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Why I love my school's new birthday policy

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I was elated earlier this month, when I received an official packet from my son’s school. The manila envelope was packed with information about his teacher, his bus route, special programs run by the Parent Teacher Association and important dates to remember.

One piece of paper stood out among the rest. A letter from the principal informing parents and guardians about the school’s new policy of not allowing food for classroom celebrations. Instead of bringing in treats, caregivers are asked to work with their child’s teacher to create a special project, game or other fun way to celebrate the birthday.

Dear Parents and Guardians,
Birthdays are very special and exciting days for all of us. It is a time to celebrate “us” with friends and family. As a school, we want to continue recognizing our students’ special day while being sensitive to our District Wellness Policy, student allergies and financial hardships.

With that said, beginning this September, we will be moving away from edible treats for birthdays and replacing them with non-food celebrations. Students, teachers and parents will collaborate to choose an appropriate celebration option for each child.

Please request a list of non-food celebration choices from your child’s classroom teacher, as each list may be a little different. Some examples may include: creating a birthday book or card from the class, having a guest reader come in, having the child read a special book to the class, donating a gift to the class in their honor, having a special show and tell for the birthday child, playing a special game, and more! In addition, students’ birthdays will be recognized during the morning announcements.

Other holiday and curriculum-based food experiences will continue to be managed by the classroom teachers.

Together we can continue to celebrate our students in a healthy and positive way!

There are so many things to love about this policy. It’s inclusive nature means students with allergies, diabetes or other dietary restrictions will no longer need to have separate items from their classmates, or refrain from participating in the celebrations. Students whose families may be struggling financially will not feel pressured into purchasing treats, assuring no child feels bad for not having the “right” cupcakes. And, healthy living and creativity is encouraged.

I also appreciate the wording of the letter for not singling out students with allergies as the primary reason for the change. Many schools have adopted new policies to accommodate those children who may be severely harmed if exposed to certain foods, especially peanuts, and all too often, the reaction from other parents is one of disdain and annoyance. While I can’t speak to being a parent of a child with allergies, and can only imagine how they feel when others feel “inconvenienced” by their kid, as a Jewish mom who grew up observing religious dietary laws, I can relate to feeling left out at food-based celebrations.

I understand the no treats thing might be a tough change for kids used to cake, candy and cupcakes at their school celebrations. Treats are yummy, and not getting to have them with your class can be a real bummer. I am lucky my son is new to school and hasn’t grown to expect certain things for his birthday. I am hopeful the fun the kids have on their special days will be more than enough. Inclusion is always worth celebrating.

This post originally appeared on Maybe I'll Shower Today.

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