No Lunchboxes In June

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The first of June heralded the beginning of winter in New Zealand, and the temperature drop took us by surprise, as autumn’s temperatures were unseasonably warm.

 No Lunchboxes Required Through June

During June, we have been trialling ‘no lunchboxes’, and instead, we’re cooking our lunchtime meals. With an open pantry with ingredients from different cultures, tamariki are being exposed to preparing vegetables, cooking techniques and different vegetarian meals.

While we’ve always promoted lunchboxes in our centre, to support children in preparing them for school, we also believe it’s essential for children to understand that our food grows and isn’t produced at a supermarket.  

Where Does Our Food Come From?

Being involved in a long-term project, such as gardening, is where learning happens.

Many of us buy fruit, vegetables and meat from the supermarket because it's easy and convenient.

Most of our children believe that fruit and vegetables come from the supermarket. When we reversed our questions to backtrack on children knowledge, children didn’t realise that fruit and vegetables grew in the ground, harvested — then transported to the supermarket.  They just thought the ‘man’ unpacked boxes of fruit and vegetables to put on the shelves.

 Understanding More About Food

We are very fortunate to have an ample green space for children to play at Giggles. There are little ‘pockets’ of green space that aren’t currently being used. Because of children’s interest in food, we want to bridge the learning gap for children’s understanding of where fruit, vegetables and herbs come from.

Children have a considerable interest in growing plants, as we planted fruit trees in our playground last summer and the summer before. Plus, children helped grow sunflowers this past summer.


Before going ahead with the plan of our vegetable garden, we visited Mitre 10 in Te Puke, to look and talk about the differences between seeds and seedlings.

Checking out different plants at Mitre 10.

The conversation then turned to what vegetables children liked to eat or what they were familiar with. While we were talking our conversation turned to what vegetables grow in winter and how long they would take to grow.

Our conversation around herbs was very interesting. Only a small group of children knew about herbs and what they were used for, and some tamariki were able to tell us the herbs their parents use for cooking.  

Towards the end of our visit at Mitre 10, we decided that we wanted to grow winter vegetables and herbs, and choose a few to add to our trolley.


Our Vegetable Garden

We decided on utilising one area of the green space platform between the centre and our large playground, to plant our vegetable garden. To give our seedlings the best start before planting into the ground, we’ve planted them into a self-watering seedling house and seedling trays.

Planting cauliflower, onions, spring onions, rhubarb, kale, silverbeet and broccoli.

A New House For Our Feathered Friends

The remaining area of this green platform is ideal for free range chickens.

Brennan, along with tamariki are in the process of building a magnificent chicken coup for our chickens.

The purpose of having chickens in our centre, is to bring a little bit of rural life into our learning environment, where children can care for and raise our chicken’s for laying eggs,

Working hard to get the chicken coup completed for our new feathered friends.

Our Mini Orchard

Our mini orchard is thriving, and we look forward to seeing the fruits of our labour ready for picking in summer. Our mini orchard is growing: grapes, passionfruit, raspberries, blackberries, boysenberries, back currents, mandarin tree, peach tree, lemon tree and three feijoa trees.

Our mini orchard is growing: grapes, passionfruit, raspberries, blackberries, boysenberries, back currents, mandarin tree, peach tree, lemon tree and three feijoa trees.

Cooked Lunches - Made By Children, For Children

With a mini orchard, a vegetable garden and chickens, our vision is to provide our own fruit, vegetables and eggs for cooking and baking our own food.

In the meantime, while the vegetables, fruit and herbs are growing, and we’re waiting for our chickens to move into their new environment, we’ve been experimenting cooking our own lunches with different ingredients.


Our teaching team has seen a shift in children attitudes towards food. Children help prepare the ingredients for cooking, watch and help with the cooking process, then enjoy the outcome of eating what they helped prepare.


Trying Something Different To Eat

Our menu is spontaneous, and so far we’ve cooked vermicelli noodles lightly fried with vegetable sticks rolled in roti. We’ve helped Whaea Param cook curry and roti, together we’ve made homemade pizzas, as well as macaroni and cheese, also pasta and vegetables, pancakes, and so much more.


There are many reasons why we’ve decided to trial ‘no lunchboxes’ during June. But the most positive outcome to this trial, is listening to tamariki conversations flow as they help prepare food. Tamariki are strengthening their questioning skills, and building their confidence to carry on conversations with one another.


Children are also learning different techniques on how to peel and cut vegetables. They’re realising that when you cut onions, that onions can sting and make our eyes water.

Whaea Param was telling us a story, “while I was cutting the onion, tears started to fall from my eyes. The child in front of me said “Param you’re crying” and went running off to get a flannel, came back and wiped my eyes.”

Who could of imagined this learning experience of empathy?

More Than Just Food

Even though our initial intention was to find out where food comes from, children are learning life-long skills in communication, socialisation, being patient, caring, turn-taking and sharing. Great skills to learn for readying themselves for school.

Do you have a recipe you would like to share with us, for children to experience cooking with their teachers? If you do, please email your recipe to or take a photo of the recipe and upload onto Giggles Facebook page.


Mentioned in this post:

>> Mitre 10 (gardening section)

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