Kitchen Stewardship | A Baby Steps Approach to Balanced Nutrition

Healthy School Christmas Party = No Sugar for Kids? You Bet!

December 5th, 2013 · 10 Comments · Do It Yourself, Special Situations

Healthy School Christmas Party Games and Food Ideas for Kids

It means a lot to my kids when I volunteer in their classrooms, and as a former teacher myself, I know it’s a great help to have extra adults coming in to help.

I do really enjoy being back in the midst of the chaos, but I have a sneaky ulterior motive for signing up to be room mom two years in a row.

*eyebrow waggle + smirk*

I bet you can guess what it is. (Hint: What’s my blog all about?)

I figure if the kids are already getting approximately 24 sugar fests in a school year (birthdays) + 5-10 more for classroom rewards and random celebrations, the least I can do is show how much fun healthy food can be for the 4 classroom parties. (And yes, I’m also working on systemic change to attempt to eradicate sugary birthdays, but that’s taking more time and finesse…)

I’m heading into my fifth classroom party this month, all with great games and little to no refined sugar involved. Thus far I’ve received only positive feedback from parents and zero complaints from the kids, who all have had loads of fun. One confused kindergarten boy did ask during the Halloween party, “When do we get the candy?!?” which cracked me up, but I don’t think he was too despondent about it.

(My answer? “Oh, that will come tonight at trick-or-treating…”)

Festive Christmas Ice Cubes for a party

The healthy school Christmas party ideas I’m sharing today are a combination of the best stuff from the second grade celebration last year and a few that I’m adding for kindergarten this year.

Healthy Christmas Party Food

Fruit Supplies for Healthy Christmas Party

Here are three different ways to make holiday food art with fruits and vegetables, at least one of which is still appropriate if your school requires you to really strip everything down to only be “winter” related.

You could either enlist a few parents to help you make the food art 15 minutes before the party or have the kids make their own as a dual purpose craft/food activity during the party.

Vegetable Christmas Tree

Healthy Christmas Tree Food Art with Vegetables

Supplies you’ll need:

  • large plates
  • For the tree: flat pea pods (“snow peas”), about 6-8 per child, washed
    Supplies for Healthy Christmas Party Food Art
  • For the ornaments: pomegranate seeds (one pomegranate should cover a whole class) – substitute options include dried cranberries or fresh raspberries, cut in half
    Pomegranate
  • For the star: either a slice of starfruit (below, expect 8-10 from one fruit) or diamond shapes cut from a pineapple (one large pineapple should cover a whole class; see example at the end of the fruit section) or a star shape cut from pineapple (top photo above; you really can only do this right in the center, so you might need two pineapples for a class with lots left over, plus a star-shaped cookie cutter found on Amazon)
    Starfruit
  • For the trunk: (optional) one cinnamon stick per child (not edible, just for looks)

Healthy Christmas Tree Food Art - pea pod version

Fruit Christmas Tree

Healthy Christmas Tree Food Art - fruit version

Supplies you’ll need:

  • large plates
  • For the tree: Clementine orange slices, 6 per child (that’s 3/4 of a Clementine)
    Supplies for Healthy Christmas Party Food Art
  • For the star: Same options as above
  • optional cinnamon stick for the trunk, found on Amazon or at Olive Nation

Healthy Christmas Tree Food Art - fruit version

In second grade, parents helped make the Christmas tree food art and we served them like this, no trunk:

Healthy Christmas Tree Food Art for kid party - fruit version

One really cool additional benefit of these cute food art examples is that you might get kids to try some foods that are new to them if you present it really positively and encourage them to taste everything.

Fruity Candy Cane

Banana Strawberry Candy Cane

Supplies you’ll need:

  • large plates
  • sliced bananas (about 3/4 of a banana per child)
  • sliced strawberries (2 large or 3 medium strawberries each; frozen sliced berries would work as well, but not quite as cleanly)

I didn’t use any toothpicks to hold these together. The bananas just stood up just fine, even when I moved the plate around the room trying to catch the last rays of winter sunlight for a photo (I failed).

I only had frozen strawberries that I had flash frozen separately on a cookie sheet, so that worked, but fresh would look better. Frozen strawberries from the store are usually in juice, so they’d have to be thawed all the way to use and would be soft and mushy and wouldn’t stand up in their position.

