By adopting food-free celebrations, all children can be included in all school activities.
There are many reasons schools have celebrations throughout the year. From celebrating the new year, reaching a fundraising goal, good behavior, holidays, educational milestones, end of school year…the list is virtually endless.
Schools celebrations should be inclusive to all children. Teachers need to be cognizant and ready to meet the specific needs (physical limitations, food allergies, autism, FIPES, diabetes, etc.) that might impact a student’s participation.
Your school may keep an “able to participate list," but wouldn’t it be great if the able to participate list didn’t need to exist at all? Schools should plan activities that meet the needs of all students. There are many food-free alternatives that will ensure all children will feel included in a celebration.
Here is a list of suggestions for food-free celebrations:
School Movie Day
Movie Day is a great inclusive activity for elementary school children Many school auditoriums can accommodate large amounts of children with a screen and projector. Choose educational movies from a variety of genres:
- Wonder – Wonder is an inspiring story about a 5th-grade boy with facial differences and his journey through public school.
- Up – Up is an Academy Award-winning Pixar film that teaches compassion, friendship and responsibility.
- Hoot – Hoot is a film that teaches about the environment, being an animal activist, nature conservation, standing up for one's beliefs, and activism.
- WALL-E – This beloved movie about a lonely robot teaches about the results of environmental and ecological disaster.
- The Sound of Music – This inspirational movie offers a lot more than great music. The Sound of Music teaches about life in Austria during the Nazi regime.
- Jurassic Park – a perennial science fiction film about an attempt to create a theme park of cloned dinosaurs.
- TRON – is a technologically-brilliant film about a video game creator who beams himself into the digital world.
You may also consider Planet Earth: The Complete BBC Series about what makes our planet so unique!
For the younger crowd, great movies such as March of the Penguins, Arctic Tale, The Lion King, Iron Giant, Brave, Toy Story, and Room on the Broom are sure to entertain!
Offer Non-Food Treats
Offering non-food treats to students is a safe way to celebrate success. Offering food as a reward or prize may undermine healthy eating or create unhealthy eating habits. Some non-food award suggestions:
There are many other non-food ways to provide rewards:
- extra time at recess
- one period where children play board games
- let students choose a special activity
- bring in a special visitor
- play a game right in the classroom (7-up and silent balls were favorites when I was a kid!)
- read outdoors
- do a craft
- extra computer time
- listen to music while working
- eat lunch outside
- show and tell
If you are a parent of a child with allergies, remember to remind teachers of your child's allergy, just in case. A simple way to do this is through the use of allergy warning stickers, temporary tattoos, and bracelets.
The possibilities to celebrate without food that includes all students are endless. These awards can be given out to an entire school or individual classrooms. Being a kid is hard work and they deserve a reward once in a while. Go ahead, reward them all and have fun!
Marci Komssi holds an MBA in Organization Leadership and International Business from Johnson and Wales University. She is the former Director of Admissions for the Central Mass Campus of Bay Path University where she continues to teach leadership classes. After leaving the admissions office of BPU in 2011 she continued working with women as Program Manager for Dress for Success, Worcester where she assisted women with their interview skills, resume building, networking, career advancement and more. Currently, she owns her own food allergy awareness business called AllerWare.
Over the past 13 years, Marci has become a public advocate for the safety of children with serious allergies. After a lunch bag mix-up in 2nd grade landed her son in the hospital, she knew something had to change. She started the Central Massachusetts Parents of Children with Food Allergies Support Group and began talking with principals, nurses, and school superintendents to ensure that no other child would go through what her son did. Out of the support group came a resource guide for her local school system, which has since been adopted by several school systems around the country. The support group has also held Allergy Awareness events held at libraries and schools. Her personal mission is to raise awareness while protecting children from this invisible disability.
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