Easy School-Safe Treats and Activities for Your Tots Classroom
By Paige Goodwin, Contributor
When I was young, if you had a birthday during the school year, your mom stayed up the night before baking the exact number of cupcakes for your classmates so you could hand them out with sticky fingers at lunch. It was glorious, getting to be the center of attention while handing out haphazardly iced desserts, bragging about how you made them by hand, all by yourself, the night before.
Birthdays are still celebrated in school, but with many schools and preschools cutting down on what foods can be brought in (if at all), it isn’t as easy as baking a few dozen cupcakes anymore, but certainly no more time-consuming.
If you child eats lunch in a cafeteria, chances are they can only hand out pre-packaged snacks that are nut-free (that also includes being made in a nut-free facility). Some schools do not allow any food sharing in cafeterias to protect students who cannot read food labels, so if the teacher hasn’t give you information on how to distribute treats on birthdays, get in touch ahead of time to see if they can help pass out snacks before the students go to lunch.
Here are some safe treats that don’t require a trip to a specialty grocery store:
• Single Serve packages of Rice Krispie Treats
• Pop Chips — these are actually friendly for most
allergy sufferers as they are vegan and gluten-free. You can find single-serve packages at most Wegman’s stores and Safeway, but go on to the Pop Chips website to check for nearby locations to you.
• Plain Hershey’s Kisses — make sure to not get any specialty flavors, as Hershey’s does can’t guarantee nut-free manufacturing for those. Hershey’s Kisses are made with milk, milk chocolate cane sugar, chocolate, cocoa butter, milk fat, lecithin and natural flavors. The Hershey’s website also includes a number you can call regarding the allergen information for each of their products.
• Wonka brand candies
• Starburst, Skittles, Fruit Roll-Ups, and Sour Patch Kids
There are also brands dedicated to making snacks and desserts that are nut-free:
• Treasure Mills has mini cupcakes, brownies and cookie bars. Their website lists the ingredients for each product, and has a store locator to help you find them in your area.
• Skeeter Nut Free sells packages of different types of cookies such as shortbread, double chocolate and chocolate chip. Click “Learn More” on each product to get a full ingredients list.
When in doubt, check the labels. Your child’s teacher will too, so check ahead to see if you need to bring in treats earlier for approval.
If your child’s class has a lot of students with diverse food allergies, or you child’s school does not allow food snacks to be shared, there are still quite a few inexpensive and fun things your child can share with the class. Small activities may also be a fun addition to a snack you bring in as well. Don’t be surprised if other parents borrow your ideas for other birthdays in class!
• Even if your child doesn’t bring in food, you can still make lunch festive by sending in themed plates, napkins, cups, or even brightly colored bendy straws. Try Birthday Express for a huge assortment of themes.
• If your child is in preschool or kindergarten where there
is a daily or weekly story, see if your child’s teacher would be okay with your child’s favorite story being read in honor of their birthday. If possible, volunteer to do it — the teacher will appreciate a short break, and you can embellish the story with funny voices to help make it a new class favorite.
• Older children may enjoy helping make a themed word search or coloring page about
them for the class. Try Really Color to turn a photo into a coloring page, or Crayola for pre-made coloring pages. Discovery Education has a free word search maker for your older child, which will generate a puzzle after you input the words their classmates must find! Have your child hand them to the teacher at the beginning of the day — there is always down-time in a school day, and the teacher will enjoy having the activities to hand out when there is time to spare.
• While many teachers give out special pencils to birthday children, you can make fun personalized pencils through Oriental Trading. Your child can put their name, or even a funny saying on the pencils so the whole class has a fun, matching pencil. The teacher will appreciate not having to find students an extra pencil, too!
• If your child’s class is a little too young for pencils, try giving old crayons new life by making each child a custom crayon using these instructions on Martha Stewart’s website. Your child can hand out rainbow crayons, or whatever color combinations they like best!
Please remember that with class activities, unless you are handing something small out, to talk with the teacher ahead of time to make sure whatever you plan doesn’t interrupt their schedule, and so that everything goes smoothly for your child’s special day.