Kitchen Stewardship | A Baby Steps Approach to Balanced Nutrition

How Many Birthday Cupcakes Can One Kid Eat?

March 8th, 2014 · 65 Comments · Call to Action

Fancy Birthday Cupcakes for school

There will be some who will say that I’m trying to ruin birthdays, that I’m an out-of-season Grinch, my heart clearly two sizes too small (likely from lack of sugar and white flour, they’ll snidely surmise).

There will be plenty who will point fingers at me and inquire why I think I should have the power to tell other people what they can and can’t feed their kids.

And there will be plenty who are simply resistant to change, who prefer to stick with the status quo and say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

What do I have up my sleeve, you ask?

I’m petitioning our school to start a
“no treats to pass” policy for birthdays.



No food treats, no gift bags to share with the class, just a birthday book program to help the child be in the spotlight for the day while also keeping the spotlight firmly trained on learning.

I don’t want to make birthdays any less fun. I certainly don’t want to go down in history as “the birthday killjoy” who ruined celebrations for everyone.

I DO however want to help separate the seemingly mandatory association between food and celebration, the idea that the only proper way to have fun is to eat (unhealthy) food.

Turning Over a New Leaf on Birthdays

New School Birthday Celebrations Book Proposal



Here’s the proposal another mom and I are going to present at the parent group meeting next month:

  • Birthdays have no treats of any kind to share with the class (not food, toys, pencils, etc.).
  • The option to celebrate birthdays is to buy a “birthday book” for the media center in honor of the child.
  • The child chooses the book from a box available in the media center the week before his/her birthday.
  • The special book can be on display in the child’s classroom that week (for younger grades, the teacher may read the book to the class if there is time).
  • Classroom teachers may certainly keep their traditions with crowns, stickers, songs, decorated lockers etc., just no food or gifts.
  • Money for the books ($15 per student) is collected at the beginning of the year with all the regular school-starting paperwork, and the librarian is responsible for choosing books that are needed in the media center. This helps support our school and our kids’ learning too!
  • Options for those who choose not to send $15 (or cannot afford it):
    • Bring a gently used book from home for the classroom
    • Borrow a book from the media center for the week to have on display in the classroom (without announcing that it hasn’t been purchased by the family)

Why Bother?

We believe that this sort of systemic change at the school level is long overdue and that it must be policy, not optional. The latter would merely stand to make the few children whose families opt for the new way stand out and invite ridicule.

We have five compelling and fundamental reasons that birthday treats are not necessary in the classroom:

  • Keeps our school cleaner (we have many brand new classrooms that deserve no crumbs in the carpet)
  • Reduces clutter in our homes
  • Food allergies are increasing and can be difficult to balance in the classroom
  • Childhood obesity and diseases are rising
  • Time for learning not lost

How Big is a Two-Pound Bag of Sugar?

coconut palm sugar (7) (475x356)

I’m pretty excited to bring some statistical analysis to underscore the final two points. Check this out:

If each child in a classroom brings a sweet treat to celebrate their birthdays, how much additional sugar does that total up to per student?

  • A Hostess cupcake has 22g of sugar. Let’s assume a cupcake with frosting has considerably more. We’ll use 20-30g of sugar per treat as a fair estimate.
  • If an average classroom holds about 25 kids and we throw in our four school-wide holiday parties for good measure, plus the 3-4 “good behavior” celebrations, let’s round up to a total of 35 sweet events while sitting in a classroom.
  • 35 events times 20-30g sugar per event = 700-1050g sugar per year, per child.
  • This is around TWO POUNDS of added sugar in a year.
  • If that sounds harmless, you should know that the average adult 200 years ago consumed about two pounds of sugar in an entire year. That same adult now consumes 2-3 pounds every WEEK.
  • Take note that this is only sugar consumed in a classroom, by children with far less body weight than adults, and it doesn’t count all the other treats they get at athletic events, library functions, church, and at home.
  • The American Heart Association recommends no more than 38g of sugar (9 tsp.) in an entire day for an adult male and 24g or 6 teaspoons for an adult female. The average adult consumes 88g and the average child consumes (are you sitting down?) a whopping 128g of sugar every day (32 teaspoons or over half a cup)!
  • To really put the nail in that coffin, “The largest study of its kind just confirmed an absolutely clear link between excessive sugar and death from heart attacks, strokes, and all types of heart and blood vessel disease.” (source) If you’re interested in 7 more compelling reasons to cut down on sugar, check out the free printable available HERE.

