15 fun and healthy school celebration ideas

We’re in the habit of celebrating with food—usually sweets and candy with lots of empty calories. But it’s easy to rethink how you party in the classroom or at day care when you’re equipped with fun alternatives that kids love. We’ve got 15 fun and healthy school celebration ideas to help!

Children play music with their teacher

Why healthier classroom celebrations? 

Why does your school or child care center need a healthy school celebrations policy that extends to birthdays, holidays, and special events? “A birthday is just once a year,” we might think—but if you have 25 or more student birthdays, and add in Halloween, winter break, Valentine’s Day, the 100th day of school, the last day of school…you can easily accumulate 7 full weeks of sugary treats!

As a result, many schools and child care centers have extended their healthy snack policies to parties and celebrations. They’ve set specific expectations around what kinds of food, prizes, and activities are permitted. You can, too, and a letter such as this one from Action for Healthy Kids can help you communicate your policy to parents and caregivers. 

You might also like this list of healthy snacks from Chicago Public Schools. A comprehensive list eliminates guesswork about what is appropriate and provides a wide range of options. Share it with families and volunteers. 

5 tips for healthier party treats

What makes a “treat” special can be the way that it is served and presented. Here are some ideas for fun, healthy snacks:

  • Fruit kebobs on a straw or unsharp stick
  • Fruit smoothies (ice, fresh or frozen fruit, fat-free yogurt and/or fat-free milk)
  • 100% fruit juice freezer pops
  • Make-your-own pizzas using whole grain English muffins and veggie toppings
  • Healthy foods in the holiday’s traditional colors (e.g., cantaloupe, pumpernickel bread, and low-fat cheddar cheese at a Halloween party; vanilla yogurt with blueberries for Hanukkah; etc)
Multicolored fruit kebabs

Visit the Dairy Council of California’s Classroom Party Ideas board on Pinterest for serving and presentation ideas. 

5 ideas for healthy celebration activities

Physical activity is also a treat. Consider shifting the focus away from food and onto a special activity. You don’t have to wait for a special holiday; celebrate surviving an important test or completing a big project. A few ideas to try:

  • Celebrate with extra time at recess or in the gymnasium or activity room
  • Turn on music and have a dance party in the classroom.
  • Lead a themed parade around the building.
  • Go outdoors for an unexpected seasonal activity (e.g., sledding in winter, field day practice in spring, nature hike any time of year)
  • Set up active game stations throughout the room and let students choose or rotate among them (e.g., classic games like Twister and beanbag toss, or digital ones like Wii Fit, Just Dance, GoNoodle, etc).
Field day games with hula hoops

5 ways to celebrate an individual child at school

If you want to honor a specific child on his/her birthday or as a reward for an achievement, try one or more of these ideas:

  • Let the child choose a favorite book to read to the class.
  • Allow the child to choose or lead a favorite physical activity (song/dance, extra playground time, active game, etc).
  • Create a special crown, sash, or badge for the child to wear all day.
  • Allow the child to be the first to do each classroom activity and/or be the line leader for the day. 
  • Recognize the student in school-wide morning announcements.

You can also find inspiration in this post from Halloween and this post from Valentine’s Day

Healthy Students Achieve More

Why are schools and child care providers focused on improving the nutritional quality of foods served in their buildings? Because the impact on behavior and academic achievement is significant. Find out more—including strategies you can implement, too—in our guide, Healthy Students Achieve More

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