This past May, I went to my son’s end-of-year class party and it’s been on my mind ever since. I’m not sure why this one stands out so much, because it’s similar to every other class party I’ve attended or held in my own classroom, but something about it just didn’t sit well.
Class Party Recap
My son was in a Pre-K class of about 15 children. The teacher announced the end-of-year party and we all signed up to bring something. On the day of the party the classroom tabletops were crowded with an enormous amount of food! There were pizzas, cupcakes, cookies, icecream, pudding, fruit cups, chips, dips, fruit trays, veggie trays, donuts, juice and MORE! Yes, MORE!
The other parent helpers and I walked around passing out the different foods that students requested. When I returned to my son, he had on his plate: pizza, a cupcake, a cookie, banana pudding, icecream, fruit, chips, a fruit cup, and juice box. He ate one bite of pizza, a few bites of the cupcake, drank the juice, ate his grapes, and the rest went in the TRASH. After the kids finished eating, we cleaned up and the party was over.
Class Party Fails!
There are 3 things that bothered me about this experience, as well as about all the class parties I held in my own room.
#1 THE WASTE! It kills me to think of all the food going straight into the trash (and all the money that bought all that food.)
#2 THE JUNK! I watched one child eat an entire cupcake covered in 2 inches of red-dyed frosting, a cookie, icecream, chips, and pudding while drinking a juice box. (She wasn’t into the fruit, veggies, or pizza.) There’s an obesity epidemic in our country and here we are dumping sugar and processed junk into 4 year olds! Shameful!
#3 THE MESSAGE! What are we teaching our children? That we celebrate by pigging out on crap and being as wasteful as possible?
And just to be clear, I am not placing blame! (Except on myself, maybe.) I have hosted plenty of classroom parties just like the one I described. In fact, I recall throwing 2 dozen donuts in the trash because somehow my class ended up with 4 dozen and no one wanted to take them home.
I know there are teachers out there who have figured out a better way to do school parties! I hope some of you smart people will read this and share your great ideas. Until then, here’s what I came up with…
A class party should be about celebrating and making memories together, not just eating junk food together. Kids don’t need the junk food to have fun. Kids just want to do something out of the ordinary and to connect with both their teacher and classmates in a new way!
Class Party Wins!
FOCUS ON PURPOSE
Before your next class party, take a moment to reflect on its PURPOSE. What are you celebrating? If you’re throwing a Valentine’s Day Party, what should be the take-away? Showing appreciation for each other? Friendship? Kindness? If you’re throwing an end-of-year party, what would you like kids to think about, feel, recognize? Is your purpose to celebrate progress and successes? Or maybe to appreciate your classmates? Identify your purpose and keep it in the forefront of your mind while planning.
FOCUS ON CREATING MEMORIES
Years later, the kids aren’t going to remember or care about stuffing their faces with sweets, but they WILL remember special moments with their teachers and friends. Make sure that your party provides plenty of opportunities to create meaningful memories. This might be through a shared experience, a creative task, a special performance, a ceremony of recognition, or a silly activity.
FOCUS ON NOVELTY
When I think back to times when I saw my students (or my son) MOST excited about something that happened at school, it was simply because they did something out of the ordinary. Interestingly, it’s usually something simple and inexpensive. For example, my class was crazy over a pet snake that visited our room for a few days. And my son used to get so excited in preschool when his teacher would bring a different food to go with each color. “Today, we ate baby carrots for orange!”
So keep it simple and interesting. Pick a theme for the party and let students focus on dressing up, creating decorations, or playing games related to the theme, rather than making it all about the food.
A (LIMITED-TIME) FREEBIE TO MAKE LIFE EASIER!
Okay, so I realize that we are teachers and we don’t have time to plan extensive, themed parties. We just might be busy teaching! In hopes of helping, I’ve created a little Party Planning Pack. You’ll find a simple party planner template, 12 editable invitations, and links to Pinterest Boards with ideas for 8 themed parties. Plus, I added a handy letter to send home to parents about your commitment to serving healthy food at school.
And here’s a sneak peek of the Mad Scientist Party Pinterest Board! (It’s my favorite party idea!!)
Can’t wait to hear your ideas!