Traditionally, poi and tī rākau sticks were used by early māori as a way to keep their hands and flexible for flax weaving and also as a training tool to build strength and coordination for using weaponry like the Mere or Patu.

Today poi  and tī rākau sticks are a fundamental element in kapa haka performances, the sight and sound of swinging poi and flying tī rākau sticks can be witnessed on stages across Aotearoa.

poi6 whanau living series 2

Your child might have come home asking you to make a poi for them to practise with at home, or perhaps you’d like to make one as a gift. It turns out there are a few tricks to creating ‘performance worthy’ poi and tī rākau sticks. Maihi has the inside scoop on how the pro’s do it and Stacey is joining him for an akoranga (lesson) on poi and tī rākau making- the expert way.


You will need:

  • High density foam
  • Wool
  • Sticky tape
  • White plastic bags
  • Needle and thread
  • Scissors

To assemble:

  • Tin cans
  • Plastic containters

poi whanau living series 2Step 1 – It’s what’s on the inside that matters….

Gone are the days of Dacron filled Poi. These days to get Poi right you need to find some high density foam such as mattress foam that can be found at craft stores and Emporiums. This material upgrade is for a couple of good reasons.

Firstly, the sound quality is better – you get a satisfyingly loud ‘whack’ from this high density foam which adds to the overall quality of your performance.

Secondly, if you should be unlucky enough to burst your Poi on stage …Dacron would fly out all over the place which is not a great look where as the foam keeps its shape and keeps your Mana intact to!

poi3 whanau living series 2Step 2 – Your cord
Now you need to decide how long you want your Poi to be. Grab some wool and cut it into your desired length. Fold it over so it’s doubled. We are going for the traditional colour of red.

Now grab some extra wool and tie it in the middle of your fold . This extra wool will become a tassel, once secured just snip the ends so it’s all lovey and neat.



poi4 whanau living series 2Step 3 – Braiding time
The next step is to braid your cord. The stronger your cord the better.  This is actually pretty easy if you’ve got a buddy to work with. Use some more wool to tie the other end.






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Step 4 – Attach your cord to your ball
The best way to attach the ball to the cord is to sew it in with cotton thread. Make a slit in the foam about 1cm wide and as deep as a fingernail. Insert the wool ends and then simply sew the slit shut securing the wool in the slit which attaches the wool to the ball.

Take the time now to sew this well and your poi will stay strong for much longer. M



poi5 whanau living series 2Step 5 – Cover up operation…
Professional kapa haka teams know that the best covering for poi is thick white plastic bags, slightly glossy finish.

• The next step is to cut a circle from the plastic bag and envelope your ball in it tightly. Make sure the cirlce is big enough to cover the ball well, then trim where necessary.

• Then get some of your wool (or good clear tape) and wind it around the plastic where it meets the wool which secures the plastic to the ball and wool.


Making your tī rākau sticks – Let’s do it!

You will need:

  • Dowel sticks (cut to your chosen length)
  • Washi tape (for decoration)

The way you’ve possibly made these before, is by rolling up and taping together magazines or newspaper into sticks…this is good for beginners to practice with, but neither magazines nor newspaper would cut it on stage!

Step 1 – Cut your dowel
Dowel is a lightweight wood perfect for making tī rākau sticks – just like the pros. You should be able to track this down in most hardware shops – and you can get them to cut it for you too. The ideal size being around 30cm’s.

ti-rakau-sticks whanau living series 2Step 2 – Decorate it,
Use some washi tape (available from stationary and craft shops) to decorate and customise an end of your tī rākau sticks.







ti-rakau-sticks-2 whanau living series 2Step 3 – Try them out!
Work out your vocal cords while you train your hand eye coordination with a round of
E pāpā