Childhood during the First World War

Students examine photographs from the early 1900s and imagine what life was like for children 100 years ago living in New Zealand.

A girl and boy alongside a whāriki (mat), pedal-cart, and tricycle.(external link)

A girl and boy alongside a whāriki (mat), pedal-cart, and tricycle, by unknown photographer, ca. 1910s. Alexander Turnbull Library, reference 1/2-074034-G.


The First World War was a life-changing experience for New Zealanders who travelled overseas to join the war. But it also changed the lives of those left at home. Everyone was called upon to show their support of the war, including children. Young New Zealanders raised funds, knitted socks and scarves, and wrote letters to men at the front. 

Key questions 

  • What can we observe? 
  • What do we already know? 
  • How might people view these images in different ways? 

Possible discussion questions 

  • How is this school photograph similar or different to photographs from your school or class? 
  • What signs (if any) are there that these photos were taken during wartime? 
  • What do these photographs tell us about life in New Zealand at the time of the First World War? 
  • What can you see in the background of these photographs, and what do these details tell us? 
  • If one of these children visited our classroom today, what do you think they would find most interesting? What would you like to ask them? 
  • Do you have photographs similar to these at home? 
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