Classroom celebrations can provide children with important social experiences that enhance their education. These events also provide a unique opportunity to show children that healthy eating should be a priority in their lives. As teachers, parents, and school administrators, we all share responsibility for promoting healthy choices in our community.
Why are healthy foods important in schools?
- Research demonstrates that a healthy diet, in combination with regular physical activity, improves cognitive capability, academic performance, and the behavior of children in school.
- Healthy celebrations in the classroom give kids a consistent message that supports positive lifestyle choices and promotes a healthy school environment.
- Providing healthy snacks as part of a school celebration can create excitement about new sources of nutrition.
Activities that Celebrate Children
Keep in mind that each student’s birthday can mean multiple parties! Schools can help foster a positive learning environment by shifting the focus from food to the children. Choose a variety of activities, games, and crafts that children enjoy. When food is served, make it count by including nutritious options.
Ideas for Classroom Celebrations:
- Have a scavenger hunt for items or information in the classroom or around the school.
- Provide “free choice” activity time at the end of the day.
- Celebrate creatively by setting up craft stations and playing music. Ask parents to provide supplies, such as clay, paper, pencils, paints, and stickers.
- Have a dance party.
- Let the birthday child be the teacher’s assistant for the day.
- Organize a community project.
- Have a child’s family donate a book in honor of the birthday girl or boy.
Alternatives to Food Rewards
Food is commonly used to reward students for good behavior and academic performance. Using food as a reward, however, has several negative consequences in the long-term. Offering candy in the classroom clearly contributes to poor health due to high sugar, fat and sodium content. Utilizing sweets as a reward also contradicts the nutrition education and encourages kids to eat when they are not hungry, thereby potentially contributing to disordered eating. Teachers and families can help create a healthy learning environment by using non-food rewards.
Examples of non-food rewards for children
Attention, praise, and thanks are often highly valued by kids
Ribbon or certificate, sticker with an affirming message
Recognizing an achievement on the morning announcements or the website
A photo recognition board in the school
A note to the student or parents commending a child’s accomplishment
Choosing a class activity
Helping the teacher
Reading to a younger class
Eating lunch with a teacher or principal
Listening with a headset to a book on tape or CD
Rewards for a class:
Eating lunch outdoors
Listening to music while working
Dancing to music
Playing a game or doing a puzzle together
A song, dance, or performance by the teacher or students
“Free choice” time at the end of the day
Pencils, pens, erasers, note pads
Boxes of crayons
Employ a token or point system, whereby children earn points that accumulate toward a prize
Sourced from: Constructive Classroom Rewards (http://cspinet.org/new/pdf/constructive_classroom_rewards.pdf)
Health and Academic Achievement (www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/health_and_academics/pdf/health-academic-achievement.pdf)
Healthy Celebrations (http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/lib/sde/PDF/DEPS/Student/NutritionEd/Healthy_Celebrations.pdf)
Healthy Ideas for Classroom Events
Fresh whole or sliced fruit
Sliced apples with cinnamon
Banana pops (bananas, sliced in half, popsicle sticks inserted, rolled in yogurt and whole grain cereal, and frozen)
Raw vegetables with low fat dip (hummus, salsa, bean dip, low fat ranch, low fat yogurt)
Low fat popcorn
Whole grain bagel slices
Mini muffins: carrot, blueberry and banana make good choices (use part whole-wheat flour or add ground flaxseed for added nutrition)
Pita with hummus
Low Fat Dairy
Yogurt parfaits: in clear cups alternate fresh fruit with yogurt
Fruit smoothies: Blend frozen berries, bananas and pineapple or other fruit with low-fat yogurt
Drinks Mixed Foods
Water Sliced apples with cheese
Low fat or fat-free milk Whole grain pizza
100% fruit juice Quesadillas with salsa
Mini sandwiches cut into fun shapes
Trail mix (be cautious of food allergies)