What Could a Teacher Do with a Whole Extra Day to Learn?

As a former teacher, I remember well the lesson planning, detailing all the things the children needed to learn in a day down to the minute. We never got through everything because there were detours to take for great questions, scintillating discussion, kids who weren’t grasping the concepts…and birthday treats. Passing out napkins, treats, munching, and cleaning up sticky fingers could easily take 15 minutes in an average classroom.

How much impact does that make? It could be an entire spelling lesson or the independent work time for a new math concept. Or it could be one full day out of 180, if you’ll bear with me for a little more math:

  • 15 minutes x 25 kids = 375 minutes (that’s over 6 hours per school year or one full learning day, spent on birthdays)

The End Game in the Global Village

image

I have no desire to enter into a discussion at my school about what is healthy and not healthy. (We won’t all see eye to eye on that one, ever.)

I hate to think of teachers having to micromanage what kinds of treats are acceptable with any sort of “healthy treat” policy anyway (a disaster waiting to happen).

This isn’t about your kid, or my kid, or ruining birthdays for everyone.

And I don’t want to tell other parents how to parent their children.

But I do want to make a difference in some of the alarming statistics that are playing out in our children’s generation, the rise in obesity, diabetes, cancer and more. I do think it takes a village to raise our children, and I want to know that other parents would have my kids’ best interests in mind as I do theirs.

I don’t need to be in charge of what all kids eat – but I do want to be in charge of what my kids eat, which means that other people shouldn’t be feeding them 25-35 times a year in the classroom alone.

Most of all, I want my kids to outlive me, not be the first generation in recorded history to have a lower life expectancy than the previous one.

What does your school do to celebrate birthdays? Would you be bold enough to suggest a “no treat” policy change?

Further Reading:

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65 Comments so far ↓

  • NancyLee

    How about: Birthdays at home only………

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    I’d be all over that one, NancyLee! But I think parents would really dislike it… :) Katie

    Isharona Reply:

    I’m 36 yrs old and don’t remember school birthday celebrations like we have now for my kids. I recently have been faced with the challenge of learning how to cook and bake gluten free meals and also my teenage son and I can’t have dairy. I have come a long way in only 3 months and I have to say it has been fun. We feel soooo much better. It isn’t so great when my 6 yr. old can’t have his favorite cupcakes at school. I sent in some GF oreos but it is so odd that these guys are having birthday celebrations sometimes 2 or 3 times a week now because they are fitting in all the summer birthdays! The schools need to change but not for the kids with food allergies but so ALL kids are in a healthy learning environment that supports the families attempts to prevent problems with their kids health. I was baking homemade cookies every Friday night for my kids and again for the church kids on sunday nights. I noticed that my family has not been sick all winter and I am always sick with something but not one time have I had a cold or stomach bug. I read that sugar compromises your immune system. Well for my family, sugar and gluten compromises every thing. Gluten and sugar caused my teenage son and I to have leaky gut and candida. What a mess but we know now and will never turn back. We never knew that our brain fog, fatigue, itchy rashes could be caused by our diet but we went to a nutritionist and discovered the source of all our problems. Gluten and sugar. I am very concerned about other children and families that don’t know this profound truth. We are feeding our children too much of what they want and no where near enough of what they need. I am not a haggard person that wants kids to be miserable and never have fun, I love children.. put on huge week long events for the kids at our church and get excited about fun kids activities but now I understand that we have to change some of what we are doing with our kids, now. They look to us adults and count on us to make the right decisions for them and they don’t believe that they should be above our decision making even when they try to be!

    sae Reply:

    I absolutely hate this and it has become a part of my daughter’s school this year. I would agree to it just fine if the school actually practiced what they preach. However my daughter is in special classes and they reward her with CANDY for every task she completes. She is the ONLY kid in her class that is NOT obese and that is because we eat a very strict and healthy diet at home. I was actually hoping to do a fruit rainbow for the kids kind as a nudge to the teachers to try giving HEALTHY incentives. Let me tell you I about fell out of my chair when the office told me they don’t do any kind of heavy sugars. I was like wait a minute, the kids in my daughter’s class get heavy sugars everyday. This is not fair. Plus even worse is that the teachers ask us as parents to bring baked goods once a week for them (the TEACHERS) to enjoy for their after school meetings. Wait so we can bake for the TEACHERS but not own own CHILDREN? I call BS big time.

