Birthday Treats at Daycare & Preschool

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Appalled at sugary birthday treats at daycare

May 2009

Tell me, am I being too rigid? A stick in the mud? I was appalled to find out that for a child's 2yr old birthday chocolate cupcakes with marshmallows were brought to our daycare and passed out to the children. The class is a 1-2 year old class, my child is 1.5 years old. Here is what I am upset about: 1) I specifically requested that no sugary snacks are served to my child (i.e. cookies, ice cream, cotton candy, etc), but the cupcakes were served anyway. 2) Chocolate cupcakes with marshmallowsb& I find this a bit over the top for this age. Not only the sugar, but the caffeine factor as well. So tell me, wise moms of Berkeley, and tell it to me straight. Is it unreasonable that I'm upset over this? Not a sugar-mama

Wow, how do we get into your preschool? Sounds like a fun place. Seriously though, I imagine you'll get a lot of sympathy from other people who limit sugar, since we seem to go to preschool with all of them, but personally I wouldn't have a problem with chocolate cupcakes. I think here in the Bay Area we sometimes stress just a little too much about healthy eating. I ate plenty of crap (including marshmallows) as a kid and still turned out ok. I think as long as it's not a daily occurance and his diet is otherwise generally fresh and healthy, a little sugar and even caffeine once in a while is no big deal. All things in moderation, right? Had to Bring Yogurt for Our Preschool Bdays

I think you are overreacting a little. I agree with the no sugar thing but what was the daycare provider suppose to do? not give it to your child? So everyone would get cake but not her?

I think rules are wonderful and i use them a lot but do you honestly think that having eaten this once is going to change her life? i can guarantee you it won't. I had a friend who had a similar experience and what it seemed to boil down to in the end is that it's hard to have someone else make decisions for your kid. You want absolute control but sometimes you can't. Is this daycare a good daycare? do you and your daughter love it? If you do, is it worth getting mad over one little piece of cake?

Perspective is important. I always bake my own stuff because i like to use good ingredients and as little as possible of sugar. When they do birthdays in class and the parents bring sugary cupcakes from a store i am not crazy about it. On the other hand, having participated in class, i can tell you it would extremely uncomfortable if one person didn't it any. I don't think that one cake, or one once in a while erases in any way the food ''education'' i give him. And even at almost 4, he can tell you the difference..''too much sugar'' he says! Now if you can't get over it, you could ask the provider to let you know when there is a birthday and bring a chocolate cupcake you approve of that way your kid doesn't feel left out. anon

You have every right as the mother to have your wishes met at the daycare. Reemphasize to the teachers at the daycare that your child is not to have sweets.

Here's another thought, once your child goes to preschool and later elementary school, how do you plan to control their sugar intake? My daughter goes to preschool and when a child has a birthday parents bring treats for all the kids. The treats have ranged from cupcakes, to cookies, to mini muffins, to mini- cupcakes, popsicles. You can always single out your child to not participate. But as your child gets older and wants to be more independently minded not to mention want to be part of a group, will your child be happy sitting off by the side while other children have treats that happens once in a while? And once they are in elementary school where kids often trade their lunches, how will you control the sweet intake? Is it really not acceptable to have sweets in moderation? All foods are good in moderation.

Yes, you are over reacting in my opinion. This is really small in the scheme of things. anon

Oh man, do I hear you on this one! At our house, we don't give our 3 year old sugar unless it is a very special occasion like a birthday. Unfortunately, we have come to accept that when we are not with him, he will have some treats. I have family nearby that babysit periodically and they will offer him treats all the time. Fact is, we need to accept that this will happen and be ok with it on occasion. You wouldn't want him left out of a school birthday celebration because he isn't allowed to have sugar, would you? The school probably should have let you know that the cupcakes were going to be there ahead of time, if they knew. Maybe you could have brought a different, Mom approved treat for him to have with all of his little classmates. Maybe you can request that in the future. If you stick to your guns at home though, your kid may not even want sugary treats when offered. We were recently at a birthday party and when a piece of cake was offered to my son, he said ''No thanks, I'd like some more carrots instead.'' You can imagine my pride. I totally know where you are coming from on this, I still cringe when my kid eats sugary things, but sometimes you just have to relax about things. Just know that you are doing what you think is best at home and your son will be ok. Take care! Sugar free mama too, learning how to chill out

I would say yes, you're being somewhat unrealistic. Our son is in a similar setting, and it seems like there's a birthday at least once a month. I believe most parents send cookies or cupcakes for a snack on these days, and the school doesn't put much restriction on it. We only see it after the fact, but our personal opinion is that we don't really give our son any desserts at home, so a cupcake once or twice a month isn't going to do much damage. I believe the amount of caffeine is pretty minimal, and it shows that it's a special occasion to celebrate (which is why we tell him he doesn't get them other times).

