This morning I made banana pancakes with my 5-year-old nephew.

They're only three ingredients: banana, egg and cinnamon (get the recipe at

That makes them perfect for a quick breakfast, and also perfect for capturing a kid's attention just long enough not to get bored.

He mashed the bananas and cracked the eggs, I did the stuff with the hot pan.


When they were finished, he ate a big plateful with yoghurt and fruit, and declared the pancakes scored 1050 points.

I'm not quite sure how the scoring scale works, but I think that is pretty good.

This was a good reminder that the gift of cooking is one of the greatest we can give our kids. With school holidays approaching, it's a really good time to think about that, if you can.

It doesn't have to be complicated or messy - the pancakes are a good example. And it doesn't have to be elaborate baking, either, which tends to be the default kitchen activity we gravitate towards with kids.

It's better, actually, to get them involved in main meal preparation at some level - chopping, stirring or helping with actual cooking, if they're old enough.

Giving kids the ability to make a meal for themselves means they turn into adults with the ability to take control of their health and that means they won't have to hand over that control to someone else - whether it's a chef, a fast-food cook or a manufacturer.

Having that control makes staying healthy much, much easier, lifelong.

To some degree, that's backed up by evidence.

We know kids whose families eat regular meals together at the table have better health outcomes, both psychologically and physically.

We also know - although the evidence is limited - that school cooking programmes positively influence children's food preferences and behaviours.

There's not much I can find in terms of studies to show that kids who cook at home do better.

But we do know that cooking and eating as a family is central to many of the world's healthiest cultures. In the so-called Blue Zones, where the world's longest-lived people are - family and community are valued and young people are involved in food preparation.

Locally, we also know programmes to teach kids the skills of growing, preparing and sharing food have broader effects.

The Garden to Table programme operates in over 40 schools, who report the kids are taking home what they've learned and the learning is going the other way. Kids are teaching parents and the wider community.

With obesity on the rise among Kiwi kids with no sign of plateauing, we need to do everything we can - at every level - to try to fight this.

The simple act of sharing the preparation of a meal with a child might not seem much, but it's one piece in the puzzle that can potentially have huge impact.

And it's fun, too.