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Wow Sae, that is a big ouch in many ways. I’m so sorry! I really abhor candy rewards, but you’re right – you see them MOST of all in the special needs classes where most likely, the kids are MORE affected negatively than kids who aren’t already struggling with academics. It’s kicking those poor kids while they’re down, and it’s NOT fair. I hope you can find a few other like-minded parents and bring your concerns to the principal or school board. Double standards (or triple standards it sounds like!) are a huge problem in a school. I wish you all the best in making change happen! (and well done for what you’re doing at home!!) :) Katie

  • Heather

    Is that 2-3 pounds a week per adult real?! We don’t go through that much a week for our family of 5, and I’ve been keeping (homemade) cookies around all winter! We’ll go through even less in the summer, because I’ll be too busy to bake, and we don’t do store cookies.

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Heather,
    You can click on the source link (http://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2012/08/30/how-much-sugar-are-americans-eating-infographic/) and see the pretty cool infographic. It’s based on all added sugar – so ketchup, salad dressings, etc – not just sweets and def. not just sweets made at home. I’m guessing your family and mine bring the average down, huh? ;) Katie

    Heather Reply:

    :-) I don’t buy anything with sugar in it, except chocolate, and the sweeteners, themselves, normally. Ketchup and whatnot are homemade, since that takes 5 minutes and is super simple.

  • Haley

    This all sounds well thought out and logical until this last line “Most of all, I want my kids to outlive me, not be the first generation in recorded history to demonstrate the reverse.” which to me comes across as fairly rude and mean, other than that this just sounds like a great idea and I hope you get enough people to support you.

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Haley,
    I do appreciate your perspective, and I’ll certainly have to consider whether I use that statistic in our presentation…but I’m not being melodramatic there, it actually IS predicted that the children of today may be the first generation not to outlive their parents. That’s just…scary. Katie

    Haley Reply:

    That may be but the way it is presented makes it sound like fear mongering which in my experiwnce tends to turn people away very quickly.

    Brittany Reply:

    I’ve heard and read this from multiple sources. It’s really not too surprising if you think about all of the formerly adult-diseases we’re seeing now seeing kids. But to clarify, I think it’s predicted that our kids won’t live as long as we do, not that they will actually die before we do. So if our life expectancy is 80, theirs would be lower.

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Oh, yes Brittany, you’re right – I guess I phrased it the way I’ve read it in other articles, but it was in a greater context. I might rephrase that part – yes, life expectancy, not actual date of death. Thanks! :) Katie

  • Elisabeth

    I am floored that children eat that much more sugar than adults do, even though they eat fewer calories in a day. Whoah!

  • Tammy

    When I grew up, we never had birthday party snacks or gifts. Once or twice a year PTA members brought a snack (a single shaped cookie and juice or punch) for a holiday and Valentine’s Day had only a single box of heart candies with words and simple paper Valentine’s “cards,” if you want to call them that. No sugar overload treats. I think simple is better. Even foregoing the $15 book, let the child be the designated teacher’s helper for the day, passing out papers, cleaning erasers, getting to be first in line for recess and lunch… Those things that give a child an opportunity to help and lead.

    Best wishes in changing a broken system.

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Thanks Tammy! I like those ideas too; I just think about all the classrooms, especially younger ones, where they already have “star of the week” and classroom jobs like line leader and paper passer…I’m afraid that would interfere too much with too many teachers’ routines…
    :) Katie

  • Emily

    I think you should also bring up that this plan would be an equalizer. Parents feel pressure to spend money and time on treats (food or otherwise) and it puts those who can’t afford it into an uncomfortable position–and even more uncomfortable for the kid whose parent has to say no because they can’t afford it. This plan would save parents money and help those who can’t afford it to not feel embarrassed or pressured.

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    That’s a GREAT point, Emily! Thank you – adding to my document for the parent meeting now!!
    :) Katie

  • Emily

    P. S. I love that you work so hard to make a difference at your kids’ school while still making it fun. I applaud you for being so firm and following your convictions.