I think part of the reality of being in a group program is that you're giving up complete control of your child's diet. You can express your desires, but with presumably at least a dozen kids, I don't believe you can guarantee that you're going to get your way-or, honestly, that you should, given everything else the teachers are keeping track of (assuming it's not a serious allergy). If this is a critical issue to you, I believe a better forum is to discuss it with the other parents, so that there's a consensus on how all birthdays are handled in the class.

You might also want to think about your feelings about this moving forward, because we're also starting to experience home birthday parties. Are you going to say that your child can't have cake at someone else's house? It gets more difficult as your child interacts with other families that may not have the same opinions as you, so I would suggest thinking about what your ideal is vs. what you might be willing to compromise on for certain occasions. Trying to find the middle ground

Since you asked -- yes, I think you are being too rigid. Your child will be in situations with sugar (like birthday parties) and to deny your child these occasional indulgences seems overly rigid. It sounds like the daycare does not serve sugary treats regularly, and since you don't offer them in your home either your child -- even as young as he/she is -- will not be unduly harmed by having a treat once in awhile. Even chocolate.

By the way, I keep reading first-hand accounts of children denied sugar by their parents when they were young. Later they become obsessed by sugar to an unhealthy degree (one essayist described being so excited to secretly eat a foil-covered chocolate Easter egg that he ate the entire thing, foil and all, before his parents could stop him). I think moderation, and not abstention, should be the watchword. Christine

Since you asked, I do think you're being too rigid. It is just a cupcake....pace yourself, it gets wayyyyy more complex than that as life goes on. erin

Cupcakes for young toddlers may be less than ideal, but I think this is going to be something you're going to have to make peace with in the coming years. You will find that healthy snacks at birthdays (the ones brought by parents) are going to be the exception rather than the rule, even in Berkeley. And there will be many other occasions too in your child's life where s/he will be offered food you consider not great, now that she is an independent eater. (Think: birthday parties, friends' houses, holidays, and so on.) The fact is that we live in a society with a lot of junk food, and the older your child gets, the less you are going to be able to control every morsel he or she eats.

The best thing to do I think is to eat healthfully at home, serve healthy snacks (which you are probably already doing), and be careful about being too controlling/resticting on what your child eats (to avoid making those ''forbidden foods'' seem extra exciting). Then try not to sweat it when your child eats a bit of sugar on special occasions. It is not going to do any lasting damage and s/he will still most likely develop healthful lifetime eating habits.

The question of whether the daycare defied your wishes is a different issue altogether, and you might want to have a direct conversation with them if this is something that is very important to you. On the other hand, the older and wiser your child gets, the harder it is going to be for him/her to be the only child denied a treat at birthday time. I KNOW how you feel about being pressured in this way to compromise your values because of what other parents are doing ... but it won't be the last time in your child's life! :) We are all products of both our individual families and our surrounding social contexts. We as parents can exercise control over the former but not the latter (for the most part) - just the way it is. Good luck. Mom of 2 daycare veterans

This was one cupcake for a birthday celebration not a steady diet that your child is being fed at daycare. While I agree I wouldn't readily feed this to my toddler, its hardly a big deal that he ate a cupcake at a birthday celebration. bigger fish to fry

In the grand scheme of things, it seems silly to be ''appalled'' and ''upset'' about a cupcake being served at daycare. So, to an extent, you are overreacting a little. But when you think about how you expressed your needs ''don't feed my child sugar'' and they ARE 1-2 years old... I can see why you have a problem with it. Maybe next time just say to the caregivers what you think right then and there. That way you won't be stewing over it. I'm sure the mother or father who brought the cupcakes just have a different viewpoint and didn't really think other parents would have a problem. I guess my problem would be more with the daycare. Why are trained professionals giving babies that much sugar? Do they have a policy on that? anon

Well, since you asked, my reaction is that you're being rigid. I know you're trying to do right by your kid and teach good eating habits, and I know the ''no refined sugar shall pass my child's lips'' sentiment is a popular one here in Berkeley, but is the occasional birthday party cupcake really going to damage your kid? Turn him into a sugar fiend? Sully her nutritional purity? Look at it this way: what would it be like if the teachers had withheld the treat from your child only? All the other kids enjoy a cupcake in front of him, and he feels like he is being left out and punished? Or, should they impose your personal dietary prohibition on other families and tell them not to bring treats? There are schools that cater to this way of thinking. But I think in the long run your efforts to instill good eating habits will be more successful if you let your child enjoy different things in moderation and not get appalled if he eats something junky now and then. If you try to impose total prohibition, your kid is only going to rebel and pig out on sugar when she gets the chance. Or, develop anxiety about food. Check out this NYT article on the subject of ''orthorexic eating'': Sarah

Yes, you are too sensitive-- if this was an everyday affair, bring it up with the daycare, but you said it was a birthday Party! Sugar is not an evil thing to be avoided at all costs, and if that's the way you are going to approach the next 16.5 years of raising this kid, your going to lose your mind.

