Local babies who have the important job of helping teach children about empathy have been celebrated this week.

The Roots of Empathy Rotorua Baby Celebration was held at the Rotorua Lakes Council on Tuesday.

Roots of Empathy is an evidence-based programme in which a baby and parent visit a classroom over the course of the school year.

A trained Roots of Empathy instructor coaches students on observing the baby's development and labelling the baby's feelings.


With the instructor's guidance, they then reflect on their own feelings and the feelings of others.

Volunteer parents and babies, Roots of Empathy instructors, classroom teachers, pupils and school representatives attended the celebration.

The Roots of Empathy programme is currently in seven schools across the district - Kaharoa School, Malfroy School, Westbrook School, Kaitao Intermediate, Rotokawa School, Mamaku School and Kawaha Point School.

New Zealand programme manager Ally Fulcher says the volunteer babies have started their teaching careers when they are just months old and have already started working to make the world a better place.

She says the event was held to celebrate this and the work they were doing with the pupils.

"I thank the parents for their leap of faith and bringing their babies into the school environment.

"Thank you to the teachers who find time in their incredibly busy timetables and the principals who allow the programme into their schools, and to the many instructors and volunteers."

Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick attended the event, saying it is her dream to see the Roots of Empathy programme in every primary school in the district.

Westbrook School principal Colin Watkins, who also attended, says Roots of Empathy started in Rotorua about eight years ago thanks to Kaharoa School principal Warwick Moyle.

He says it is important to help children develop empathy, but he has also noticed the children who already have empathy feel okay to share it - "I think that is just as important".

New Zealand Roots of Empathy Trust trustee Bruce Horne agrees with Colin.

"I get a great deal of encouragement from this community which is so full of people passionate about making a difference to this community because they believe in it.

"I'm very excited about this year going forward."

Two Kaitao Intermediate pupils at the event shared what they had learned and enjoyed about the programme.

These included what food babies need, communication around toddlers and learning about how babies achieve new milestones.