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. 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 celebrations.
Keep the number of celebrations that offer food to a minimum and offer no more than two 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
- 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
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 or extended free time play.
- Play indoor games of the childrens’ choosing.
- Turn on music and have a dance party.
- Take a walk outside and invite the program director to lead the class.
- Have a food group parade and march around the building
- Make an art or craft project.
- Plan stations that include games, crafts and physical activity.
- Set up a carnival type event with hopscotch, bean bag toss, hula hoop stations, etc.
- Invite a “special guest” to spend time interacting with the students as a reward. The “special guest” can be the program director, 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 celebrations and post photos of their artwork around the building to share their artistic designs.
Involve children in the planning and preparation of classroom celebrations ask students to:
- Determine healthy celebration ideas or themes.
- Make decorations
- Select games
- Decide if there will be food and plan a healthy menu.
- Involve the students in food preparation (such as chopping vegetables) or setting the table.
- Vote on a special project or guest to invite to the celebration.
- Help students create a “healthy celebrations guide” to share with their families.
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 other out of school time staff to join in the celebration!
Beverages for Celebrations:
- Offer water at all celebrations
- Serve low-fat or non-fat milk
- For something special:
- Offer “spa water” with slices of lemon, lime, orange or cucumber
- Offer seltzer water
- Include your fellow out of school time teachers in your efforts to create a healthy environment by sharing ideas, successes and discussing challenges. With more teachers promoting healthy celebrations it can create a larger effort/ impact.
- Share healthy celebration information with families through blogs, web sites, 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 guidelines and schedule with families of students in emails/newsletters to parents.
Celebrations with healthy food options should follow the policies established by the local school system and meet USDA Smart Snack Standards.