Objective To investigate New Zealand children’s understandings of ‘health’. Design Secondary analysis of student responses to a task called ‘Being Healthy’ in New Zealand’s National Education Monitoring Project. Setting Year 4 (8–9 year-old) and Year 8 (12–13 year-old) students who took part in New Zealand’s National Education Monitoring for Health and Physical Education in 2002. Method Coding of student responses using NVivo qualitative analysis package. Results Students reiterated messages widely promulgated in popular and professional mediums. Students predominantly conceived of health as a corporeal matter, citing eating, exercise and hygiene practices as the most important health promoting behaviours. Conclusion Students could usefully be encouraged to adopt socially critical understandings of what health might entail and broader, more holistic conceptualizations of health beyond matters of the ‘body’ alone.