The party pooper note of the year, but important nonetheless: A reader reminded me that food safety includes gloves and hair nets for food preparation. (see comments) Sounds like her school went to “all pre-packaged foods” because of a foodborne illness experience with something like a classroom party.

Pretty Christmas Water

I firmly believe that kids don’t need juice, and water is really the only drink that needs to be served at a party.

Festive Christmas Ice Cubes

Who says water has to be boring?

Festive Christmas Ice Cubes

I used a few fresh cranberries and some parsley or thyme in the photos above, going for aesthetics only. Once melted, the parsley will start to impart a flavor to the water, so you can’t use that combination if you’re going to have the cubes in the drinks more than 15-30 minutes.

They both look pretty cute though:

Festive Christmas Ice Cubes

Thyme is on the left; I thought it looked a little “pine-tree-ish.”

Other options include:

  • raspberries
  • dried cherries (not as red, but won’t add flavor at all)
  • chopped strawberries
  • pomegranate seeds
  • mint leaves (yum!)
  • cucumber skins
  • spinach (go really all out and cut a leaf in the shape of a Christmas tree!)

Festive Holiday Ice Cubes

The cranberries did actually float to the surface of the ice cube, and you can see how they jut out quite a bit:

Festive Christmas Ice Cubes

I tried cutting them in half to see if they’d sink, and it more or less worked. They still float, but they’re flat across the surface of the water so nothing actually sticks out of the ice cube.

More Healthy Food to Eat at a Kids’ School Party

Popcorn on a String

The key to getting anyone to eat the healthy food is to NOT serve 5 or 6 things. Serve two or 3. They’ll survive, and they’ll have time to eat it all and enjoy it.

If you make one of the food art examples above and then plunk a cupcake, a handful of pretzels, one piece of candy, some cheese and a juice box down in front of the kids, guess what won’t get touched?

I recommend serving just one more item, two at the most, and water to drink.

To supplement the food art, try including one or two of the following:

  • Popcorn is always a hit, can be made with real fats like coconut oil and organic popcorn, and still be very inexpensive and not time consuming for you. You could even string it together with thin thread to make a traditional sort of garland that the kids could eat.
    Popcorn on a String
  • Cheese slices cut with holiday cookie cutters
  • Carrot sticks, red pepper slices and homemade guacamole (red and green!) or homemade blender hummus, but also very easy to make and nourishing with healthy fats
  • If you make the veggie Christmas tree craft, offer fruit to go along with it, and maybe homemade ranch dressing for dipping to add fat for staying power

All of the above are nut-free and gluten-free (note: tahini in hummus contains sesame seeds), and you could choose dairy-free options depending on the needs of the class.

Winter Holiday Party Games

Whether you’re allowed say “Christmas” anymore in your school or not (official opinion on that: *eye roll*), these kids party  games will be perfect for the classroom.

Snowman Wrapping Party Game

Christmas Party Games for Kids - Snowman wrapping

Teams of four or five children race to see who can wrap up their “snowman” the fastest. When one whole roll of (cheap!) toilet paper is gone, they put faces and buttons on their snowman and raise their hands to see if they won!

Supplies needed for each group:

  • 1 roll toilet paper
  • two eyes (cut out of black construction paper)
  • an orange carrot nose (paper)
  • 3 coal buttons (paper or real buttons)
  • roll of good tape (an adult to help tear and fold it for younger children)
  • optional but fun:
    • “corn cob pipe” i.e. a party favor blower horn thingy (technical terms…um, see in the picture there? Like this on Amazon)
    • hat or bow (like from wrapping presents)
    • scarf

Be sure to take pictures and cheer them on!

Snowball Poppers Party Game

Snowball Poppers Party Game for Kids

Kids of all ages have a blast throwing things where they’re never allowed to be rowdy, like in a classroom. No one will get hurt or cold in this snowball fight, but everyone will have fun.

Supplies you’ll need for each popper:

  • medium-sized paper cups (9 oz. worked great)
  • balloons Note: a reader reminded me of latex allergies; it would be wise to ask the teacher to make sure there aren’t any in the class
  • scissors
  • paring knife
  • masking tape
  • poof balls (another technical term…you know those little balls for crafting, less than an inch in diameter? Those things.)

