Birthdays for young children often have little meaning beyond ‘I get presents and treats.’ For their families, however, birthdays can have a much bigger significance, especially for specific years. Some families have long-standing traditions that they might want to bring into the school, while other families have religious or cultural objections to celebrating birthdays at all. When crafting a policy about student birthdays, consider setting clear expectations for in-class celebrations, out-of-school party invites, snacks or treats brought to school, and any school-wide traditions that will be observed. While some environments set policies as school/center-wide, others allow individual teachers and classrooms to choose how they celebrate.
Creating a consistent school-wide policy can provide explicit direction on what families can expect when choosing to celebrate a child’s birthday but might exclude hopes or ideas that don’t fit the parameters. Allowing individual teachers to set a policy can provide more freedom but might create chatter amongst families (“in the Seahorse class, they get to bring in cupcakes and goodie bags!”).
Many families will choose to have a birthday celebration for their student outside of the classroom. Some will want to invite all children in a class, and others will only want to invite chosen students. A policy that requires all students to be invited might be done in the name of ‘saving hurt feelings’, but doesn’t allow for family conversation about friendships, and might create financial stress. Banning invitations from being passed out at school can prevent these conversations altogether on school/center property, though online groups, text threads, and email listservs are still prevalent in family life – it won’t prevent talk completely.
Where To Include
At Playvolution HQ, we recommend programs have three handbooks–a Parent Handbook, a Staff Handbook, and an Operating Handbook. Consider adding this policy to your Operating Handbook.
- Some states/regions have policies that require food ‘from home’ to be store-bought.
- Some states/regions have policies that ban balloons in early learning environments.
- Some families might feel pressured to bring in treats or have a party if other parents do, despite financial constraints.
- Some schools have their own special songs, banners, or other traditions that classrooms are expected to partake in.
- Students who don’t ‘get’ the same experience as other students could comment on it (“how come Jeremy got cupcakes?”)
- Many families will want to take photos of students on their birthdays, which could conflict with a photography or cell phone policy.
- Allowing birthday celebrations means that alternative arrangements must be made for students who do not celebrate birthdays – will they leave the room? Will their parents be notified?
Disclaimer: These are sample policies intended for use as a guide in policy development. Your program’s policies should be unique to your program and reflect the program’s culture, practices, and the regulations in your area.
We enjoy celebrating birthdays with your child. The birthday child is the center of attention for a Q&A session with classmates. Do not send goodie bags or good. Your birthday party at home is the perfect time for these. We request that cubbies only be used to distribute invitations to the entire class to avoid hurt feelings.
St. Andrew Christian Preschool, Vancouver, WA Bitin
You may provide a special snack for your child’s birthday. Please talk with your child’s teacher to determine what is appropriate. Please don’t bring extras such as balloons or favors.
Grossmont College Child Development Center, El Cajon, CA
Birthdays are special to children. We enjoy celebrating them with a birthday song and special treats provided by parents. Please communicate with your child’s teacher if you are planning to send a birthday treat.
Guiding Star Preschool, Raymore, MO
Birthdays and Other Celebrations
Birthdays may be celebrated during the afternoon snack period at 3:15 p.m. or at a designated time set by the school Principal. Parents must talk to the classroom teachers to schedule a birthday celebration. Parents bring no more than one treat for each child.
AppleTree encourages nutritional treats such as muffins or fruit. Soda or any food containing nuts should not be sent to school. It is helpful if parents host the distribution of the birthday treat. Parents should provide plates, napkins, and cups for a celebration. No decorations are permitted. Please do not distribute goody bags or extra treat bags.
Birthday invitations should be distributed at school only if all the children in the classroom are invited to the child’s celebration. If, for religious reasons, a family does not celebrate birthdays, please inform the child’s teachers, and the teacher will make arrangements for the child.
AppleTree Institute, Washington, DC
Have a Parent, Staff, or Operating handbook you’d like to share with us for use in our policy samples? You can upload PDFs here.
Thoughts on this topic? Share them in the comments, we’d love to know what you think.