Celebrating Birthdays at School – Without Treats!

Birthdays at school don't have to include cake!I like to think that almost every child loves celebrating their birthday at school. I know my kids do! They enjoy bringing treats to class, handing them out to their classmates and taking “extras” to the other teachers. Their teacher makes them a paper crown, everyone sings happy birthday and somehow they always manage to be the “class leader” for the day. Indeed, it is a very special day for them.

But with increased awareness of food allergies, food safety and an overabundance of “treats” (sugary juices, sodas, candies and cookies) in our schools, some parents want to cut out the junk food treats. How, then, do you make your child’s birthday at school special without sending the entire class on a sugar high? Here are some ideas for a special, sugar-free birthday celebration for your child’s class:

1. Books! Every teacher loves books. Buy a special book, or a new copy of your child’s favorite book, and donate it to the classroom collection or the library. You can include a note in the front cover with your child’s name and birth date. As an extra special treat, read it to the class! Children of all ages tend to love it when a parent comes to read to the class and teachers love parental involvement. (Hint: If your school hosts a book fair, look for the teacher’s wishlist. Your child can pick a book from the list to purchase and donate to the teacher.)

2. Movies! Ask the teacher if you can bring in a short, special movie for the classroom to watch.

3. Arts and crafts! Is your child especially “crafty”? Check a dollar store or the dollar bins for inexpensive craft supplies or ideas. You could put together a small craft for the whole class to make and take home.

4. School supplies! Again, dollar bins or bulk school supply companies have pencils, erasers and mini boxes of crayons for a small price. You could get little supplies with their favorite character or color on it and pass it out to the class. I’ve found pencils, seasonal pads of paper, erasers, rulers and the like on clearance after the holidays. If you buy ahead, you can put together little school supply bags for much, much less than the cost of cookies or a cake for the class.

5. Recess equipment! Although recess supplies (balls, chalk, jump ropes, etc.) vary by schools, many grades or classrooms have their own box of outdoor equipment. Ask the teacher if they need to have any items replaced. Jump ropes, balls, and chalk can be found at many stores for a few dollars. Present the items to the teacher in front of the class and send a note home with each child, explaining that the item was donated for your child’s birthday. If you like, you could also gift each child with a small item like the one you donated, such as a small bouncy ball instead of a big ball. Not only are you giving the school something they need, you are giving each child the gift of exercise.

6. A donation to a worthy cause! Some schools have a cause they support, often in honor of a student. My son’s school supports diabetes research in honor of a student with type 1 diabetes. When I was teaching, we often had fundraisers for a student with cancer. You could also donate goods to a cause your child loves, like the animal shelter, or one that supports children. The donation can be small (a dollar or less per child, perhaps). Be sure to explain to the class just what the money will buy. For example, “A teddy bear for a lost or hurt child costs two dollars. We donated twenty dollars and the police department was able to buy ten bears! We were able to help ten children!”

If you or your child really want to bring food items to school, there are some sweet yet healthy alternatives:

1. 100% fruit or fruit juice popsicles. These are especially welcome on hot days!

2. Fruit or veggie breads. Have the Birthday Kid help you make muffins or mini-muffins out of their favorite recipe. These tend to be less messy and are great for the preschool or kindergarten crowd.

3. All-natural yogurts or fruit leathers. It’s so wonderful that parents can now bring in “fruit snacks” that are made from natural ingredients and do not contain HFCS. They are a sweet little treat you can feel good about!

4. Trail mix made with healthy ingredients. The students can have fun helping mix together cereal, dried fruit and other items for a healthy, fun snack.

5. Cookies. Yes, cookies! Cookies can be made with whole grains, dried fruit, and little sugar. There are a variety of fun, wholesome recipes on the Internet and the students will never know they are gobbling down flax seed and whole wheat!

We have a birthday coming up soon; BigBrother will be seven. He wants to give a copy of Go, Dog. Go! to his school. I can’t really turn down that sweet request, can I?

Photo credit: The Laughing Squid on Flickr


About The Author: Laura

Walden Mommy: Life Behind the Red Front Door My NPN Posts

Laura is the mother to a herd of four small children, wife to her Engineer Husband, and owner of a pesky dog. She blogs about her life in the Midwest at Walden Mommy: Life Behind the Red Front Door.

10 Responses to Celebrating Birthdays at School – Without Treats!

  1. Allister Van Twinkle  

    I couldn’t agree more.You have fantastic ideas how to celebrate a child’s birthday at school. It does not have to be about food wherever we go. And there will be plenty of treats at home and a party with more treats and cakes.

  2. Melodie  

    When my daughter was in kindergarden I wanted to make cupcakes even though I didn’t like being a part of the approximate 20 birthdays worth of cupcake snacks per year thing. Anyway, the night before her birthday I couldn’t make the cupcakes. I don’t remember why but I felt so bad. At the last minute, I grabbed a package of balloons and had my daughter hand them out to her classmates at the end of class that day. The kids didn’t miss the cupcakes and were thrilled to receive a balloon each. My daughter felt happy surprising them and making them all smile. So it was a win-win. And I think by the confused and surprised looks on the parents’ faces when picking up their kids that day, I got some of them thinking about possible future alternatives. Great post. I love the recess equipment idea the best!

  3. Jessica Lang @ Cloth Diapering Mama  

    these are such great ideas! my Nathan is 4 next month and he as well as other kids in his class have food allergies… I’m thinking I’ll send some watermelon to school and maybe I’ll ask the teacher if she can read his favorite book. I know that would have made MY day when I was 4 😉

    • Laura

      Watermelon would be so yummy and nice and cool in the hot summer weather. Four is such a fun age in school and preschool teachers are so good about making a little “fuss” over the birthday kids!

  4. Michelle  

    My husband’s a gardener and there’s an old orchard where he works. It’s our daughter’s birthday next week so I’ll get him to fill a box with enough apples to go round at school. Can’t believe I’ve not thought of it before. Many thanks for the inspiration!

  5. Carrie

    I love this post! So timely, as my daughter is about to turn 2! I was going to make our fav healthy muffins for the class, but I also like the idea of craft supplies or a new book! Awww. I really like the idea of having HER give a gift on her birthday. I’ll be sharing this in my Sunday Surf!

  6. Diane

    My daughter will be turning 8 and I am going to the dollar store and getting packs of Crazy 8 cards for each child.

    “Daughter’s name, Crazy 8th Birthday!”

  7. Louise Kavadlo

    I worked in family/group day centers from 1997-2008. Children don’t need fancy, expensive bakery cakes. Natural foods cookbooks have recipes for cakes/cookies made with whole-grain barley flour and agave or rice syrup as a sugar replacer. Ricotta cheese sweetened with agave makes a lovely “whipped cream,” assuming that a child can have dairy. If not, you can bake a sheet cake, top raw batter with thinly sliced apples or pears and bake. Amazke blended with fruit makes a lovely still-frozen ice cream. This is gluten-free and vegan. Raw halvah is another nice alternative.