I am very pleased to say that I have enjoyed a lovely start to the school year! I have so much to share! I am starting with one thing that has me VERY excited about this year – a new birthday celebration plan! In past years I have allowed students to bring in treats on their birthdays. I have always encouraged fresh fruit, but I only ever had a few students jump on board with that. Between trying to address a wide variety of ever increasing food allergies (peanuts, tree nuts, egg, soy, milk, gluten, etc.) and trying to promote healthy food habits, it seemed like time for a change. And in truth, I was ready to help my students focus more on their friend who was having a birthday, and less on the food.
This year my kindergarten team (four of us) have done away with birthday treats! Instead we have developed an alternative celebration that focuses more on the child.
The first part of our birthday celebration involves a “Me Box” or “Me Bag.” I borrowed this idea directly from my daughter’s preschool experience. About a week before the child’s birthday (or half-birthday, or designated celebration day), we will send a note home to explain how to prepare the “Me Box.” This is basically a special show and tell. The birthday child can bring a box or bag in with five to ten items that they want to share with the class. We encourage a variety of items – not just toys – and we have some restrictions (no food, no live animals, no electronics). We essentially want a few things that the child can talk about and that are special to them. If you would like to use the form we send home to families, you can download it for free here.
Then, on their special day, the child will get a chance to share their items. Other students can ask questions, and then the items will be on display for the rest of the day. Students can get a closer look, but they may not touch any of the items. In this way, the celebration really is about the child.
The second part involves adding or decorating a part of our “birthday gallery.” We have all set this gallery up in different ways. Basically there is a bulletin board with something (an art paper, a frame, a letter) “reserved” for that child’s birthday. On their day they get to use a special tub of art supplies to decorate their piece in any way they like. It will then be returned to the gallery, to show their artistic expression. I borrowed this idea from Fairy Dust Teaching’s wonderful article about Reggio Emilia inspired birthday celebrations. There are some other fantastic ideas on this post as well!
Tomorrow is my birthday, and I get to be the first to share my “Me Bag!” I am super excited to share some special things with my kids, as well as to get to set the stage for birthday celebrations for the rest of the year. (September birthdays have their advantages!) Here are some of the items in my “Me Bag:” I included my running shoes, a charm bracelet from places I have traveled, a family photo collage, a favorite book, a book of French words to show that I can speak French, a pin from a hot air balloon ride I took with my husband, a favorite coffee cup, a book I wrote, a yoga block, and a bag from one of my students. I also plan to show my students my insulin pump, and share with them that I am a Type 1 diabetic.
Later this week I have my first student birthday, so I will be sure to post some photos as our birthday gallery develops. How do you celebrate student birthdays? Do you allow food treats, or have you gone “food free?”