Directions to make poppers:

Each child will need their own popper. I recommend having all of them ready before the party – they’re way too tricky for small hands to make on their own. Do the activity in rotating stations or centers with the food art and another craft so you don’t have to make so many.

Kids party game - balloon marshmallow poppers

1. Cut the bottom out of the cup, leaving the rim for stability. I found a paring knife was easier than scissors.

Kids party game - balloon marshmallow poppers

2. Snip the very tip of the balloon off. Cut off less than you think since you can always make the hole bigger but can’t go backwards.

Kids party game - balloon marshmallow poppers

3. Tie the balloon as if you’ve just filled it, but with no air in it.

Kids party game - balloon marshmallow poppers

4. Stretch the balloon over the bottom of the cup. You’ll need two hands and a little practice. Winking smile If you allow the cup to bend quite a bit, that will help.

Kids party game - balloon marshmallow poppers

The final popper looks like this:

Kids party game - balloon marshmallow poppers

But I recommend adding one piece of masking tape all the way around so your creation holds together under kid power.

Kids party game - balloon marshmallow poppers

Place a poof ball in the bottom, centered on the balloon (a cotton ball would work but would have more “drag” and not go as far or fast).

Kids party game - balloon marshmallow poppers

Hold the cup with one hand and pull the knot of the balloon with the other.

Ready, aim, POP!

Somehow I didn’t capture an action shot of the actual popping motion, but here’s one of my son waiting for his to come back down – so you can see they get some pretty good distance!

Catching the poof ball

To play the game:

You have a few options for what to do with the poppers.

1. Play catch in pairs. Two kids pair up, starting close together, and try to pop the poof ball into the other person’s cup. No winners, just lots of fun.

2. Snowball catch challenge. (for older kids) Like the classic water balloon toss. After some practice, pairs of kids line up against each other in two parallel lines. The adult counts down and everyone pops their poof ball toward their partner at once. Anyone who drops is out; anyone who completes a toss takes a step backward for round two, and so on. The winners are the last ones standing.

3. Bullseye practice. Choose a target – either a bullseye drawn on the board, a few cups standing on a desk, or a couple paper plates taped to the wall. After some practice, kids can pop their poof balls at the targets and earn points for direct hits. Winner has the most points after a certain period of time or certain number of pops (decided beforehand).

4. Individual challenge: Each person tries to pop the poof ball straight up and catch it in their own cup as many times in a row as they can without a miss. Highest consecutive number wins!

Thanks to Real Simple for the inspiration, although they used marshmallows – after feeling terrified for an hour that someone would step on a marshmallow and ruin the carpet or that the poor teacher would find ants feasting on a marshmallow behind a bookcase come spring, I realized that the poof balls we used to test out the game at home would have been a much less sticky option, and therefore quite preferable!

Additional Craft/Activity Ideas for the Party

In kindergarten this year, after the snowman wrap race, we’ll be having three centers for the kids to rotate through:

1. Food Art

2. Snowball Poppers

3. Craft Table

I think centers are a great way to manage a classroom full of kids and keep them engaged and out of trouble, especially if you have enough parent helpers to have at least one at each station.

For the third (or fourth) station, here are some ideas depending on the age of the kids:

  • Pasta Snowflakes :: Pasta, glitter, tissue paper, glue and paper, plus any extra crafty stuff you want to provide. If time, allow them to paint the pasta too. For young children, you  might want to copy a snowflake image for them to fill in, and older kids may just need a reminder that snowflakes have six sides.
  • Build Your Name :: Print out bubble letters of each child’s name and allow them to paste holiday colored M&Ms or other candies plus glitter to decorate their own name. Or just provide cotton balls for “snow” for the same task, since that’s easier to glue than candy. (for younger grades, K-1)
  • See-Through Ornaments :: put down clear contact paper, sticky side up, and allow the kids to decorate it with crafty bits and pieces, leaves, pine needles, glitter, etc., then put another sheet of contact paper over the top to stick it all together. Then you can cut it into shapes to make ornaments.
  • Holiday Word Build :: How many words can you make out of “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” before the time is up? (for older children, 2nd and up)

If you’re planning the party, remember to ask the teacher if you need to build in time for a book or gift exchange, for the teacher to open students’ gifts, or for a story. I like to read a funny holiday book to the children while they’re eating to keep them engaged.

