Celebrations such as holidays, birthdays, new classmates and graduations are something children truly enjoy. A celebration allows children the opportunity to express themselves, learn, and have a lot of fun, which is essential for their social development. Because celebrations are such an important element of child development, they should remain as healthy as possible, and should contribute to learning. There are certain steps parents and child care providers can take to assure that celebrations are healthy for young bodies and young minds.
Some Steps for a healthy celebration may include:
- Arranging a field trip to the local park, library, or museum to celebrate special occasions, taking along lunch or healthy snacks. This can also provide an opportunity for physical activity if the venue is within walking distance.
- Offer a non-food “treat”. Create celebrations that are about sharing: soap bubbles for blowing, whistles for tweeting, ribbons for twirling or homemade play dough for sculpting.
- If food is part of a celebration, use it as an opportunity to support healthy eating habits by serving fresh fruits and vegetables and healthful snacks.
As the National Director of Eco-Healthy Child Care® and a mother of two, I also recommend developing a celebration policy. This could perhaps be a part of a broader food wellness policy, and could help families, child care staff and teachers agree on guidelines to make celebrations about fun activities and social interaction rather than extra unhealthy foods. Consider the following procedures when developing a policy:
- Schedule celebrations around routine meal and snack times, so that healthful and nutritious treats are not added calories.
- Ask families to refrain from packing candy and sugary sweets in their children’s lunches.
Additionally, swapping unhealthy snacks and treats for healthy choices could be beneficial to young children over the long term by instilling good eating habits for a lifetime.
- In the summer time, offer cold water flavored with fresh lemon, lime, or cucumber slices. This is refreshing without added sugars.
- Fresh fruit kebabs: Local, organic or pesticide-free fresh fruits are a nutritious alternative to artificially sweetened treats. Serve chunks of fruit on skewers with plain, nonfat yogurt for dipping.
EHCC helps early childhood learning environments to be as healthy, safe and green as possible by reducing children’s exposure to toxic chemicals. Click here to learn more about making celebrations healthier.