  • Gretchen R

    I love the idea of forgoing treats, and I personally love the idea of books. I do know that you may get some eye rolls about making EVERYTHING so “bookish” especially with a celebration. So many people seem to think that a celebration means doing everything that should be only once in awhile. But when every once in awhile is all the time, it’s a big deal!

    Anyway, I’m a homeschool mom now, so I may not know what your particular school does for learning, but maybe you can use that “celebration time” to have the child give a little presentation of what they are passionate about. Guitars? Turtles? Airplanes? China? The child would be so excited to talk about something their passionate about, the whole class would get the best type of education (taught by someone passionate about the subject), public speaking skills would be developed, and no unhealthy food would be consumed. It may vary by age, but I think most kindergarteners on up could handle a simple show and tell to celebrate their birthday.

  • Bethany

    I try to be mellow about school treat stuff, but boy it really does add up.

    The one that tipped me over recently is that the classroom that collects the most “box tops” in a month is rewarded with ice cream bars. Seriously?!

  • Sarah

    As a parent of children with multiple food sensitivities, I LOVE this. In fact, it was one of many factors we considered when selecting an elementary school for our kids.

    Our principal was saddened by the inequity, and how kids were treated based on the treat they brought (or didn’t bring). So now the kids get to select a small item from the principal’s office (pencil, notepad, eraser, etc.), their teacher recognizes the special day in some way, and the parents have the option to purchase a library book.

    In this case, the child selects a book worth $10, $15, or $20 (parent’s choice), their name is put on a nameplate in the book, and the child gets to be the first to check it out. It sounds complicated, but they have it down to a system. We love it!

    Beth Reply:

    I like the choice of money. $15 for a book seems crazy high, especially w/ those scholastic book orders having a ton of books for $5 or so. Now granted those aren’t hard covers. Maybe you’re thinking of that. But I like the idea of having a choice–I’d say from $5-15, myself. You spend at least $5 on just making treats anyway, considerably more if you’re buying them.

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Beth/Sarah,
    I was surprised at the $15 too, but that was the amount on both the school example we are emulating and the paper our own media center librarian sent home from an “optional” program she used to have. I think it is because they’re the hardcover, nicely bound library copies.

    I know that’s too much for some, which is why there are a few other options on the list. :) Katie

    Sarah Reply:

    Yes, the $10-$20 range does seem high. But you’re right, they buy hardcover books whenever possible.

    Soldier on, Katie. This is a battle well worth fighting.

    CT Reply:

    $15 doesn’t seem that high when I consider the amount of money that I have spent on junk going home to my kids’ classmates (pencils, erasers, etc.–no food at our schools) that is in the trash by the end of the week.

  • Julieanne

    I’m a former elementary school teacher in the public school system, and prior to 1997 (when I began working in an educational office and was no longer in a classroom situation), we didn’t really have parents make a big deal about a child’s birthday, although once in a while, a parent would bring in some cupcakes or cookies or a small treat for the entire class. If you would like to give up any treat or small gift for the classmates, that’s up to you and your school, but I enjoyed helping to make a child’s birthday a special event…and I didn’t ever think those 15 minutes weren’t worth it. Many of my students had such hard home life situations and were so poor that for me as their teacher to give them an emotional boost for 15 minutes just dedicated to them was a very big deal! :) Each child is worth celebrating, as I know you realize this, but to eliminate all celebrations in a classroom, of a child’s birthday, would not sit well with me. My classroom would have gone ahead and celebrated each child’s birthday, anyway! :) It wouldn’t have to be with sweet, sugary treats. But if a parent brought in something else to share with the children, I wouldn’t have argued against it. :) That seems a bit heartless to me. Six hours of an entire school year (9 months long) seems minimal to help honor and celebrate a child who may have no birthday party at home, ever. I have had students who had no celebration of their birthday, and that was a sad thing to me.

    Susan Reply:

    Julianne, I think you missed the part about the “birthday book” being the replacement celebration of the birthday child. I have seen this idea suggested other places, only the family picks out the book and writes the child’s name and birthdate in the book before presenting it to the classroom. The teacher makes a big deal about the book, reading it to the class, and then keeps it in the classroom library where the child is able to revisit it and remember their special moment. Can’t do that with a cupcake, now can you?

