Birthday Treats for School

Creative school celebrations line up with district classroom party rules

There’s a reason kids party heartier when their birthday falls on a weekend — they don’t have to spend the better part of their special day behind a school desk. Classroom birthday celebrations have traditionally helped to temper the disappointment of a weekday birthday. But concerns about the rise in food allergies and childhood obesity have lately forced schools to rethink their class-party policies, leading several local districts to ban or restrict cupcakes and sugary snacks from school-day celebrations.

School district classroom-party policies in our area range from banning all treats and favors (Evesham Twp, NJ) to allowing only "nutritious," no-sugar, nut-free snacks (Upper Merion, PA). Some schools sell appropriate classroom snacks in their cafeteria (Colonial School District of New Castle, DE). And in others, the old status quo reigns; MK reader Patricia D. reports that when her kids' school district (Riverton, NJ) tried to ban class-party sweets, the decision was reversed the next day due to parent complaints.

The wide-ranging treat parameters do not mean the days of in-class parties are over. They just mean that parents and teachers now have to be more creative.

Here’s how some of our Facebook friends feel about the trend of banning both food and, in some cases, goodie-bag favors from classroom celebrations.

Cheryl D.-G.: Wow! Let’s just take away all the fun. (And, yes, I do have a child with food allergies.)
Svn R: It is not fair but it is safe! I work in a school and saw a child share a bite of her food with her friend “just because.” In this case, neither of them had food allergies, but it takes just a second. 
Melissa B: I know there are so many more things to be concerned about these days, so I understand the need for such policies. It just saddens me that the things I looked forward to in elementary school — Halloween parades, holiday parties, birthday celebrations — are the things schools seem to be getting rid of.
Sharon F: I am 100% for this. My son has a sensitivity to dye, which eliminates 90% of the junk other parents send in. There is also a banana allergy in his class and a strawberry allergy in my daughter’s class. I don’t see the need to risk any child’s health over a food reward.
Lois F: I contend that birthday celebrations belong outside school. Fifty or 60 years ago, the class sang “Happy Birthday.” That was it!

School birthday style

Birthday boys and girls come to school decked out to announce their big day. Hats, tiaras, personalized T-shirts, tutus, fancy headbands — as much as a school’s dress code will allow. “The birthday student is usually dressed in party gear or a birthday shirt,” says Nicole Fisher, co-owner of Port Richmond Academy in Philadelphia. Customize a graphic to represent your child’s age and personality at or

School-approved classroom snacks

When schools restrict class snacks, what can parents serve that the kids will enjoy?

  • Veggie and fruit trays, especially those shaped into trains, animals and rainbows or condensed into single servings. “I was super-surprised how excited kids were for a huge fruit plate with blueberries, pineapple and strawberries,” says MK Facebook friend Maria L.
  • Chocolate-dipped strawberries
  • Gluten-free banana bread, no nuts
  • Popcorn cups — popcorn in foil cups
  • Berry kebabs — with blackberries, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries
  • Animal crackers and graham crackers
  • Soft pretzels — this is Philly, after all.



Classroom favors & fun

Beyond snacks, parents are starting to favor handing out party trinkets, donating a small token to the school or coming in to class to celebrate their kids’ birthdays. Think . . .

  • Treat bags filled with inexpensive dollar-store gifts (pencils, erasers, bubbles, stickers, temporary tattoos)
  • Giving the class a picture book with a birthday nameplate marking the occasion
  • Donating playground equipment like jump ropes or kickballs
  • Coming to class to read a story or lead a craft or game

Teacher birthday callouts

Throughout the day, teachers in our area call attention to class birthdays in ways that are fun yet retain educational focus. These include:

  • Birthday bulletin boards
  • Birthday hats or crowns
  • Decorated desks and chairs
  • Homework passes
  • Special jobs for the birthday child
  • Personalized posters and presentations
  • Class cards and homemade books

Freelance writer Janet Tumelty lives with her family in South Jersey.

Categories: Education Features, Party Features