Unpopular opinion: I hate celebrating birthdays in the classroom.
Okay, that statement isn’t entirely true. I love celebrating my students, but I cannot stand the mountains of cupcakes, cakes, ice-cream treats, jello, and candies that are inevitably brought into the classroom. One student even brought in a pot of spaghetti on the morning of his birthday. I wish I was joking.
While I do believe that birthdays are a great opportunity to celebrate each individual student, the sugary treats and unanticipated meals can make our day quite difficult. Have you tried teaching 30 third-graders who are very hyper on cupcakes with mile-high-icing? I have, and it is not easy. Then multiply that by 20-30 different birthdays in the class… it’s a lot of sugar. And when students spontaneously bring in a lunchtime item to share (spaghetti, hot dogs, pizza, etc.) there just often isn’t time to pass it out and eat it before the lunch bell rings. At our school students get 20 minutes to eat lunch and passing out ‘special birthday lunch’ without notice means that students forego their outside playtime.
I also have a handful of students with a restricted diet (allergies, family preferences, naturopathic suggestions) and days with food treats just end up making many students feel left out.
There are so many other great ways to celebrate students and their birthdays without sugary treats. Here are a few of my favorites:
Plan a game or activity for the class. Bring in a soccer ball, parachute or any group game and have students play something together.
Bring an in-class activity. I’ve had students bring in a small drawing project, an outdoor game, or a quick STEM challenge
In lieu of cake/candy, families are welcome to bring in a small toy or pencil
Do something different – last year we decorated an 11x17 piece of paper for each student. In the center of the paper, I wrote “Happy Birthday Joe” in large letters. As students arrived they wrote a short encouraging note on the paper. Then, the birthday student took a picture holding the sign and wearing a birthday hat. This was a great keepsake for the student and the picture looked awesome on a bulletin board.
Don’t have time for a celebration like this at every birthday? Try picking one day per month to celebrate birthdays! Students love knowing that a celebration is coming and I like to be able to plan ahead of time for these activities. Plus, it allows all monthly birthdays to participate, even if their family has not sent in a game or activity!
I’d love to know how you celebrate birthdays in your classroom. Does your school have any rules about sugary treats? Let me know in the comments below or find me on Instagram! (@poet.prints)