From birthday to holiday parties throughout the school year, children, teachers, and families have numerous reasons to celebrate. Celebrations are a great way for children to feel part of the school community, where the learning environment is made festive and where everyone can come together to enjoy a break from the routine. Parties often center around food, such as cupcakes, cookies, candy, chips and sugary beverages. While these foods, in moderation, can be part of a healthy, well-balanced diet, these unhealthy choices have almost become daily norms in the classroom, rather than exceptions.
Break the cycle and incorporate the following suggestions for healthy and active parties in your school:
Work with your school administration to incorporate healthy and active classroom parties into your Wellness Policy.
Talk about the need for healthy celebrations at your back-to-school professional development. Ask staff to pledge to host healthy celebrations this year.
Share healthy celebration ideas with staff at the beginning of the school year. Present at staff meetings, send staff-wide emails, create a healthy celebrations folder on your shared drive and put tip sheets in their mailboxes to communicate the message.
Make use of school and community resources and celebrate at a pool, climbing wall or bowling alley. Ask the PTO or other groups for assistance if funding is a concern.
Send home a parent letter (English| Spanish) that informs parents of healthy celebrations and provides concrete, healthy ideas they can celebrate their child’s birthday at school. Consider asking for students input on their favorite fruits and vegetables!
Think outside of the box. Instead of showing a movie, plan special party games and activities. Ask parents to provide non-food rewards such as pencils, erasers, stickers and other small school supplies.
Create a healthy party idea book. Ask school staff and parents to send in healthy recipes and ideas for activities and games. Compile these ideas into a book that staff and parents can use.
Consider adding extra recess for celebrations or providing parents with a list of healthy options to be served at classroom parties.
How often are there celebrations in the classroom? Do they occur periodically (e.g., one time per month) or is each child’s birthday celebrated individually in addition to other celebrations? Be conscious of how many celebrations your students are participating in, and consider combining these events!
For birthdays, pick one day each month and celebrate all that month’s birthdays on that day, as opposed to having multiple birthday celebrations.
Focus on FUN rather than FOOD.
Schedule parties after lunch rather than in the morning to ensure students eat a full, nutritious lunch. Make these parties “snack parties” instead of full meals.
Remember to be mindful of food allergies, particularly when introducing new foods. Work with your parents to create a list of food allergies for all student to be distributed at the beginning of the year to specify what food to bring in for celebrations.
Engage students by asking for their opinion on types of healthy foods or physical activity games they would prefer for their celebration.
Make it a learning experience and celebrate students’ cultural heritage with traditional crafts, games and stories.
Incorporate special guests into the celebrations. For example, invite parents to come in and read a book or visit the principal’s office for a special surprise such as a pencil or sticker.
Swap out the traditional party foods for healthier options that reinforce messages children are learning about healthy eating in health class and the school cafeteria. Some healthier options to eat better includes trail mixes, fruit kabobs, and flavored water. Class party ideas to move more could be going for a walk or hike, having extra time during art or music class, or playing a class game of kickball.
Have students bring in their favorite music and have a “dance party.”
Create a plan to navigate challenges with parents who prefer to bring in cupcakes. Mention the benefits of healthy celebrations including:
Healthy kids learn better
Providing consistent positive nutrition messages
Promoting a healthy school environment
Creating excitement about nutrition
Remember to be a role model for your students by talking about the fruits and vegetables and other healthy items you like to eat. Ask them what fruit or vegetable they tried in the cafeteria. The most adventurous tasters can join you for a special lunch with teacher!
It is very important to ensure that students with disabilities are full participants in class celebrations. These are opportunities for creating cohesion and social support for students.
Healthy Celebrations Tip Sheet (ENG/SPAN) (Action for Healthy Kids)
Healthy Food Ideas Tip Sheet (ENG/SPAN) (Action for Healthy Kids)
Halloween is synonymous with candy and can tempt your students to throw their healthy habits out of the window. Change their minds by introducing healthy Halloween treats and games as a fun alternative!