Moderation in ALL things-- cupcakes (yes, even with marshmallows) are fine as a treat-- sweat the big stuff, and this does not even come CLOSE to qualifying as the big stuff. focus on the big things

Since you ask - yes, you are being too rigid. (I'm assuming that this is occasional and not an everyday thing at the day care.)

The older they get the less you can possibly control their diet. They will eat sugar at some point, and it will be a ''treat'' not an ordinary occurence. We used to have dessert once a week, on Friday nights, and it was a good way for us to both limit and teach moderation.

I was really strict with sugar with my oldest, and I still remember her big eyes the first time she drank soda, at age two. ''Mommy, I LIKE this juice.'' Once she busted me for sneaking spinach and kale into her mac & cheese, she got so worked up she'd make my husband pick out the ''green stuff'' aka oregano out of pasta sauce.

Once she got to high school, she went off and ate junk food every day. She also put on 10 pounds and realized she needed to learn to eat healthfully. Which she mostly does.

And, the truth is, no matter how many rules you set down, chances are when you're away, people tend to do what they think reasonable and get around what they think unreasonable. It's a fact of life, and you just need to leave them with people who mostly follow your philosophy. used to be rigid too

Party sugar is not great for kids, but you don't give them this stuff every day. These are special foods for special occasions. We just can't exhaust ourselves getting worked up over every last empty calorie. Less stress makes happy eating!

Many many daycares and preschools have a policy about this--no sweets. I think it is too hard for you if the policy is that sweets are ok but your kid shouldn't have any. If this is a recurring problem, I'd switch day cares. anon

I think you have every right to be upset. If you specifically asked for no sugar, they should have respected that. My kids go to a sugar-free preschool and that is one of the things we love about the school. It would be hard for older kids to see everyone else eating cupcakes while they get a sugar-free alternative. But at 1.5, it would be easy enough to distract the child with something else until the cupcakes are done. And at that age, why have cupcakes at all? There are so many alternatives, especially before kids get to the age when they know better. Not a stick

Don't overreact. Just remind the preschool that you don't want your child to have sugary snacks. Your child is going to encounter an occasional sugary caffeinated snack on occasion. We all had plenty in our childhood.

I'd say if it's for a birthday and a rare occurrence, not to worry about it. Every day or once a week would be too much and worth it to mention to the teacher or director. But, probably a parent ignored the guidelines and brought this sugary confection in and the teacher decided to serve it instead of rebuffing the parents. I would let it go. sarah

i would be appalled at this, as im sure you are! i am a no- sugar momma myself (mostly) and try very hard to make wise choices for my baby which means no sweets. i try to let the people in his life know this but most (ie. my family) think im being ridiculous and try to sneak it to him anyway. im really not sure what the deal is with people loving to give kids sweets, i eventually had to get over it with my older son and just taught him to make good choices and have good eating habits. but i agree those cupcakes seems over the top for anybody, especially a 1 year old! i would be upset too. not sure how to deal with it at the daycare aside from letting the staff know your rules again. i find it very annoying that people think its ridiculous, but oh well. stand your ground

One, I think it's hard when the other kids have a cupcake to not allow your child to have one. Two, sugar treats as TREATS on occasion are not like feeding your child rat poison and I think some people go way overboard on this. When someone celebrates a birthday, a cupcake is fine and I just don't see the big deal. Life is too short to not have sugar. AS A TREAT. I do think, tho, if this is a deal breaker for you, you are the one that should find another day care that complies with your restrictions rather than foist this on a day care where everyone else is ok with it. We had a no sugar mom at our daycare who came down hard on my provider. I LOVE my day care. The main person and her assistant love my kids in a way I could never imagine. they get from scratch meals all day and it's awesome and this person who came into our established group came in and pitched a fit when there were cupcakes one day. It really upset my daycare provider and she did not ask the woman and her child to change day cares, but it has changed the relationship between all of us. So, you might want to weigh things out. Excellent daycare is hard to find. anon

I completely agree with you, and You are _NOT_ a stick in the mud. Like you, I do not offer my 2 year old sugary sweets for several reasons: 1)it's not good for him or his teeth (2 y.o are not the best brushers) 2) i don't want him wired and 3) b/c kids are SOOOO drawn to sweetness, I don't want to disappoint and battle him every time he sees a cookie,cupcake etc. In our case, my son sees sweets at the cafes, stores etc. and will call them by name... But since I have not offered them, he doesn't ask for, whine for, or cry for them. My son does get ''treats'' though. In our house they consist of fruit/yogurt smoothies (we call it ''ice cream'' sometimes), and occasionally very healthy, fruit-juice sweetened pumpkins and the yearly birthday cake (again, no refined sugar). The way I see it, as long as I can totally control what he eats, I will and continue to offer healthy foods. Once he's in the free world of elementary school, I know I will not forbid his enjoyment in the goodies. It's part of childhood. BUT toddlers are NOT school-aged children and I think it's totally unacceptable to feed toddlers chocolate marshmallow cupcakes, PARTICULARLY, when you've already requested as such. UNCOOL. I'd say something. heather

I am a ''no sugar in the house'' mom, too. A small bit a cookie or cupcake on a day that my kid has had a good diet it OK with me.

