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.
Here are a few Policy, System and Environmental change (PSE) examples for healthy childcare/Preschool celebrations.
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.
- Provide parents with a “wish list” of healthy celebration food items:
- Fresh fruit kabobs
- Vegetable trays with hummus or low-fat dip
- Fruit smoothies
- Low-fat or non-fat yogurt or yogurt parfaits
- Low-fat cheese or string cheese
- Whole grain crackers
- Baked tortilla chips and salsa
- Dried fruit
- Low-fat granola bars
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.
- 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 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.
- Consider the opportunity for families to acknowledge the birthday child:
- Families can donate a book to the library in honor of a child’s birthday or special event. Print their name and date on the books inside front cover.
- Donations can also be made for 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 children 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 room to share their artistic designs.
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.
- Offer extra play/recess time.
- 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!
Beverages for Celebrations:
- Offer water at all celebrations
- Serve unflavored low-fat 1% or non-fat milk
- For something special:
- Offer “spa water” with slices of lemon, lime, orange or cucumber
- Offer seltzer water
- Include your fellow teachers in your efforts to create a healthy preschool/childcare environment by sharing ideas, successes and discussing challenges. With more teachers promoting healthy celebrations it can create a center-wide effort/ impact.
- Share information with families of students through school blogs, web sites, social media, newsletters and bulletin boards. Create awareness during parent meetings and other family activities.
- Send home a quarterly newsletter with snack ideas.
- Share the celebration guidelines and schedule with families of students.
- Celebrations with healthy food options should follow the policies established by the local school system and meet USDA Smart Snack Standards.