    I think this is a brilliant idea and one I’m hoping to encourage my son’s teacher to pursue when he enters KDG in the fall – and if it’s not adopted classroom- or school-wide, I’ll still do it.

    I can’t wait to hear how it turns out for you!

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Julieanne,
    Wouldn’t it be cool to start a conversation about why the child chose the book, or even to have the child share something they love or have learned about recently? So YES the birthday child can have some celebratory time, sure, 15 minutes, why not? But also why abandon academics for sugar in the name of celebration? The school that we’re emulating stated it this way: “Birthdays will be celebrated with a good book, selected by the student, to jumpstart class discussion about the student’s special qualities or interests.” Love that!

    Plus, at our school, we really don’t have kids who don’t have birthday celebrations…and they all bring in treats for everyone, usually to excess. At the school where I used to teach, one child even brought in pizza for everyone! Phew! It’s just overkill…

    Sounds like you were a wonderful and caring teacher – thanks for bringing this perspective to the conversation. :) Katie

  • victor

    Excellent plan. Children don’t need sugar overload as motivational plan or as part of reward system. And its not heartless to discourage unhealthy treats, giving in to treats as reward just reinforces sugar addictions that have made the younger generation what it is.

  • Robyn

    Good for you!

    Our school has been “no treats” since we’ve been there (ten years). The PTA buys books and children’s birthdays are announced on the intercom right after the pledge and announcements. “Birthdays today are…Johnny Smith, Sarah Willis, and Jimmy Smith. Happy birthday! You can go to the LRC and choose your birthday book!”

    Kids can choose a book to bring home. They love it! And maybe because we’ve never known anything different, nobody questions it.

    A few years ago, we went to NO FOOD in the classroom at all except fresh fruit and veggies. So, all “in class” snacks are fruits and vegetables. This is due to the HUGE increase in food allergies. Before, they said, “students can bring a healthy snack,” but it was too ambiguous. Students brought pop tarts and potato chips for snacks, which made the kids with apples feel bad.

    Kids can bring what they want in their lunches.

    I’m very pleased with our school policy.

    Do you know any of the food allergy moms? I would get them in your corner– kids DO feel left out when everyone is eating a cupcake that they can’t eat.

    I believe strongly that this is a battle worth fighting! Our whole country is talking about the “obesity epidemic” and we are pushing cake on kids at school??? Not okay or healthy.

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Amen to that, Robyn! I will make sure I pull in food allergy families if I need to…but hopefully it will just slide right through. We shall see! :) Katie

  • Carrie

    Our kids’ (Cattholic Montessori) school already does not allow birthday treats – or desserts and juice in lunches for that matter – and it is a huge blessing. It eliminates pressure on the parents and competitiveness among the kids, and of course keeps added sugar to a minimum. The classes celebrate the birthday kids in different ways, and since everyone is doing the same nobody complains. It would be harder to transition for kids used to treats, but I predict it will be fun for all and obviously healthier in the long run.

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Carrie,
    Yes, the transition will be tough, but then it will just be “the new normal” – I hope! A few years ago the librarian successfully managed to switch over the “gift swap” at Christmas (which had become a mess of dollar store and way-too-expensive gadgets) to only books. People balked, but by the time we started at the school, it’s just the way they did it. I have hope! :) Katie

    PS – your school sounds wonderful; I wish I lived near you!!

  • Pam

    No birthday celebrations are allowed at our schools. The teacher and class recognize the birthday and the student can share what they plan to do to celebrate outside of school. The recognition alone seems to be enough. They have 3 class parties per year (Fall Celebration in November, Friendship Day/Valentines Day, and end of school year party). Healthy snacks/no sweets are mandatory… we’ve done apple slices with caramel, make your own snack mix with pretzels, raisins, etc. The only drawback is that it cannot be anything homemade, it must be prepackaged and unopened from a store. Plus we have to follow health department guidelines when preparing and serving the snacks. And no more goodie bags at parties (thank god… it was becoming a competition anong hyper-involved moms to see who could make the best ones). Grades K-3 can bring snacks to school every day, but we the parents provide them individually. There is hope and some schools are already on board with healthier eating!