If they were mini-cupcakes then with mini-marshmallows, then that's OK. One small cupcake will not make a huge difference in the big picture.

Cupcakes and birthdays come with daycare. Feed your toddler healthy lunches and be glad birthdays only come once a year!! non-sugar mama

I know that Berkeley is full of people who think sugar is evil, but I personally think you should relax. Unless someone has a birthday every day this sounds like it is no big deal. raised 2 kids just fine and they had sugar

If cupcakes or the like are occasional treats for birthdays, then, yes, you're overreacting. If they serve stuff like this twice a day, then your concerns are justified.

Kids can cope perfectly well with different dietary rules in different places. If your child asks for a chocolate cupcake at home, you can just say, ''No, we don't have cupcakes at home.''

Chocolate does have a small amount of caffeine, but not enough that it would be a problem. Chill about the cupcakes

OK, I'll give you my honest opinion, straight, just as you requested. You're being unreasonable and you're overreacting. First of all, with respect to your directive that no foods containing sugar be given to your child, I am assuming that the daycare interpreted that to mean 'no regular snacks.' If you want the daycare to exclude your child from getting birthday cake, you are going to have to tell them that specifically. Second, I think it is silly not to let your child have birthday cake (or cupcakes). That includes cake with !gasp! chocolate or !!gasp!! marshmallows. (What is so horrible about marshmallows? Too lowbrow for you? Carrot cake may sound better, but it can have a much higher fat content and just as much sugar.) The amount of caffeine in chocolate cake is negligible, too. (If this doesn't horrify you more, I also suspect that the chocolate in the cupcakes wasn't even real.) Third, even if your child is the most popular kid in Berkeley, I doubt she is included in more than 50 birthday celebrations a year. That's approx. one serving of cake per week. Assuming you aren't serving any sugar at home, she's getting so little that it can't possibly do any harm to her. Fourth, the worst form of sugar is the sugar in beverages. It goes straight to the bloodstream. This includes all natural juice drinks, which are worse than cake, in my opinion. I would really try to relax about the birthday cake. And, later on, s'mores. There are worse things in life than marshmallows

My simple answer: Yes. You are way overreacting. I agree that little kids don't ''need'' sugar but not getting a cupcake when every other kid around you does would do a lot more harm to your kid than a couple marshmallows and some chocolate and the amount of caffeine in the cupcake is not going to damage your kid more than the smog he is breathing living in an urban environment. As a mom who has never restricted treats for my kids, I can tell you that they could care less about eating junk as opposed to their friends who rarely or never get it. Two licks of a lollipop or two bites of cake and they are over it and can toss it. In fact, we have had a huge bag of Easter candy sitting in our kitchen and they have never even asked for a piece. The hunt was the fun part to them. In my experience, the kids I see who are restricted from eating ''junk'' will inhale it every time when given the chance. Sounds like you feed your child very healthy food 99.99% of the time. Allow that .01% of the rest of the time to be one of those small things you don't sweat. Cupcakes Rule

The real issue is the pre-school giving your daughter something you asked them not to. They need to pay attention and respect your wishes. As a mother with a child with a life-threatening allergy, this sent up a red flag for me. You could bring in an acceptable treat for your child, and tell the school they are to give it to your child as an alternate treat whenever there is a birthday. Maybe they were afraid your child would cry if she was not given a treat? I would ask them why they did not respect your wishes. Consider changing to a pre-school that does, or has policys that are more in line with what you want for your child. Mine does not allow sugar treats for birthdays, and I am fine with that policy. No sugar Mom

No, you are not overreacting! However, it seems to be a losing battle in this day and age. 1-2 year-olds do not request desserts because they don't have any experience with them (unless older siblings or school buddies). And there's the rub, you can't control alot of things that you wouldn't have to have worried about in the good old days. A recent study showed that a little over 25% of preschoolers have at least one caffeinated beverage a day! What is that all about?! I can only bemoan the lost days of no desserts for infants. Anon

Yes, I think you are being unreasonable. First, sugar--and even chocolate-- in moderation isn't as bad as some BPN advice-givers would have you believe. (A few BPN digests ago I remember reading, for example, that giving children sugar increases the likelihood they'll grow up to be alcoholics or something crazy like that.) The studies show it just isn't that terrible in moderation. I grew up in an almost no-sugar, all carob home and all that taught me was to scavenge like crazy for sugar when visiting my friends' homes. I never learned self-control around sugar until I was an adult and my sister still hasn't. I remember my well intentioned mother's constant policing, which felt especially rotten at social events. Seeking a more reasonable path in my home, I allow my nearly two-year-old child an occasional sugary sweet, especially at social events. I've noticed all interest is usually gone after a few bites and the item is left unfinished.

