Healthy Childcare/Preschool 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.

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
    • Pretzels

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

Other suggestions:

  • 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.
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