If you have other ideas for the stations or if you try any of the food art or games here, I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Merry Christmas!

(waits for politically correct police to drag me away…)

Was this helpful to you? Why not pin it and share with friends?

For some wonderful resources and activities for kids and adults outside of school, you’ll love these eBooks from my affiliate partners (the FTC says I have to say that) and friends/colleagues (I want to say that, because these women are just lovely and great at what they do):

  • FEAST: Real Food Reflections and Simple Living for the Christian Year by Daniel and Haley Stewart (for families/adults)
  • Truth in the Tinsel: An Advent Experience for Little Hands by Amanda White (for preschool/kindergarten/1st grade)
  • 101 Days of Christmas: Recipes and Crafts for a DIY Holiday by Mandi Ehman on Kindle
  • A Simpler Season by Jessica Fisher (for families/adults)

If you’re curious about plans for other holiday parties, here they are:

We’re linked up at Slightly Indulgent Tuesday at Simply Sugar and Gluten-Free!
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Disclosure: There are affiliate links in this post to Amazon, Olive Nation, Truth in the Tinsel, Life as MOM, and FEAST from which I will earn some commission if you make a purchase. See my full disclosure statement here.

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10 Comments so far ↓

  • Lenetta

    Awesome ideas! And the word you are looking for is pom-poms. :)

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    LOL…why am I not surprised that you’re the one who is filling in my blanks!? ;) I had fun thinking up fruit and veggie ideas!

    :) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Ana

    These are really cute ideas! However, do you have any tips if the school requires all food to be packaged–nothing homemade allowed? And nut-free?

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Ana,
    That is such a tough one – you can’t really do the fun food art in that case, although you can get sliced apples pre-packaged, so maybe those could be made into a tree? In general for food in that case, I default to string cheese, raisin boxes, and you should still be able to do whole fruits like Clementines. Just use permanent marker on the outside to make a cute holiday something-or-other like an ornament and kids can peel their own. Would that fit within the rules? I wonder too – Costco has bags of pea pods. Think you could bring those in and open them in the classroom? That’s no different than a bag of pretzels, right? Tough situation though…hope those ideas give some food for thought! :) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Julie

    Please please please be aware of health regs for serving non pre packaged food. It only takes one out break of food borne illness for a school to declare “prepackaged treats only” (ask me how I know).

    In Minnesota health dept regs would require any one assembling or distributing ingredients for such Christmas trees to wash hands (duh), wear food grade gloves and a head covering. If in doubt, your friendly lunch ladies would know the local rules.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Sarah

    I am a 2nd grade teacher and I’m definitely using these ideas for my Christmas party. (I just planned it :) I have milk and egg allergies in my class, so it’s better not to have baked goods anyway, plus I’m all about cutting sugar. Thanks so much for making my life easier!

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Woo hoo! I hope the kids love it! :) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Abi Craig

    The tree and candy cane treats are great . . . my home-schooled kids will get a kick out of making them for snack sometime this month. Thanks for the creative ideas.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • ~Misty

    This was so fun we used it for our preschool co-op Christmas Party. The food was such great ideas & fit all our different preferences from grain free to vegans! The kids all loved the banana & strawberry candy canes & for the trees we used a carrot stick for the trunk instead of a cinnamon stick. All the kids & siblings ages 5-1, loved having a snowball fight with our snowball poppers. I didn’t have pompoms but cotton balls worked great. They also really loved playing the snowman wrapping game. Thanks Katie for all the great ideas!

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    This makes me so happy! I used carrot sticks for our kindergarten party last week too, and I thought, “Now why didn’t I think of that last year when I took these photos?” Perfect!! :) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

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I embrace butter. I make homemade yogurt. I eat traditional real food – plants and animals that God created, not products of plants where food scientists work. Here at Kitchen Stewardship, I share how I strive to be a good steward of my family's nutrition, the environment, and our budget, all without spending every second in the kitchen. Learn more about the mission of KS here.

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