We all know that birthdays are important to every child and that kids like to celebrate with their classmates. However, sending in a food treat to the classroom to celebrate can exclude those children who have food allergies, diabetes or other dietary restrictions. According to the Centers for Disease Control (2011) allergies have increased more than 20% among American children since the mid 1990’s. Many teachers will also admit that they would rather not have to deal with food in the classroom, especially cupcakes (very messy!).
Food rewards, especially candy and baked goods, are often used because they are inexpensive and students like them. It is important to understand, however, the potential harmful effects that using food, even ―healthy food has on our youth.
Obesity among children has tripled over the past 20 years and has become a national concern. Health problems related to obesity include diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.
What is even more important to think about are the long-term psychological effects of using food for reward, comfort and instantaneous gratification. What many people don’t realize is that the number of adults rewarding a child with food within a single day can be staggering in our culture. Even if your child, or your children are not currently overweight, please consider the following:
There are many disadvantages to using food as a reward:
- It undermines nutrition education (our words do not match our actions)
- It excludes some students who cannot (or should not) eat these foods – allergic and diabetic children cannot be at their best when they consume some of these foods.
- It teaches kids to eat when they’re not hungry as a reward to themselves.
- In smaller children, the empty calories end up replacing higher nutrient-dense foods that would be eaten at the next mealtime. It is well known that children who suffer from poor nutrition score lower on tests.
Starting Monday, September 21st we ask, that if you choose to send in birthday treats, that you choose non-food related items (or that you order from the PTC Smoothie Program)
NON-FOOD “TREAT” SUGGESTIONS
Below are some non-food item suggestions for your child’s birthday celebration at school. Always check with your child’s teacher first to see what he/she finds acceptable for their classroom and be sure to provide advanced notice to make sure that they can fit the birthday plans into their schedule.
The following is a list of options for nonfood rewards in the classroom. It is by no means a complete list. Many additional ideas for nonfood rewards exist. Instead of sending in candy, cupcakes, or other food items for birthday treats, please consider the following more inventive ideas, many of which “loop” back to helping with literacy, writing, physical activity at home and at school.
- Party favors (bouncy balls, matchbox cars, erasers, tops, magnifying glasses, notepads, balloons, whistles, bubbles, etc.). You can get these at a party supply stores, dollar stores, and dollar shelves at stores like Target and Michaels and catalogs like Oriental Trading Company.
- Buy something for the classroom (books, games, music, etc.).
- Stickers, pencils, pens, scented pencils or markers, colorful erasers
- 3-D Bookmarks, stencil rulers
- Many vendors exist for trinkets (frisbees, jump ropes, beach balls etc.) and can be something they use in the classroom, during recess, or take home to be physically active.
- Paper notepads, small journals to encourage writing, literacy
- Books, Activity/game sheets, Puzzle books, i.e. Sudoku
Birthday Treats Non Food Items (PDF Flyer that went home)