In the last couple years my children’s public elementary school has adopted a “no food” policy for birthday and holiday celebrations due to the increasing amount of children with severe food allergies. While I greatly understand and appreciate this, now my children come home with $1 store trinkets that end up in the garbage. I read recently that in one school district non-food treats were also banned in order to alleviate the teacher having to take the time to check the goody bags not only for food items, but small toys that could be potential choking hazards. I am all for this. I explain to my children around their birthdays each year that it is a time to celebrate them, and they should not feel the need to bestow small trinkets upon their classmates. There are other ways to celebrate other than cake and handing out small prizes. The class could sing to the birthday child or play a special game. The child could be line leader for the day, or be allowed to hold some other special position in the classroom on his/her birthday. Once again, why do celebrations always seem to revolve around food? Unhealthy food?
Last year in my daughter’s second grade classroom each child could bring in a special treat just for themselves on certain holidays, such as Valentine’s Day. Honestly, I dreaded having to come up with something that was “special” and that wouldn’t cause a sugar rush/crash in the middle of the school day. I opted to make rice crispy treats and cut one out in the shape of a heart. My daughter was perfectly pleased with this, while other students munched on cupcakes, cookies, and candy. I am not sure if a rice crispy treat is any better, but I figured it was a good compromise between giving my daughter a bag of skittles or a juicy, green apple! I have no problem with my children eating sweets occasionally, but I do think there is a time and place for them to enjoy these. While they are at school I want them focused and alert. I want them on their best behavior and gaining knowledge.
I am happy to say that a lot of teachers are adopting a healthy snack policy in their classroom. While they can’t exactly mandate the snack, they do suggest healthier alternatives. I was ecstatic to read on my daughter’s 3rd grade teacher’s web page a list of healthy snack ideas for the class. I am a volunteer coach for the national program, Girls on the Run, and was thrilled another coach, who is also a teacher in my children’s school, say that she also added a healthy snack idea list to her site! Woo hoo! Superstar teachers!
On a disappointing note……I heard that the extended day Kindergarten program was offering snacks such as Doritos, Cheetos, Scooby Doo Snacks (whatever those are), Oreos, etc. on a daily basis. What?!! I realize that fresh fruit is going to cost more, but pretzels or graham crackers would be a better choice than over processed chips and cookies. My child is not in this extended program, but it still irks me the school is providing students with these types of snacks. Kids need a nutritional snack that keeps their sugars level and provides them with nutrients, not just fills them up. The rise of childhood obesity should be another cause of alarm when it comes to these snacks with no nutritional value. Over processed snacks tend to be higher in calories and fat, and leave a person feeling less full, than say an apple and some cheese or a handful of pretzels. Healthy snacks also help children develop healthy eating habits.
My last thought…..adding a fun dip is a great way to get a child to eat a healthy snack. My five year old son is pretty good about eating vegetables with a meal. But ask him to have a piece of fruit or some veggies for a snack, a tantrum might be thrown! Hummus with sliced veggies or plain Greek yogurt (with a little honey mixed in) with fruit slices, are two options that kids seem to enjoy. Both hummus and Greek yogurt pack a lot of protein, and hummus also has a good amount of fiber. I have also found that if I throw a few sprinkles (like the kind you would decorate a cake with) on some yogurt, my daughter will go to town! Once again, it’s all about compromising! Good luck with your own snack wars at school and beyond!