Second, if the daycare had provided the cupcakes, that's one thing. But they came from another child's family. All parents expect the school will not regularly give their children sugary snacks. The teachers probably considered this a special treat and didn't connect it to your request. Unless you framed it as an allergy issue, the teachers acted reasonably. Is it fair to ask the teachers to police in a way that will make your kid feel crappy and seems unnecessary given that birthday treats happen once a month or so?

One last thing that may or may not apply in your case but it's been on my mind after overhearing snobby comments by other parents at my child's daycare. I chose my child's school in part because it's racially, ethnically, and socioeconomically diverse. I see this diversity when I look in the fridge at the lunches other parents pack for their children, which include things I wouldn't pack (cans of Chef Boyardee) and other things I couldn't pack (all homemade from scratch, all organic food I don't have the time or money to make and ethnic dishes I don't know how to make). This diversity is also reflected in the treats parents send for birthdays, which include everything from Safeway cupcakes to organic no-sugar carrot muffins. I take this as part of the benefit of daycare-- letting my child experience the world in a safe setting and learning to do it tolerantly. moderation advocate

I think that the childcare shouldn't have served your child the cupcake, per your request But obviously, one other parent at the childcare was okay with the cupcakes (the one that brought them), so other parents may have been okay with the cupcakes as well...if my kids were at that daycare, I would have been okay with them eating the cupcakes and the marshmallows (couple times a year isn't going to kill them...) Have you considered that you are the only parent at the daycare who has a problem with the cupcakes?

Something that I have found as my children have gotten older (now 4 & 6) is that everyone has very different ideas of what is good and right for children. I have met some lovely parents and children of parents who advocate for Babywise and I have met some lovely parents and children of parents who think that Sears and his doctrine is the only 'right way.' Neither really works for me, but I am perfectly happy for those parents to choose what works best for their own families. It isn't my place to judge or require them to live by my rules (something that I try to model every day to my children who are struggling with these same issues with their peers. 'I want to play tea party, but she wants to play princess...have you heard of anything stupider than playing princess?')

I guess what I am saying is fine for you to choose whatever it is you want for your own child, but that is as far as your power should extend. -anon

I know that you've already heard from a lot of people, but I thought I'd add my 2 cents. You have every right to make sure that your child eats a healthy diet. The only problem with that is that you don't live in a vaccuum. My advice would be to talk to the preschool director and remind her of your wishes. My daughter has food allergies, so the school lets me know when a special occasion is coming up. I have a stash of low-sugar banana muffins in the freezer, and I'll send one to school with her on that day so that she'll have a treat, too. I know a lot of moms who do this. I think there's a way for you to make this work.

I have to admit that I was reminded of a very rigid Mom who I used to know. We were in a Mom group together, and we both toured the same preschool. I asked her what she thought of the place, she told me how upset she was that they were giving the kids hot chocolate that day. It was said in such a judgmental way that I thought she was kidding, and I couldn't help but laugh. Within a few years, this same Mom was serving high-sugar desserts w/ gummy worms at a party. Sure, I wish that my daughter wouldn't get sugar at school or parties, but I think it would be worse if I made it into something forbidden. anon

I just wanted to agree with your (old) post re: sugar for your tot at daycare. That is truly ridiculous. I would go ballistic if someone handed my one-year old an entire cupcake! Kids are WAY too young at that age for a big amount of sugar--and basically, the sweeter food you give them, the sweeter they will ask for. We are programmed to eat the sweetest food available. Where my three year old is now the food is terrible, it's not so much the odd cupcake, but having a cupcake with no other good food in the tummy is not good for kids. I am taking him out of there in the fall. He seems to eat crackers and fruit punch all day, gets constipated by the end of the week, and yes, there are many cupcakes at birthdays, which would be fine if the food were better! Don't feel badly for looking for a program with better food (and perhaps a little sugar here and there), but they are few. Way too much sugar over here too

Perhaps it's because I'm not a ''wise mom of Berkeley'' that I think your reaction to a birthday celebration for a 2 y/o with cupcakes - at a daycare - is over-the-top and is taking the joy out of the little pleasures in life - like a cupcake to help celebrate a birthday. Let Them Eat CupCakes


Alternative to cake for toddler birthdays

Sept 2008


I just read all of the archived posts about ''junk food,'' yet didn't quite find what I was looking for. I'd love to hear some practical suggestions for how to provide my under-two toddler with an alternative to cupcakes/birthday cake at daycare. Of course, I can send fruit, but wondered if anyone has come up with something more special. We've come up with a good plan for daily snacks, but I'm wanting to be prepared for the birthday celebrations. (I'm hoping to receive supportive ''advice'' from like-minded parents. Thnx.) lisa

