A Year of Healthy Class Parties: A Planning Guide for Parents & Teachers
|September 25, 2014||Posted by Stacy under 100th Day of School, Classroom parties, Healthy classroom treats, Healthy parties, Healthy school snacks, Healthy treats, Junk food in school, School parties, Sugar, Valentine's Day|
For the past several years, I’ve been chief party planner in my kids’ elementary classrooms. I chose the role in hopes of having healthy class parties, and it really has worked out great. While a couple parents struggled with the absence of cupcakes, the vast majority have embraced the healthy change. And the children? They haven’t batted an eye. At this point, they’re used to seeing wholesome snacks and are just happy to take a break from their schoolwork and celebrate.
If you’ve never planned a healthy class party, you may be worried about the time involved or that kids will be disappointed if there are no sugary treats. But it doesn’t have to take an eternity–and children can enjoy a junk-free celebration just as much. The key is to present healthy food in fun and creative ways. Plain orange slices? They’re great for soccer games but not so great for class parties. Fortunately, you can find tons of kid-pleasing, real food ideas on Pinterest and other places (like my blog).
To make your life a little easier, I’ve compiled some of my favorite healthy party food and activity ideas, along with general planning tips, in this A Year of Healthy Class Parties Planning Guide.
10 Healthy Class Party Planning Tips
* Read my post 5 Secrets to Throwing a Healthy Class Party to find out why you may want sign-up sheets and plastic baggies.
* Serve a balanced menu consisting of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and protein (example: beans, lean meats, Greek yogurt, cheese).
* Cutting foods into fun shapes with cookie cutters or allowing students to assemble their own snacks (think kabobs, yogurt parfaits, or oatmeal with healthy toppings) can up the fun factor.
* Base your menus around seasonal foods, if possible. There’s nothing worse than scrambling to find fresh berries for Santa Strawberries for the December holiday party, only to come up shorthanded.
* Setting up a school Pinterest page is a great way to collect healthy inspiration and share it with parents.
* Distribute a list of all student food allergies and sensitivities to parents who will be contributing food.
* Serve water or have students drink from their own water bottles at the party. Skip the soda and juice, which only add calories and sugar (and may contribute to Type 2 diabetes).
* Get the kids involved in the party planning. Ask them for their favorite healthy snack ideas or activities, or give them a handful of choices and ask them to vote on their top picks.
* Fun decorations, games and music add life to any party. Check with your child’s teacher for ideas.
* Include a physical activity in the party plans, such as a scavenger hunt or dance party, or move the party to the gym or playground.
Some parents may be up in arms about celebrating without cupcakes and other junk, but there are many special ways to recognize a student’s birthday without loading up the class with sugar and artificial dyes. With food allergies and diabetes dramatically on the rise, I personally think non-food celebrations are the way to go–what kids really want is to be recognized on their special day. (SEE A Healthy School Birthday Party–But Did We Really Need the Food?). Need ideas? Check out Real Mom Nutrition’s 10 Food-Free Ways to Celebrate School Birthdays.
If you can’t get away without food, you’ll find lots of inspiration on Healthy School Parties: 18 Fun Cupcake Alternatives (and Ways to Celebrate Without Food. Another fun idea: Decorating a paper bag with photos of the birthday kid (better for younger children) and filling it with popcorn or serving popcorn in movie theater-style containers. I also love fresh fruit kababs with real homemade whipped cream, fruit served in ice cream cones with a dollop of yogurt and real watermelon cake.
For minimum disruptions and less mess, consider celebrating student birthdays as a group once a month. Give the birthday kids a choice of sharing a healthy snack or extra recess with their class.
Knowing that most kids soon will consume a mountain of candy (hello, Trick or Treating), this is one party that you really want to keep super-healthy. Think Jack-O-Lantern Orange Fruit Cups, Savory Halloween Sandwiches, and Witches’ Brooms made with string cheese and pretzels. Look for festive recipes using seasonal fruits such as apples and pears (SEE Creepy Halloween Fruit). Make it an October Harvest Party! Or, try a healthy and satisfying soup such as a mild turkey or veggie chili or soup shooters of a fall favorite such as carrot or creamy tomato.
For more food ideas, see Fun & Healthy Halloween Treats: 15 Nut-free School Party Ideas that Kids (and Parents!) Will Love.
