Birthday Treats in the Classroom

The thought of birthday treats and unsafe snacks in my son’s classroom gives me a case of the hives. Ok, not literally but I do worry about the chance of something inadvertently getting onto his skin or in his mouth that would trigger a life threatening reaction. Thankfully, most of John’s teachers have been more than accomadating to his needs by enforcing a “peanut free room” policy, and providing parents a list of approved snacks in the classroom. John is in first grade now and we’ve had no issues to date. I credit his teachers enormously for this by taking John’s food allergies seriously and following a treat free policy. However, not everyone believes in this policy and some parents and administrators have gone through great pains to make sure our classes have the freedom of choice in terms of whether or not to allow birthday treats.

The notion of allowing birthday treats in the classroom is outdated and it opens the door of liability for the school. Most importantly, it puts our food allergic children at greater risk of a reaction unneccessarily. It also reinforces the idea that a food allergic child is and should be excluded from traditional birthday or holiday celebrations. At my children’s school I am asked to sign a document that addresses the policies and procedures, and the policies specifically say “no child shall be excluded…”. Um, guess they weren’t thinking about excluding food allergic children from sharing cupcakes, cakes, brownies, candies, etc. during birthday or Halloween celebrations.

Let me be clear, I am not asking for a food ban here. We live in a world that John and many of his food allergic friends have to adapt to and live freely in. I would never ask for a food ban as that is unreasonable; you can’t shield your children forever (although it would be kind of nice). I would prefer that my school adopt a policy that allows birthdays to be celebrated with non food items such as pencils, stickers, or even a book. Aren’t those healthier choices anyway? I have informally surveyed many moms around the school if they would be opposed to a non food policy to be enforced (not just “suggested” as it is at John’s school). Overwhelmingly they all said they would actually prefer a non food celebration at the school. Our kids are more than taken care of at home during their own family and friend parties. Who needs the extra sugar at 2 pm anyway?

I told our superintendent the other day that what I am asking for is a school wide policy that sets the boundaries so there are no gray areas of interpretation. Kids, you can celebrate your birthday at school. Mom and Dad can come in to read a book and pass out fun trinkets if desired. But keep your cupcakes at home to celebrate with your family and friends during your birthday party. Is this unreasonable? I don’t think so. Let me know what you think.



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13 responses to “Birthday Treats in the Classroom

  1. meredith

    I fully agree with you Kelly, and we have NO food alllergies in our family. I try really hard to monitor the sugar and processed food intake of my kids, so the whole cupcake thing at school (times 20 some kids) seems like a bad message.
    Love the blog girl, but ya knew I would!
    Go mom warrior!

  2. Amy

    Hi Kelly… Thank you for your comment on my blog. It has been nice meeting you 😉 I can tell that your blog is going to be a great place for me to visit. I can’t wait to try the Apple Crisp recipe. We were recently given a ton of apples from a neighbor who went apple picking, and I did make one, but I am always open for new recipes.

    As far as the snack thing in school…. <<>> I completely understand where you are coming from! Our school experience is still new too us. My son just started kindergarten this year. I have to say that, so far, our experience has been awesome! I love his teacher. You can read about my thoughts by visiting my blog (I dont’ want to take up too much time here.) She and the principal have made our experience much better than I ever imagined. There are not nuts allowed in the classroom, but cupcakes and other treats are allowed in for birthdays etc. I have talked extensively with his teacher about prevention tactics, and this was the only area that we can’t get past. So, I have provided a safe snack bin for my son where he can pick a treat for himself on those days (the other kids are more envious of him, actually), and I have made it clear that he HAS TO WASH his hands afterward. I have also explained that ALL THE TABLE TOPS have to be washed off as well as the other children’s hands. I provide Lysol wipes to help with the table issue. So far, it is working out. Since I have not been too successful at ridding the classroom of treats in general, I have decided to look at it as an opportunity for my son to learn a little vigilance for himself (remembering to wash his hands, for instance.)

    I am sorry to take up so much space. I am just excited to meet another food allergy blogger as well 🙂


  3. Tina Lundberg

    I have never thought about birthday treats this way before and I couldn’t agree more – I love it – and I don’t even have a child with a food allergy!

