My kids are in middle school now, which means we’ve mercifully moved past the annual dilemma of what to bring to class to celebrate their birthdays. But for a long time, the topic of classroom birthday cupcakes loomed large on this blog. Over the years, I’ve shared with you:
- My utter hypocrisy in quietly bringing donuts to school for my son’s birthday, even while I loudly complained about other parents loading my kids up with junk. (“Outing Myself“)
- Bringing in chocolate-dipped strawberries one year, which didn’t quite fit my food-free ethos (I hadn’t yet hammered out my “Food-in-the-Classroom Manifesto“) but seemed like a decent compromise at the time.
- My plea to Lunch Tray readers (“Don’t Make Me Eat My Words“) to share their non-food suggestions for my daughter’s birthday, to which you responded with incredible creativity and enthusiasm.
- An account of how we implemented two non-food suggestions from TLT readers for my daughter’s birthday and what happened next. (“A Happy Ending to the Classroom Birthday Treat Dilemma“)
- And how, just last year, I was sent into a panic when my son begged me to bring in donut holes for his 11th birthday — but the mighty Marvel Avengers saved the day. (“Food-Free Birthdays Are Hard, Even for the ‘Manifesto’ Lady“)
That list doesn’t begin to do justice to the number of times I’ve talked about classroom birthday treats here on TLT, where I’ve sparred with with readers who thought my kids just needed more “backbone” to resist classroom treats, or who thought I must be a weak parent and even “anti-freedom.” (You can see a semi-complete list of classroom-treat-related posts in the “Related Links” below.)
So, given the centrality of the birthday treat issue on The Lunch Tray, it was with great delight that I read this message sent to me last week by a friend and TLT reader:
My daughter . . . had her birthday yesterday. The tradition is that a parent comes in to share a favorite story and baby pictures.
OK, let’s pause here for one second and give some big kudos to this school for instituting such a charming tradition, one that’s actually meaningful to kids and doesn’t involve food at all. Now, to continue . . .
Instead of having me read a story. She decided to have a showing of the Mr. Zee’s story for her second grade class. The kids enjoyed it. A girl or 2 cheered when the brave girl took a bite of the apple.
Obviously, this story makes me happy because it means my little rhyming kids’ video about healthy eating, “Mr. Zee’s Apple Factory,” is actually resonating with my intended audience, and that’s incredibly gratifying.
But this story also proves what I hear from parents so often. It takes courage (and sometimes a lot of push-back from your kids) to go against the sugar tide, but when we bring non-food treats or find other ways of celebrating classroom birthdays, we are almost always pleasantly surprised to find that it’s really the adults, and not the kids, who feel that a birthday celebration at school just isn’t legitimate without junk food.
Don’t believe me? Check out this smash hit birthday celebration, shared by School Bites, where only fresh fruit was served, or this junk-food-free party described by Caron Gremont of First Bites. Kids are even happy with no food at all (my preferred approach in the classroom), as I saw with my own eyes here and here.
So, have you pulled off a successful classroom birthday celebration with either non-food or healthy food treats? Help other parents out and share your stories with us here!
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