Our preschool had a no-sugar rule, so one year (I think I stole this idea from someone else on BPN) we brought in vanilla yogurt and a bunch of preschool-approved toppings (berries, fruit sauce, granola, sunflower seeds, etc.) and let the kids make little yogurt ''sundaes'' -- that was a big hit. Other easy and relatively healthy solutions for birthdays are raisin bagels, cinnamon-raisin bread, homemade banana bread, etc. Missing Cupcakes but Toeing the Line

My mother was very passionate about health and nutrition. She often reminds me that she did not feed me sugar until after I turned two. It was special for me when my mom brought carrot cake muffins with cream cheese frosting to my first grade class for my 7th birthday treat. I was shocked and sad watching all the kids make faces as they realized that what they thought was sugary vanilla frosting was not so sweet. One by one, the ''cupcakes'' ended up in the trash.

As many of us do, I have turned into my mother. I want to celebrate my son's birthday with his classmates, but I also want to provide a healthy treat (while making sure that it won't end up in the trash). When my son was in preschool, my sister made rice krispies treats in the shape of letters. She used alphabet cookie cutters to spell out Happy 5th Birthday. This was easy for the teachers to pass out and familiar enough for most kids to enjoy. Not sugar free, but a compromise. For Kindergarten, I bought sugar ice cream cones and filled them with vanilla non-fat yogurt and frozen berries. Both the teacher and the kids really liked this treat. It was a quick and easy treat that tasted similar to ice cream and required no utensils.

For first grade, the teacher requested NO treats and I was off the hook for at least one year! She suggested that if parents wanted to acknowledge their child's birthday to bring in a non-food treat (pencils, stickers, etc.) for each child or to donate a gift to the class - child's favorite book or game - in honor of the birthday child. I just went to my son's second grade open house and learned that sugary treats are okay this year. Sigh.

I have been thinking about making fruit kabobs this year, and my son seems to like that idea. I have also had good luck with fruit and yogurt smoothies, too. You might consider making a ''celebration mix'' (based on the idea of colorful confetti and like a trail mix - no peanuts, though). Or maybe, provide the trail mix items in bowls and let the kids make their own mixes. Granola bars, graham crackers or animal crackers are always an idea, too, especially for younger children.

It can be hard to compete with cupcakes and cookies, but I try to remember that fun and/or creative snacks can be just as special a treat, even for kids that may be expecting a traditional cupcake.

Good luck - I look forward to reading other parents' idea, too. This birthday stuff is hard work! Not so ''Sweet'' mom

You could do mini-bagels with lite cream cheese and sprinkles? Perhaps Annie's brand Bunny Grahams that come in the tie-dye box - it's a mix of different flavor graham crackers (and they're really good!)You could put them in individual little bags or something. It's still a little sweet but significantly less than cake. anon

Oh my gosh...SEND FRUIT! I work at a daycare. We rarely see fresh fruit and NEVER any vegetables My colleagues and I bring fruit and veggies to compliment the lunches that come from home filled with pre-packaged garbage, because we are afraid that the children won't get any unless we provide them. I am sorry, but lucnhables are not food...Cut fruit up and put them in foil cupcake papers. Send them in on a tray that you've decorated. Trust me -- kids will finish the fruit, but will only eat the icing off of cup cakes. -anon

At my sons very PC pre-school, no refined sugar treats were allowed for birthday parties. So, 100% fruit popsicles, trailmix (but only if there were no kids with nut tree allergies currently at the school) and veggie pizza were the usual celebratory offerings. I suppose you could also freeze juice-sweetened brand yogurt (such as Brown Cow) for ''ice cream''. And frozen bananas are a real treat. Karen H.

You can totally make sweet treats without sugar. Look up recipes for cakes and cupcakes using agave nectar, maple syrup, or honey. I've even make cookies and muffins using only ripe bananas as a sweetener. Frosting can be mostly cream cheese and butter with a little agave or maple syrup mixed in. I make things like this all the time for my 20 month old because I'm not into giving her refined sugar and lightly, naturally sweetened muffins are a great vehicle to get some grated veggies (usually carrot and zucchini, but sometimes pumpkin or winter squash) into her picky self. all natural

Although I don't object to sugary treats on occasion, our daycare provider requested that we bring a healthier treat for our son's birthday. I made one of my favorites: whole wheat banana muffins, and I added blueberries instead of nuts. I'm sure you could find millions of muffin recipes (some even use applesauces instead of oil to make them healthier) online. My recipe came from the Williams-Sonoma Muffins and Quick Breaks cookbook... I searched but couldn't find the recipe online. Sugar Momma