With all the cookie-filled festivities happening at this time of year, the last thing kids need is more sugar at school. A couple years ago, I did an all-natural red-and-green food theme at a school party with Green Grinch smoothies and sugar-dusted cranberry poppers (SEE Healthy School Holiday Party: A Natural Red & Green Food Celebration With 15 Festive Recipes!). For more festive ideas (including Grinch Fruit Kabobs and Snowman on a Stick), read 7 Fun & Healthy Food Ideas for the School Holiday Party.
Before or after eating, keep the kiddos busy with Pin the Nose on the Snowman, Snowman Wrap Race, Snowball Toss and Santa Running Game. (Find instructions for these activities and more on 12 Coolest Holiday School Party Games.).
100th DAY OF SCHOOL
Does your classroom celebrate the 100th Day of School? Unfortunately, this day of celebration, which typically falls in late January or early February, can be an excuse for yet another junk-filled party. And don’t even get me started on the 100th Day of School Trail Mix, a popular counting exercise that involves each child bringing in 100 snacks to share with the class. When my kids did it, the resulting “snack” consisted of candy corn, marshmallows, M&Ms, Froot Loops, Goldfish and Skittles. In my post, Celebrating the 100th Day of School Without Junk Food, you’ll find tips to help you keep it healthy on this special day.
There are so many fun food ideas that are perfect for Valentine’s Day. You may have trouble deciding! Think heart-shaped fruits (melon and strawberries), veggies (carrots, cucumbers and peppers) and sandwiches. Invest in a set of heart cookie cutters and go to town. Add a lollipop or popsicle stick and and you have a special Valentine’s treat. Yogurt parfaits and pink “love potion” smoothies are other faves. For specifics and recipes, check out Healthy Valentine’s Day Treats: 18 Fresh Food Ideas for an All-Natural School Party and 12 (Naturally Sweet) Ideas for a Healthy School Valentine’s Day.
If you don’t like the idea of your child coming from school with a giant bag of candy (as my kids seem to each year), talk to your school principal or your child’s teacher about asking parents not to send in candy Valentines (SEE Take the Candy-Free School Valentine Pledge). Instead, encourage sugarless (but just as special and sweet!) cards like these: 11 Cutest DIY Candy-Free Valentines.
For Valentine’s party games, try Don’t Break My Heart!, Heart Lava or Find Your Heart Mate. (Find directions for these activities and more on 12 Coolest Valentine’s Day School Party Games Part 1 & Part 2).
END-OF-YEAR SCHOOL PARTY
Do a Google search for end-of-year school party ideas, and you’ll find suggestions such as ice cream parties, carnivals with cotton candy, camping and s’mores, candy buffets, and You’re One Smart Cookie or Smartie party favors. After a year of healthy celebrations, it may be reasonable to splurge a little, preferably with nourishing goodies such as fresh fruit popsicles and 1-ingredient banana ice cream. But an over-the-top sugar spree is unnecessary and sends the wrong message to kids. So stick to fresh, wholesome ingredients and steer clear of foods with minimal nutritional value and harmful chemicals.
To feed into the summer excitement, go with a theme such as beach party or luau with healthy fare such as banana and kiwi palm trees, a watermelon sea turtle and deviled egg sailboats. Or, try a That’s a Wrap! party featuring healthy wrap sandwiches. Have kids make their (Healthy) Summer Bucket List and put together a photo slideshow with images from the year. Check out 8 End-of-Year Classroom Party Ideas for more inspiration.
TIME TO GET PLANNING
Remember: Even if you’re a parent who works full-time, you can offer to help organize a healthy class party. All it usually takes is a bit of research and emails to parents, if you can recruit other volunteers to help make food and supervise games on party day. Show them that healthy celebrations are not only possible, but they can be fun! TAKE CHARGE and don’t worry about the “cupcake moms.” They’ll catch on eventually.
For cute free printable labels featuring healthy messages to wrap around whole fruit (courtesy of Brandi at America’s Dietitian), click here. Give them out at parties or at back-to-school time–a great way to kick off your year of healthy class parties!
Are you a fan of healthy class parties? Got any great tips or fun food and activity ideas for throwing a successful one? Please share your thoughts and ideas down in the comments section!