    I have 4 kids ranging from 8 and under. We are fortunate to not have food allergies in our family (especially for me since I am a very lazy cook) , but we have always been sensitive to other families that do. I have always tried to send healthy snacks or lunches to school as well as nothing containing the word peanut or nut attached! This year, my kids school “enforced” a rule of NO PEANUT PRODUCTS in anything brought into the school…sack lunches, daily snacks, birthday treats, holiday parties. This is 1st year in our school where we were informed that we have a 1st grader with a critical peanut allergy, and we were sent a letter asking parents NOT TO SEND ANY LUNCHES OR SNACKS WITH PEANUTS IN IT. I have recently been informed by my 8-yr-old twins, Clare & Tom, that MANY kids bring PB’Js as well as many other dangerous outside foods to school all the time!!!

    I WILL make a point of forwarding your blog and sharing your message to my grade school and everyone else I know!


  4. Casey

    My family does not have any allergy issues but I could not agree more that sweets at school are NOT an essential part of a birthday celebration. I am commited to feeding my children the best and most well rounded meals so that at holidays and birthdays they can indulge without the guilt factor. With home and family celebrations there are PLENTY of opportunities for my children to celebrate with their favorite treats – there is no need for it in school. I think a book/non-food treat at school is a WONDERFUL idea. In fact, my cousins attend a school in Arizona that do not allow food treats at all and they were so surprised to hear that it is even an option here! Even aside from all of this, we should be thinking of those children with allergies – I would never want someone (especially a child) to feel left out – and that’s exactly what happens when they have to have a different snack (or no snack at all).

  5. I’m with you on this too!

  6. Our school discourages food treats, if every one brings in certified nut free cupcakes, what about other allergies in the classroom?

  7. kellyrudnicki

    Hi Amy,
    Nice to meet you as well! You bring up some excellent points, and the wipes are a great idea. Especially when he starts first grade in a lunchroom it’s important to wipe the table first before eating. Does your school have a peanut free table or zone?

  8. Linda Maffiola

    What a wonderful site you have started, Kelly! May I share this with friends? Linda

  9. Amy

    Yes, Kelly, our lunchroom does have a peanut free lunch table. I have been told that there is also a special bucket and wash cloth that is used to clean this table so there will be no cross contamination issues. Currently, we do not have to deal with lunch yet as kindergarteners are only there half a day. But, I have been thinking about next year. Even though the school is handling the situation wonderfully, I will still plan on packing a little baggie of wipes in my son’s lunchbox so he can clean his space (and hands) before eathing his lunch. I think it never hurts to be extra cautios. For him, it is not just nuts, but also eggs. So, there could potentially be egg residue from things like mayonaisse.

  10. I love this idea. My son is only two now, I can only hope that many things change towards the better by the time he is ready to go to kindergarten. Right now we have a great understanding pre-school he will go to next year.

  11. I agree–edible treats should not be permitted in the classroom for birthdays.

    We are finally in a school district that agrees! I know the principal has gotten flak from parents who want to bring in food but she has stuck with this policy.

    I hope more schools adopt a non-edible treats policy. It isn’t just for food allergies–why the heck do kids need to be eating so much junk at school? Diabetes is on the rise, as is childhood obesity.

  12. My peanut-/tree nut-allergic son just started K this year and I was THRILLED to see that our school district (Minneapolis) just instituted a new NO FOOD IN THE CLASSROOM policy. This policy is because of rising food allergies and child obesity concerns. Amen! Good luck!!

  13. Beth

    I agree that birthdays in school do not need to have food. The idea of bringing in cupcakes “for the class” but not giving them to all the kids because they are unsafe for some of the kids has never made sense to me. Who are the cupcakes for? If they are for the class why is one (or more) child being excluded? In no other situation would a teacher permit someone to come in and hand out something to all the kids except one. My son’s school had a bunch of parents get very, very upset by the new no food at birthday party policy. It was very important to them to bake for their kids’ birthdays at school. These parents insisted on being the ones to bake for parties before the policy went into place. Instead of having a party where everyone could be included, they valued being the one who got to bake. I am pretty sure if it were their child who was being left out they would not have stood for it. I did have a nice number of parents who were very supportive, though, who made up for the ones who valued cupcakes over my child.

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