Healthy Celebrations

Celebrations are exciting! They are also great opportunities to promote a healthy lifestyle, provide a consistent message, have fun, be creative and create excitement around nutritious choices. In addition to including healthy options, celebrations can also have a non-food focus and offer opportunities for more play and time to enjoy music, dance, games and other fun activities. When food is part of a special event, offer a variety of healthy options including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products and water.

Keep the number of celebrations that offer food to a minimum and offer no more than two or three different food items and water. Focus on preparation and trying new foods. Here are a few Policy, System and Environmental change (PSE) examples for healthy classroom celebrations.

  • Encourage parents to provide fruits, vegetables and whole grain snacks for classroom events. Provide parents with a “wish list” of healthy celebration food items:
    • Fresh fruit kabobs
    • Vegetable trays with hummus or low-fat dip
    • Fruit smoothies
    • Grapes (for older children)
    • Baby carrots
    • Low-fat or non-fat yogurt or yogurt parfaits
    • Low-fat cheese or string cheese
    • Whole grain crackers
    • Baked tortilla chips and salsa
    • Light or low-fat popcorn
    • Dried fruit
    • Low-fat granola bars
    • Pretzels
    • Strawberry Angel Cake
  • Offer suggestions for non-food celebrations:
    • Consider extra recess or extending recess time.
    • Play indoor games of the children’s choosing.
    • Take the children on a field trip.
    • Turn on music and have a dance party.
    • Take a walk outside and invite the principal to lead the class.
    • Have a food group parade and march around the school. Coordinate this with items served in the cafeteria or a classroom tasting.
    • Make an art or craft project.
    • Plan stations that include games, crafts and physical activity. Celebrate holidays by exploring customs and healthy foods from other cultures, especially the ones that reflect the backgrounds of the families you work with.
  • Celebrate the birthday child without food:
    • Ask the birthday child to be the line leader for the day.
    • Invite the birthday child to be the first to do each classroom activity.
    • Have the birthday child be the teacher’s assistant for the day.
    • Allow the birthday child to create their own special hat or banner to wear for the day.
    • Celebrate non-school day birthdays at the beginning and end of the school year.
    • Invite the parent or grandparents to be a special guest. Have them read a book or do a fun activity.
  • Opportunities for families to acknowledge the birthday child:
    • Donate a book to the school or classroom library in honor of a child’s birthday or special event. Print their name and date on the books inside front cover.
    • Donate physical activity classroom equipment such as jump ropes, soccer balls, hula hoops or DVD’s.
  • Invite a “special guest” to spend classroom time interacting with the students as a reward. The “special guest” can be the cafeteria supervisor, school principal, or a community partner who will share their healthy behavior story.
    • The special guest can read aloud the selected celebration book.
    • The special guest can lead physical activities in the gym or the classroom.
  • Consider having students create edible “food art” for classroom celebration and post photos of their artwork around the classroom and school to share their artistic designs.

Encourage students to be involved in the planning and preparation of classroom celebrations:

  • Ask students to make decorations
  • Allow students to select games
  • Poll the students and let them decide if there will be food at the celebration.
  • Ask students to vote on a special project or guest to invite to the celebration.
  • Encourage students to determine healthy celebration ideas.
  • Help students create a “healthy classrooms celebrations guide” to share with their families.
  • Involve the students in food preparation (such as chopping vegetables) or setting the table.

Classroom celebrations with movement/physical activity:

  • Play music and teach the children how to salsa, tango, do the box step and other dances.
  • Demonstrate simple yoga positions and have the children follow along.
  • Read a book aloud and have children act out parts of the story as it is being read.
  • Lead a class walk around the school and have children point out signs of the season – leaves turning colors, grass being mowed, etc.
  • Invite the principle and other school staff to join in the celebration!

Classroom celebrations – beverage suggestions:

  • Offer water at all classroom celebrations
  • Serve low-fat or non-fat milk
  • For something special:
    • Offer water with slices of lemon, lime, orange or cucumber
    • Offer seltzer water
    • Make our Fizzy Fruity Water
  • Include your fellow classroom teachers in your efforts to create a healthy classroom environment by sharing ideas, successes and discussing challenges. With more teachers promoting healthy celebrations in their classroom, it can create a school-wide effort/ impact.
  • Share healthy classroom information with families of students through school blogs or web sites or other social media, newsletters and bulletin boards. Create awareness during parent-teacher meetings and other school family activities.
    • Send home a quarterly newsletter with classroom snack ideas.
    • Share the classroom celebration guideline and schedule with families of students.
  • Classroom celebrations with healthy food options should follow the policies established by the local school system and meet USDA Smart Snack Standards.
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