi, which is sung to the tune of “My Girl”.  This is a good song to not only practise simple movements and twirling, but also Māori words (above, below, inside, out).

Once you’ve mastered this song, you may be ready to put actions to other songs that you already know.  All you need to do this is have access to a Māori dictionary and plenty of creativity (see links below for on-line Māori dictionaries).  This is another great activity to get tamariki involved in.


E rere taku poi

E rere taku poi, ki runga

E rere taku poi

E rere taku poi, ki raro

E rere runga

E rere raro

E rere roto

E rere waho

E rere taku poi

E rere taku poi, ki runga

Flying poi

Flying poi, above

Flying poi

Flying poi, below

Flying above

Flying below

Flying inwards

Flying outwards

Flying poi

Flying poi, above

What To Do?


First, select a song that you know the kids enjoy singing. Some well-known songs like ‘E Tu Kahikatea’ or ‘Me He Manu Rere’ are good ones to start with.  Next, use your dictionary to do a straight translation of the words.  See example below.


Me he manu rere ahau e

Kua rere ki tō moenga,

Ki te awhi tō tinana,

Aue, aue! E te tau, tahuri mai.

If I was a bird on the wing (flying)

I would fly to your bed

To embrace your body

Oh, oh! My darling, turn to me.

So now that you have an idea about what the song is saying, it’s time to engage your creative juices! Poi actions help to tell the story behind the words.
  Amongst your group, find ways to express Bird/Me/Flying/Moenga/Embracing/Turn to Me. Keep the poi twirling, or include a rhythmical beat for everyone to follow.  It really is that easy!