I don't have any helpful suggestions about special treats for daycare birthday parties, but I just wanted to say that if these parties are only happening once in a while, let the kid have a little sugar. You wouldn't want your kid to be the only one who never gets to eat a cupcake. (unless there is a dietary issue) Once in a while is okay

Our daughter has always brought mini blueberry muffins to school on her birthday. I buy the Betty Crocker ''Twice the Blueberries'' and put all the finished mini muffins in a big basket. It's a huge treat for the kids and I leave the extra muffins for the teachers. joj

Oh yes, please do avoid the sugars! At our preschool, we are allowed to bring in food items without sugar or non-food items. The kids really don't miss the sugars, it's the parents that do. Where we equate food with happiness. We all want happy children, but healthful behaviors will make them happiest in the end. Set a good example for your children and for other parents by bringing in healthy fruits or non food items like stickers or pencils. There are too many celebrations -- in the classroom, parties, special treats -- involving cupcakes and cakes. Follow your instincts and be creative. The kids won't have a problem with your choice. Healthy can be fun too


Healthy snacks for 4-year-old's bday party

March 2007


I was wondering if you guys have suggestions for healthy snacks for my soon-to-be-4-year-old boy bday party. We are going to celebrate his bday at his preschool and they want us to bring healthy snacks. I would like out of the ordinary snacks, meaning not the usual things they give them at school (carrots, fruit, etc.) Also, the more appealing to the kids, the better. I have only come up with cupcakes w/o frosting and popcorn (they love popcorn). But have no other ideas aside from the fruit and vegetable thing. I would appreciate any input. Party-planning-mom

Make vegetable sculptures! Kids LOVE this, and I have done this successfully as anti-halloween programming with a class full of sixth graders and their kindergarten buddies.

Stock up on *lots* of veggies---including at least one green or red pepper for each kid. Also great are sliced broccoli and carrots, sugar snap peas, cherry tomatoes, etc. Green onions can be used for hair, also sprouts. You'll need wooden skewers and toothpicks and healthy (but THICK) dips to ''glue'' the sculptures together. I really recommend olives, too---they can be eyes, wheels, etc. Have paper plates for each kid as a base for their sculpture.

You can use ''Play with your Food'' and other books by Joost Elffers for ideas, too. One note, unlike the books, kids do not make as many faces, but they do make awesome veggie sculptures and eat lots of them as they are playing. Jennifer

How 'bout cheese? Hummus & pita? Bagels and cream cheese? Edamame?

We just had our 4 year old's party. I cut pb& j's into cookie cutter shapes. (we had flowers, but you could do dinos, trucks,etc) They were a hit-I was actually surprised at the number of girls who said ''WoW! Flower sandwiches!'' anon

One thing we used to always make in college were pizza rolls. You just buy pizza dough, layer it with cheese (and if you want, pepperoni or veggie toppings), roll it up, bake, then slice it into pretty little cross-section pieces. My daughter also loves hummus with pita, or you can buy peanut butter pretzels (although watch out for peanut allergy kids). Homemade mac and cheese is also easy to make and fabulous. (Barefoot Contessa has a good recipe)

Not totally healthy but kids love it - if you have a homemade ice cream maker, you can make ice cream that isn't full of artificial junk and bring it with some cones. foodie lover

My daughter was thrilled to bring fruit-kabobs with edible flowers added. We skewered a variety of nice fruit pieces on bamboo skewers, and added an edible pansy at the end. Be sure you buy edible flowers - not florist kinds, - to be sure to avoid pesticides. This is still fruit, but the fancy presentation makes it seem special. Another fun, slightly special treat - Use cookie cutters to cut shapes from the Middle Eastern Flatbread from Trader Joes (or similar). Spread it with goat cheese or low-fat cream cheese. Sprinkle lightly with colored sugar (just a bit). Other ideas - mini muffins (pumpkin are good), a ''bug'' or ''flower'' made of healthy food components (again, the special presentation); a special dip for fruits, vegies, or whole grain pretzles. R.K.

If your kid is in the ''cinnamon-lover's'' club, as mine is, you could make, in place of cupcakes, a really great recipe for whole-grain pumpkin muffins to take. I sent this for both of my kid's preschool birthday snacks, and they were gobbled down by kids and adults alike. Whole wheat and oats, canned pumpkin (very high in vitamin A), low in sugar, and delicious. What more could you want? Karen

