Valentine’s Day cards go into production soon after Jan. 1 in my house. I start looking around and planning, trying to find the perfect thing that is creative and fun, but isn’t so delicate and complicated that it falls apart on the way to school. I’m not someone who can take the easy way out by buying the pre-made Valentine’s candies at the store days before the school parties, but I don’t have a problem with people who do. The kids like receiving almost any Valentine’s, regardless of whether it came from home or Target, and while the holiday has started to resemble Halloween, prohibiting candy exchanges at school parties doesn’t help anyone. It doesn’t prevent childhood obesity, it doesn’t teach kids moderation, and it doesn’t even prevent cavities. The cause of sugar-related problems is an unhealthy lifestyle, not a special occasion splurge.
When my daughter started kindergarten, kids weren’t allowed to have sugary treats at all in their lunches, including juice. Using a water bottle is easy and it’s even easier to avoid having to pack a dessert when any peer pressure to have a cool lunch has been removed. As the kids have gotten older, the teachers in upper grades are a little more lax, but that’s okay, because the healthier habits have been set. Juice is still a no-no, but tucking an occasional cookie into a lunch bag is okay.
As a contrast, last year I was at my son’s preschool during their meal time and I was stunned by the lack of garbage packed into the majority of lunch boxes. There were juice boxes galore and tons of processed, packaged food overflowing on the little tables (the amount of trash generated was also staggering).
Guess which school allows sugary treats on birthdays and other holidays?
My son’s school doesn’t allow any sugar at Halloween or birthdays, and just this week, a note went out asking for no sugar with Valentine’s cards either. I’d already purchased the 50 Tootsie Pops needed to cover two preschool classes, which means I’m going to break the no-sugar rule. While I didn’t set out to break their rule, I’m not bothered by doing so because it’s ridiculous. My kids tend to lose interest in their Valentine’s Day (or Halloween) candy long before they’ve finished their share, but even if they didn’t, it’s a special treat doled out over time. I’m more offended by a sack full of plastic, Oriental Trading Company landfill handed out in lieu of the candy.
These kids should be taught that sugar is for special occasions, but instead the lesson is “Sugar is bad! Except don’t look too closely at the ingredients in your lunch box!” Thankfully those preschoolers can’t read, right? Corn syrup isn’t sold in the produce section.
My daughter’s school, with their general sugar consumption restricted during school hours, allows treats on birthdays and holidays. We can bring in brownies for her birthday and we can stick a lollipop onto a Valentine’s Day card because the message has been sent that sugar, in moderation, is okay.