Tips for Celebrations

Celebrations are exciting! They are also great opportunities to be active, have fun, be creative, share food, and enjoy time together.  Celebrations can also have a non-food focus and offer opportunities for play and time to enjoy music, dance, games and other fun activities. Food-free celebrations take the pressure off teachers and parents to supply additional food and ensure that no students are excluded due to food allergies or other food-related practices. When food is part of a special event, try to link it with scheduled meal and snack times and offer various options including fruit and vegetables. 

Tip 1: Involve the whole school community– get input from the students, promote non-food benefits to parents and teachers (less effort) and inclusion of everyone 

You are more likely to achieve buy-in when you involve the entire school community in the process, allowing them to provide input and contribute to decision-making.  Let your goal(s) guide you, but stay open-minded, flexible and patient.

  • Reach out to your local public health unit to find out what resources and supports you can access to create sustainable changes.
  • Gather input from students, parents and staff.
  • Reflect on what celebrations require food (if any).
  • Encourage non-food items like school supplies or craft supplies for classroom celebration donations.
  • Involve the school community in advocacy efforts (e.g., invite students to a parent council meeting to discuss food-free celebrations).

Tip 2: If food is involved in the celebrations, aim for a variety of options and provide a safe, pleasant eating place.

  • Ensure that any refreshments offered are safe, tasty and nutritious, as well as inclusive and reflective of the faiths and cultures of the school community.
  • Talk about the food in a neutral way (take the focus off the food itself and enjoy time together) 
  • Engage regularly used caterers to identify what options are available.
  • Emphasize vegetables and fruit (local and seasonal, when possible).
  • Stick to beverages that don’t contain free sugar and offer water, plain cow’s milk or unsweetened fortified soy beverage.
    • Try adding a twist to your water by flavouring it with vegetables, fruits and/or herbs (e.g., cucumber mint), and/or adding sparkling water.
  • Practice safe food handling and ensure adherence to the school’s anaphylaxis policy.
  • Schedule a time for everyone to sit down and eat together rather than eating throughout the celebration
  • If a celebration happens during class time, consider planning it around a scheduled nutrition break. 

Tip 3: Focus on FUN rather than food  

  • Emphasize being together as a class or school community to celebrate something special!
  • Consider these active celebration ideas:
    • Give children extra recess time instead of a party.
    • Have a dance party. Let students select the music. Invite the principal and other school staff.
    • Get the students involved in planning and preparing for celebrations — let them make decorations and favours and let them choose the games.
    • Create a book honouring what is being celebrated that day. Have students draw pictures showing what the day means to them.
    • Organize a special community service project instead of a party. Invite senior citizens in for lunch, collect goods and make cards for sheltered families, or organize a project outside for Earth Day.
    • Have students vote on a special class art project or craft. Invite a local artist to come in and do a
    • Arrange a treasure hunt around the classroom. Provide a special non-food treat at the end. Use a theme that ties into what the kids are learning in class.
    • Plan around holiday themes. Students can make cards for winter holidays, decorate the classroom with hearts for Valentine’s Day and learn an Irish step-dance for St. Patrick’s Day. Search education websites for ideas.