5 Ways to Celebrate Student Birthdays Without Sugar

I'll admit it: sitting down to write a post about taking cupcakes away from kids just feels wrong. I love witnessing the wild excitement kids feel when it's their birthday and they get to have a special treat. What I've noticed, though (and this probably goes without saying), is that thirty ecstatic, sugared-up kids can turn a classroom into chaos, to the point that some of the fun gets lost in the mayhem.  I've spent some time the past few years collecting creative alternatives to cookies and cupcakes, and I think I've found some ideas that retain the whimsy and joy of birthdays while avoiding the chaos. With luck, some of these ideas could end up being a win for you, your birthday student, and your students' families!

1. Whole-Class Privilege
This idea is incredibly simple, but it's a good one. Set up your birthday kiddo to be the hero of the class by letting them pick a fun privilege for everyone to enjoy for the day. Write in markers? Shoes off inside? Choose your own seat? Extra GoNoodle time? The options are endless, easy, and FREE. Your students will love it, and your special birthday kiddo will glow when the other students recognize they're the reason everyone gets a special treat.

2. Birthday Books
As teachers, we're always adding books to our classroom libraries, whether they're donated or purchased. The next time you get that free pile of books from Scholastic, consider setting them aside instead of putting them in your library right away. On each student's birthday, "donate" a book to the classroom library in their honor. Present the book to your student in front of the whole class and explain why you chose the book for them. This is a great opportunity to affirm your student in front of their peers, calling out the great qualities you see in them! For extra excitement, have the birthday kiddo write their name on the inside cover so everyone knows it is their birthday book!

3. Games
At the beginning of the year, when you're explaining how you run birthday parties in your classroom, present this idea for parents to consider: instead of buying cupcakes (or some other sugary treat) for the class to celebrate their child's birthday, what if they spend that same amount of money on a fun game or book for the whole class to share? There are tons of puzzles, joke books, math games, phonics puzzles, and art supplies--just to name a few ideas--that cost less than 25 cupcakes, and the games or books will be enjoyed the entire year. This idea only works if parents were planning to spend money on a sweet treat, of course. You know your school population, so use your best judgement and don't suggest this if it would place a burden on families. If buying cupcakes is the norm with your families, though, this could be a great alternative to suggest! Birthday celebrations in your classroom could shift from sugar fests to engaging puzzle/art/game time, and both you and your students will be happy.

4. Sparkle Supplies
Head to your nearest Target or Dollar Tree and stock up on all of their fabulous, tacky, glitter-coated supplies. Snag some sparkly crayons, markers, and pencils (bonus points if they have crazy eraser toppers). Put together a special box of sparkly supplies that students can use on their birthdays. I use this as a whole-group reward for table groups in my classroom, but the same idea could easily be adapted for individual students!

5. Affirmation Crowns
This one takes a little prep, but your kids will love it. Pre-cut a small paper heart or star for each student in your class. Give each child one heart, and have them write an adjective to describe something they like about the birthday boy or girl. Collect the hearts or stars and attach them to a sentence strip to create a crown. The birthday kiddo can wear their affirmation crown all day, letting the world know why they're being celebrated!

If you have summer birthday kids and want to spread out the celebrations, remember that half-birthdays are a great time to celebrate, too!

I hope some of these ideas help you in your classroom.  Do you have any sugar-free birthday ideas you would add to this list? I'd love to hear about them!

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