There is a great book, First Meals, I can't remember the author but it has a lot of fun and healthy kid snacks and ideas for party foods. Also, the same author as the Moosewood Cookbook (Katzen I think?) had a kids cookbook with fun food/projects for kids that might be good for an inclass party. Jen

my daughter's kindergarten has snack every morning and afternoon, which is a lot to keep up with. some that i've had success with: japanese style rice crackers, the party mix kind (trader joes, they also have ''nori crackers:'' rice with a bit of seaweed wrapper), semifreddi's cinnamon twist bread (tastes sweet, but not too much sugar, since it's all on the outside) which i cut into thick slices, then cut each slice into 4 squares, each kid gets 2 squares (~10 kids/loaf). our class also haas a rice cooker, and they like sticky rice (sushi type, white or brown), especially with furikake on it (seaweed/sesame sprinkles), which you can get at asian markets or berkeley bowl. for the naked cupcakes, you can put a few cookie sprinkles on before you bake, and it gives a bit of decoration without it being a big spoonful of sugar. snack fairy


+ Hummos and vegie sticks (cucumber, carrot, peppers, cauliflower, broc, etc)
+ Fruit salad
+ Cheese chunks
+ Quesadilla trianges
+ Pasta salad
+ instead of frostingless cupcakes, how about muffins with frosting or cream cheese? Happy healthy!


Instead of ice cream sundaes, how about ''make your own yoghurt smoothie?'' Put out tubs of different flavors of yoghurt, and bowls with all sorts of different fruit, plus some granola, and tell the kids there's a prize for the most colorful smoothie, or if they try each kind of fruit or something like that. Hmm... I'm making myself hungry... kevin

Many of the parents at our preschool either bring pizza, corn dogs or frozen fruit bars for b-days. They're always big hits with the kids. preschool parent

My mom used to occasionally make a spice cake to bring to my youth group. It was a huge hit. It's more like a muffin than cake, really. You can make it really healthy and still pretty yummy. And maybe you can cut it up into bite-size chunks and make a pumpkin dip for it (I have the recipe - just email if you want it). That would be so much fun!



Birthday treats at preschool

October 2002


We're new to the preschool scene and could use some advice. At our school the families can bring in a birthday treat to celebrate their child's birthday. This treat is eaten with the morning snack around 10:30. The school makes some reasonable suggestions for treats(popcorn, fruit, etc.)in the parent handbook. They ask that no chocolate or nuts are used due to allergies. Sounds fine, right? What has happened so far is that the parents have brought in these yucky super sugary cookies, both which had chocolate and nuts! When I asked the teachers about it they just threw up their hands and said, ''We keep asking but the parents just do what they want.'' There are several children who have allergies at the school too. And now the kids think you are ''supposed'' to bring cookies!

So I am looking for guidance. First off, what is the birthday/treat policy at your child's school?

What should I do? I am not happy about my child eating this junk, especially in the morning. If I approach the parent board what is the best way to do this?

Help! Frustrated Mom

I am a Preschool teacher and it is hard to tell parents what to bring. Our school also has a treat policy. But if parents bring things that are too sweet we cut them very small, and remove icing and such. I like it when kids bring fruit, muffins, popcorn, dinosour gramcrackers( these look like cookies; you can get them at any store I think) or oatmeal cookies can work. Some parents have brought fruit with wip cream which is less sugery but fun.

We also have parent that have requested their children not eat cetrain food because of allergies. These parent bring 'special' snacks for their children. Some kids have these even 'more special' snacks on birthdays so they can join in the fun. We never serve children food they are allergic to. Most children understand why they can not have certan foods.

I would say try and model what you thik is a good birthday snack, bring what you think if not to sweet but stil fun. It is hard when all the children bring cookies and your child wants to bring cookies too. Maybe make cookies at home that don't have too much suger ( if you have time) or have your child pick from some other things you are willig to bring.

Hope something helps.Good luck. J

I feel that along with a birthday is invariably a sugary snack and I am okay with that. As long as your child is offered a healthy snack along with it and at other scheduled snack times on regular days it should be fine. My child is allergic to chocolate, dairy, and nuts. I brought a box of doughnut holes on her birthday for the kids to share. The kids loved them and at least they are small!! Heather

All the preschool and elementary schools I have seen ban nuts of any kind at school, request nutritious snacks, but allow junk food for birthday treats. You should definitely approach the school about sticking to policies on allergy-sensitive foods, and even request that they reiterate the request for healthy snacks, but forget about eliminating treats for birthday snacks. It will never happen. Just remind yourself that the number of birthdays are limited and get used to it because this is only the beginning. another healthy snack parent

Someone mentioned that ''all the preschools I've seen ... allow junk food for birthday treats.''

Not true! The New School (preschool) has a very firm policy against junk food and sugar. Children are not even allowed to have lunches with sugared items in them. Both parents and teachers work together to achieve this ... it takes both sides. Birthday treats are fun and delicious -- but they do *not* contain sugar. And none of the children feel deprived.

Even with parent/teacher cooperation, I think that the driving force behind enforcement of a ''no sugar'' policy is always the director of the school. If the director is unwilling to be a leader for the school's stated policy, then that policy should not be written into their literature. If you place your child and pay your tuition, you don't want to feel mislead. anonymous