But it’s just a cupcake!

Categories: School Champions, Well Nourished

“But it’s just a cupcake” is an argument that often comes up when the topic of healthy celebrations in schools is discussed. Students spend 5 days a week and between 6 and 7 hours each of those days in school. There, they will eat 1 to 2 meals as well as snacks. This adds up to be a big portion of their day and a big portion of what they eat.  When celebrations are added, not only are the students getting extra calories that they don’t need, but they are usually low nutrient foods that aren’t benefiting them. There are also an increasing number of children with food allergies that may feel left out if they cannot eat the food at the celebrations. These are just some of the reasons why it is incredibly important to promote a healthy culture and environment in schools that show kids how to celebrate without food being the main focus. These are habits that they can learn for a lifetime of health. Below are some alternatives to food focused celebrations:

Healthy Reward/Whole Class Parties:

  • Dance party
  • Scavenger hunt/treasure hunt
  • “Free” time
  • Extra recess time or outdoor time
  • Crafts/art projects
  • Class trip or hike

Healthy Birthday Celebrations:

  • Birthday crown or sash
  • Special birthday treat (non-food: pencil, sticker etc)
  • Allow birthday child to pick and lead an activity
  • Special privileges (delivering something to the main office, being the teacher’s helper)
  • Allow the birthday child to pick a book to be read to the class by the teacher, a volunteer parent or the principal

Healthy Holiday Parties: Each holiday/season have the students create decorations for the classroom

  • Halloween: Costume party/parade/contest within the classroom or school
  • Thanksgiving: Have students write or draw what they are thankful for and display them in the classroom
  • Winter Holidays: Create holiday cards to donate to a nursing home 
  • Valentine’s Day: Have students write down one nice thing about each student in their class and hand them out as valentines cards
  • St. Patrick’s Day: Learn to Irish step dance, have a St. Paddy’s day themed scavenger hunt
  • Spring Party: Take a nature walk, decorate eggs or flower pots
  • End of School party: Take advantage of the nice weather and celebrate outside with games and activities

Healthy celebrations take the focus off of food and onto the student(s). Whether it is a birthday or a reward for behavior or academics, healthy celebrations benefit everybody.

Parents and Schools: How can you support each other in creating this healthy environment?

Additional Resources:

Many ideas from this article, and more can be found: 


and http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/lib/sde/PDF/DEPS/Student/NutritionEd/Healthy_Celebrations.pdf

Find more information and healthy food options: