In 30 minutes, I’m headed to Krispy Kreme to pick up two dozen doughnuts that will be delivered to my daughter’s sixth grade class just before the end of the day. I’m thankful that it’s only doughnuts instead of almost two dozen cupcakes, which some parents bring on their child’s birthday. When I mention birthday treats, people are often surprised that we’re allowed to bring anything sweet at all to school for a birthday. It’s allowed and I’m so thankful that it is.
My kids go to a progressive school, one that I lovingly call the hippie school. When my daughter began kindergarten, her teacher explained the philosophy, which was that she didn’t want to see juice or sweets in daily lunches (later her second grade teacher accurately added that gummy candy packaged as fruit snacks were indeed candy and she didn’t allow them). Sugar is for special occasions, which includes birthdays, she went on to explain. Halloween includes a candy carnival, holidays call for cookie decorating, and birthdays including cupcakes or Popsicles or even doughnuts. I love this approach. It’s traditional, from a time before snack packs became ubiquitous, before sports snacks featured high fructose corn syrup, and before lunches included juice boxes, chips, and a dessert. Why don’t all schools follow this approach?
Has taking away the treat that goes with a special occasion made kids less likely to gorge on sugar? I’d guess it’s the opposite.
My kids go to a small private school with involved parents and a progressive philosophy, which makes it easier for restrictions such as these to be placed and then followed (we were also asked to try to limit landfill in our lunch packaging. All of the kids use refillable bottles, and I cannot remember seeing a lunchbox without refillable containers). It’s harder to carry out in larger classes with less involvement and lunch oversight.
In preschool, birthday treats were not allowed with the argument that the teachers would be passing out cupcakes all the time. There were 22 kids in the class, I don’t think that it would be all the time. I’d certainly rather see kids only get sugary snacks on 22 days of the school year, rather than every day. Instead, we were encouraged to give out trinkets or stickers. The cheap stuff that gets tossed in the garbage soon after arriving at home, and oddly enough, costs more than store bought cupcakes.
When I was a kid, having my mom show up to my class on my birthday with two well-used Tupperware containers filled with cupcakes was a huge treat. Everyone freaked out with joy (which is one reason teachers may avoid cupcakes). It marked the day as special, and I’m glad my kids get to know that feeling, too.
Now I’m off to get doughnuts for a bunch of sixth graders.