A child’s birthday is a wonderful reason to celebrate! Very often, a child will have multiple birthday parties/celebrations: at home with family, at a park with friends and at school with classmates. Each party is typically full of sugary drinks and treats, but they don’t have to be!
When children are taught about the importance of healthy eating and physical activity in school, but are served high fat and sugary foods during classroom parties a mixed message is sent. However, banning cupcakes from schools can be met with resistance and anger from parents and students.
One solution that is likely to be agreeable to all, is to offer students a “Birthday Celebration Menu” to pick from as a way to celebrate their special day. Some options on the Menu include extra recess, dancing to favorite music, lunch with the teacher and extra “show and tell.” Some schools include a “party cart” on their Menu. The party cart could have a variety of items on it, such as a Wii (with a couple dance/fitness games), board games, table tennis or art supplies. Items on the cart could be donated, supplied by the PTO or students themselves from items at home.
When students have been given the Birthday Celebration Menu, teachers were pleasantly surprised at the positive reaction to it. Parents don’t have to spend money on treats, take time baking or shopping for them and don’t have to worry about whether their son or daughter can carry them on the bus. In addition, health-conscience parents respond more positively to healthier and physical activity-based options. Students have the power to make their own choice and the opportunities to socialize with their friends. Lastly, teachers and administrators are faced with less mess in the classroom, and depending on the activity chosen, students can get extra exercise. Plus, when students and parents are given the reasons behind offering the Birthday Celebration Menu and are given choices and opportunities for feedback, they are less likely to resist the changes.
Here are examples of what could be included on the Party Cart:
- Wii (and a couple dance/fitness games)
- Small giveaways (pencils, stickers, temporary tattoos)
- Fitness dice
- Table-top tennis game
- Practice putting green (with plastic golf club)
- Art supplies
- Board games (Connect 4, Twister, playing cards, etc.)
- Balls that could be tossed around a classroom (soft footballs, basketballs, etc.)
- Juggling scarves (and balls)
- Rainbow stacking cups
- Crawl tunnels
See an example of one school’s party cart above, and check out more ideas for healthy celebrations in the resource list below.
Kate Huber, Coordinator Tri County Healthy Schools NY Program, Erie 1 BOCES