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Subbing Play for Sweets in Year-End Festivities

It’s that time of year. The end of school is near and the weeks are filled with special events and ceremonies that culminate all the hard work students have done since September. I’m not going to lie: I love the pomp and circumstance of the spring recitals, presentations and blacktop parties. My eyes tear up just thinking about how they help us mark time as our children end one grade and prepare for the next. What I could live without is yet another Sign-up Genius notice asking me to bring treats in for the students.

Why does every event require food? I give my children breakfast at home, they are allowed a snack (before or after lunch, depending on when their class goes to the cafeteria) and then they eat lunch. Why do we need to bring more food for them to eat in between those three meals?

Just last week, my husband and I attended our third grader’s recorder recital. It was absolutely delightful listening to the students with the sweet sounds of their recorders playing in unison. I couldn’t believe how many songs they learned. It seemed we only heard the same three or four at home. After the show, we were invited to the blacktop for a reception where the kids were offered Capri Sun juice pouches, cinnamon rolls, mini-muffins and bags of chips – all before 10 a.m.

One mom I know approached the food table with a big Dunkin Donuts bag. The kids nearly attacked her, not even hearing her say, "It's not donuts!" as she walked over. When she pulled out beautiful homemade fruit kabobs, there was some initial disappointment, but many of the kids grabbed one, ate the fresh fruit, and tossed the empty stick in the trash before running off to play on the playground.

The truth is I’m not sure we needed a reception at all. If the point was for the parents to spend time with their kids afterward, it didn’t happen. They mostly pounced on the food table and then ran off to chase each other or play on the playground. If the objective was to reward the kids for their hard work all year (and they deserved it!), then why not offer fruit and water? Or better yet, ask the parents to lead an activity – such as a craft or a scavenger hunt. Give them 15 extra minutes on the playground. Can’t we use fun as the reward, not just food?

I failed to mention we had gone to a similar reception the prior week for Invention Convention – cookies and brownies before lunch! And I just found out last night that the teacher had to cancel a museum field trip to take care of a personal matter. The solution? Another classroom party!

I don’t want to come across as an advocate for over-policing food in the schools. I am a big believer in moderation when it comes to sweets. But we shouldn’t be surprised that our kids aren’t making healthy food choices when we’re bombarding them with treat after treat as the school year comes to a close.

With recess and outdoor play on the decline, perhaps we should consider the consequences of kids consuming junk food and not having enough physical activity at school. Have you found a way to make classroom parties less about treats and more about play?