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Pam,
    That does give me hope! (Although I’m grateful we can still bring homemade treats to parties, but I do understand the food safety regs with allergies and such.)

    :) Katie

  • Becky

    I think the book idea is awesome and we had a parent do this for her child’s birthday. I agree with the cupcake issue. Too many issues with food to have outside food given to kids. And the sugar factor is off the charts. I don’t like the idea of banning the little goodie bags. There is magic in them. When a child receives one you can see the joy and excitement in his/her eyes. It’s like a mini treasure chest. Yeah it’s a bunch of junk but that junk inspires wonder in the child.

  • Tanya

    Katie,

    I agree with you 100%. My kids will start arguing with me weeks before their Birthday in regards to what they would like to bring to school for their Birthday snack – when in the back of my mind I did not want to bring a snack at all. My thoughts too were let’s buy a book for the classroom or pencils for everyone (which the kids said no to right away because that is not what everyone else does). The pressure of finding the right snack to bring is to much for me and I think the school is doing a great job by already providing them with their crowns, stickers, decorated lockers and a nice card from the principle including a pencil to make their day special. I too do not recall having birthday treats at school when I was growing up. It would make is so much easier to purchase a book in place of a birthday treat. Let’s keep the Birthday snacks at home and let the child have a special day at school without the snacks.

  • Katherine

    Good luck Katie! Can’t wait to hear how it goes!!

  • Laurie

    Our school has had the same policy for at least the 9 years that we have been there. On the child’s birthday they are presented with a book full of “compliments” written and illustrated by the other kids in the class. Each of them were given one page to write a compliment and draw a picture to go with it and had the week before the birthday to finish it. All of them are put together with a laminated cover and bound together to form the book. My kids have always looked forward to receiving it! It is simple, educational and sugar free :)

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    So nice! I bet those are something to treasure over the years; better than a yearbook even! :) Katie

  • Christina

    I like the overall idea of not having treats for birthdays, but I’m a big proponant of children having time to be children at school. My children currently get 0-10 minutes of free time each day, so they really value a small birthday celebration. I’m with you on cutting out the sugar (those cupcakes totally irritate me!), but I think kids are special enough to celebrate them. Each individual life is more important than 15 minutes of teaching time.

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Christina,
    I like your point – kids do have their free time all “scheduled” too much too. Time to play and let loose is important…maybe I should downplay the time part of the argument or play up the other ways teachers can make kids feel special depending on their classroom structure/ages. Thanks! :) Katie

  • Casey

    Thank you for this! I’ve resorted to paying my kids in order to help them avoid the sugar overload at school: http://kyhealthykids.com/2013/10/29/desperation-strategy-for-school-sugar-overload/

  • Heidi

    Wow, you’re brave!! My kids are almost completely grown, and I homeschooled them until the youngest was in middle school, but I can see how this would be a huge problem in schools. Go for it–you may not succeed this year, but keep after it, and maybe eventually you will see the tide turning!

  • Amy

    Love this post! I am passionate about creating policies that would keep treats out of birthdays. My son’s class does not allow birthday treats, but others do. I am working on getting some moms in my area together to propose something like this. Some great stats for me to bring in as well. There are so many ways to celebrate a birthday. Love the book idea (our school does that already), but also having the kid be leader of the day, pick activities, et. Please let us know how it goes!

  • Lindsay Palazzolo

    I’m a homeschooler myself, but as a former classroom teacher (and a person who has struggled with sugar addiction my whole life), I’m for it! I wonder how many people aren’t crazy about “having to” bag up 25 portions of dollar store stuff, knowing that it will be thrown out. I know I wouldn’t be! And the food allergies. . . . SO many people need special arrangements. I’m ready to say no to any “food” activities with scouting, homeschool groups, etc, and just feed our own kids as an aside to the main activity. Here, although we provide birthday cake for the at-home party, we have sledding or sprinklers for the kids, and have that be the excitement. NO junk-treat bags, because I hate getting them and feel guilty throwing the stuff out. Sure, they like the cake just fine, but I’ve found that my kids can leave a piece half-eaten if they are full or something more fun is happening.

