Ten-year-old Tom Wilton wore his great-grandfather's uniform to Wellington's Anzac Day dawn service this morning.
The uniform was around 100 years old, he said. His great-grandfather fought in Gallipoli.
Tom was among thousands of young people attending dawn parades around the country, many wearing the medals of their grandfathers and great-grandfathers.
The strong numbers of younger people coming to the ceremonies have been welcomed by many.
Auckland mayor Len Brown said it was a positive sign that the next generation were involved in marking ANZAC day.
"We're seeing young people taking a lead role," he said.
"They're carrying the baton and taking the spirit of ANZAC forward. We're seeing more and more youngsters, grandmas and granddads bringing the young ones out and ensuring they get a sense of the spirit of ANZAC."
In Christchurch, among the younger generation at the service were Jack, 7, Max, 5, and Will Denison, 3. It was their fourth, third and second times at the dawn parade respectively.
Father Pedro Denison said his children enjoyed coming so much it was "a bit like Christmas" for them.
"They were awake at about 5am this morning waiting.
"They have their favourite parts, obviously the guns are a bit of an attraction."
He said it was important for the younger generation to witness the service, and although the two younger children may not understand the meaning behind it, Jack was "starting to understand a bit more".
In Auckland Corporal Alasdair McIntosh brought his five-year-old daughter and one-year-old son to the service for the first time.
McIntosh said he saw a steady growth in crowds each year, which he remembered as being only half the size when he first attended 39 years ago.
Close to 10,000 people gathered at Auckland War Memorial Museum for the Anzac Day dawn service, helped by a strong turn-out of families and young children.
"It certainly resonates with people and I think has more of a link with the current-day conflicts," McIntosh said.
"There's a whole new generation seeing that it's not only great granddads but people nowadays serving around the world."
McIntosh said his thoughts turned to all fallen soldiers, including his friend who he served alongside in East Timor in 2002.
A special student dedication added to the ceremony.
Celia Scott-Will-Harknett of Rangitoto College and Barlas Turkyilmaz from Istanbul spoke of the values and freedoms that soldiers fought for, and continue to protect.
"Let us dedicate ourselves to their ideals," Celia said.
RECENT DEATHS REMEMBERED
New Zealand soldiers killed in Afghanistan were among the fallen honoured today at Anzac Day services around the country.
In Feilding, as war veterans marched back to the Rangitikei Club after this morning's dawn service in the town, friends and family of Lieutenant Tim O'Donnell laid poppies and kisses on his plaque.
O'Donnell was killed in Afghanistan in 2010.
A wreath was also laid for him during the 30-minute dawn service.
Five thousand people gathered before dawn to pay respects at the Anzac Day service at the Wellington Cenotaph.
Booming cannon fire and rifle volleys rang out as young and old sang hymns lamenting the men and women who never returned from New Zealand's wars.
Prime Minister John Key, there along with Wellington mayor Celia Wade-Brown and top military brass, laid a wreath at the memorial.
"We have risen from our beds early to give thanks for those who gave their lives for the cost of peace," reverend Lionel Nunns told the crowd.
Many children and teenagers proudly wore the medals of their grandfathers and great-grandfathers.
Island Bay's Allen family got to the cenotaph before 5am to secure a prime viewing spot. Mother Vivienne and her children have come to the service every year for 14 years, and came well prepared, bundled up in puffer jackets and with a blanket to sit on before the service began.
Daughter Sammy Allen, 18, said she came every year to pay tribute to her grandfather, great grandfather and great-great grandfather, all of whom served overseas.
The speech and language therapy student loved the wreath laying but disliked the gun volley.
"It's so loud."
The rifles were the best part of the service for her brother Nick, 10, who was not sure if he would continue the family's military service.
Tawa family the Koenigsbergers were at the dawn service for the first time, bringing along sons Harry, 6, and Xavier, 8.
"We've come for the kids, for them to see what goes on, to see what happened in the past," dad Chris said.
The boys were learning about Gallipoli at Redwood School and were keen to learn more, mum Alecia said.
Xavier said he wanted to honour the soldiers who died.
JACKSON HELPS RE-CREATE PAST UNIFORMS
Sir Peter Jackson joined diginitaries at the front of the crowd, in prime position to see the 35 historical military uniforms he helped re-create.
Current reserve soldiers from the Wellington company, 57th battalion, wore khaki dress uniforms in the parade.
Each was different and represented a regiment that served in the First World War. Two women soldiers wore the uniforms of nurses who assisted in battle.
Soldiers had spent days training to do historical drills, using much larger .303 rifles than the modern guns used today, Jackson said. An old bandsman who trained in the 1950s had been running soldiers through the moves, he said.
"The Defence Force have been enthusiastic about trying something different this year," he said.
"The soldiers got into it, wearing the kit of their forebears."
More uniforms would be created for the Gallipoli centenary celebrations next year, Jackson said.
- Josh Fagan, Ashleigh Stewart, Belinda Feek, Tracey Chatterton, Catherine Reiss