One of the things I have to negotiate almost daily are food related celebrations. In school and out. Recently after searching online, I compiled a short list of suggestions for in-class celebrations including birthdays.
There are many reasons to celebrate during the year – Valentine’s Day, Easter, Diwali, birthdays just to name a few. Sending in a food treat to the classroom to celebrate can exclude those children who have food allergies, diabetes or other dietary restrictions.
Health and wellness are now part of school curriculum however, it is not translated in to daily practice. Unfortunately school funds are generated by selling unhealthy foods to students and their families. For example, pizza fundraisers are ubiquitous. Students buy a pizza lunch weekly yet the pizza is high in sodium and not a healthy choice. Other fundraisers include selling cookies, candies and chocolates.
Celebrating without food not only supports those with food allergies but also helps to support healthy living.
I strongly believe there should be an effort made to create an environment in which all students feel included and not singled out.
This is Safe Inclusion.
Here are some suggestions for alternatives to food treats for in class celebrations and these ideas can be modified depending on the ages involved.
1. Bring in special party napkins or party hats to use when children are eating their lunch or snack from home.
2. Give each child a small gift (dollar store item) like a notepads, bubbles, stickers, pencils or pens, etc…
3. Buy something special for the classroom like a board game, lego blocks or magazines
The principal or classroom teachers can create a wish list of needed items for the classroom and parents can buy an item from the list and have a sticker placed – “donated by [child’s name]”
4. Donate a book to the school library . The book can have a donated by [child’s name] sticker on the inside cover
5. Bring in something that all the kids can sign as a birthday treat for the birthday kid (t-shirt, tote bag, giant card, autograph book)
6. Ask the teacher if there can be a special show and tell time for the birthday child on their birthday. They can make a poster, bring in some of their favourite things, bring pictures, tell the kids about their favourite things or life at their house
7. Donate to a charity on behalf of the class. Examples – Free the children , World Wildlife Fund
Parents can also work with the teacher to celebrate the child’s birthday within the classroom and the routine of the day. Teachers can allow the birthday child to :
1. Be the special helper for the day
2. Have extra time at a favorite activity (computer, art, etc)
3. Hear the class sing Happy Birthday
4. Get to announce the morning messages at school
5. Get a coupon redeemable for something fun in the classroom, like extra art time or a “get out of homework free” pass.
I hope this helps parents and teachers of food allergic children create a safe & inclusive learning environment for their kids!