    In the past, I’ve felt bad for not keeping up with a lot of stuff on here, but this post made me think about all of the junk my kids aren’t getting, between birthday treats and cafeteria lunches. Because I am too lazy to get them on the bus at exactly the same time every day. ;)

  • casey

    When I was a kid we did the ‘birthday book’ thing. I have no idea how it was paid for, but the librarian would have a list of books and the child would choose one. Then once the book was purchased, the librarian put a nameplate in the front stating ‘this book was donated by xxxx’. My books are still in the school library, and I’m 37 now.

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    That is so awesome Casey! I might have to mention that to our school’s parents… ;) Katie

  • Diva Goes Organic

    I hate that our culture is so focused on sweets as a reward system that some people perceive your idea as “heartless” or “taking away from celebrating the child.” I think a book is a fabulous idea, although I’d settle for a non – food item as well. Luckily I don’t have to worry about this quite yet as my daughter just turned one :) Kudos for being brave enough to pioneer this idea at your school! This definitely gives me inspiration for when I have kids in school.

  • Lily

    How about celebrating all the birthdays for the month once a month as a compromise?

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Lily,
    A decent idea, but I think you’d get as many parents upset about the “not a special day for each child” issue with that one as there might be with my plan, and plus I still have 9 more sugary treats per year, perhaps worse if all the parents for that month try to help! ;) Katie

  • Karen

    My daughter’s school (in the Burbank Unified School District in CA) also has a no sweets policy (for snacks, lunches and for birthdays). However, they do allow the giving of pencils, etc. and encourage the donation of a book to the library for birthdays. They only have one party the entire year for Valentine’s Day and sweets are allowed for that, but they can’t be homemade.

    Karen Reply:

    Sometimes I wonder if her teacher thinks I’m sending her with a “sweet” when I make your recipe for banana flaxseed muffins. :)

  • Tracy

    My oldest is starting school in the fall & have been wondering how this is going to play out. Everywhere we go there’s candy already! I don’t think it will be possible to separate the food from celebration, since it even happens in the Bible a lot. But, nourishing food, please! What if some kids aren’t into books or reading, will they appreciate the book idea? I think it’s a good idea, but I was just wondering.

    Victor Reply:

    I don’t think the Bible had celebrations with candy and cake and ice cream. Food yes, junk food no.

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Amen, Victor! ;) Katie

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Tracy,
    Good point that some kids don’t like books…but they’re still having a “special thing” just for them, which counts for a lot. Another commenter suggested letting them present to the class on something they really love, whatever it is. I think it’s a good “optional recommendation” to toss out there for teachers.
    :) Katie

  • Lindsey

    LOVE this idea! I’m going to draft a letter to the director of my son’s private montessori school based on your ideas. Even with a small class, it seems like he is coming home having had a cupcake or with a bag of junk SO often! And I’m sure no mom would be super sad to have one more obligation off her list.

    For my son’s birthday this year, I brought a bunch of bananas and we made “banana swirl ice cream” that I put in cones for the kids. No sugar and it was a hit!

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    I’m hoping to play up the “one less thing to do” issue too, since I know I always feel over committed!! Let us know how it goes with your school! :) Katie

  • Theresa

    Parents are going to send in treats anyway. There better be a policy for how they will be quietly given back to the parent or kept to go home with the kid at the end of the day.

    My kids bring home treat bags for Christmas, Valentines Day, Easter, Halloween. Parents do this lavish stuff. I don’t get the desire to spend $40 X 3 e times a year x 3 kids on my kids’ classmates.

    I have sent in the suggested Walmart mini cupcakes for my sons’ birthdays. $6 for 36 cupcakes. I know the sugar isn’t the best thing. But the kids are so active. I don’t think a mini cupcake every week or so is the worst thing. I refuse to send in treat bags. It seems so wasteful and I know I don’t like dealing with the junk that comes home.

    Diva Goes Organic Reply:

    If only sugar could be remedied so easily by being active…

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Good for you to choose the minis! At least that’s better than the big guys. :) You make a good point on having a system in place for returning the parents who feel they are above the policy…

    Thanks, Katie

  • Tonya

    Here’s someone who believes like you do that kids don’t need all the extra junk food and snacks. I hope this encourages you to continue your battle to help create a culture of wellness. http://www.doctoryum.com/2014/06/only-a-culture-of-wellness-can-save-kids-from-obesity/

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Awesome, thanks!

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Welcome!  Meet Katie.

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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