Celebrating Birthdays in an Early Learning Environment


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Birthdays are an exciting time of celebration and community building. They are a time when parents and families can join in with their child’s peers to celebrate a particular child and make him or her feel special.

However, without clearly established rules and routines, birthday celebrations can also feel disruptive of the daily routine. Parents might be inclined to bring sugary treats or goodies to other children in the classroom, or they might unintentionally stop by at a time that is not convenient during the classroom flow of the day. To navigate these celebrations, it can be helpful to have clearly established “birthday guidelines” to ensure that everyone is on the same page.

Review our tips for some quick and easy practices to change up the way you celebrate birthdays and honor children on their special day:

  • Have allergies clearly posted: It is a licensing requirement to have children’s allergies clearly posted in the classroom to ensure food safety. These can also be helpful to have on hand if a parent asks about bringing a special treat, and asks if there are any allergies to be aware of. Having allergies posted clearly in a handy location will make it easy for you to double check that the birthday snack is safe for everyone.

  • Encourage healthy snacks: If you are worried about what families are bringing, ask them to bring in something healthy! Families will often ask “What can I bring for my child’s birthday?” Have your answer ready, and encourage healthy treats! Maybe a fruit salad or a birthday muffin, instead of a cupcake. This will avoid feeding children sweets, that will lead to an inevitable sugar crash.

  • Invite families: Parents love to spend some extra time with children on their birthdays. Ensure that they feel welcome by letting them know that they are welcome to come during morning or afternoon snack (or another time that fits well into your daily schedule), and offer them a place to sit while they enjoy a meal with the children. Having their parent or parents at the table will help children to feel celebrated and to know that it is a special day.  

  • Come up with your own fun classroom tradition: Many classrooms have unique traditions to celebrate birthdays. Some classrooms will have children color a big piece of butcher paper, and draw pictures of the birthday boy or girl, to use as a birthday table cloth during afternoon snack. Other classrooms might have a special birthday plate that the birthday boy or girl gets to use at meals and snack time. Children also will enjoy the classic “Happy Birthday” song. The familiar tune will make parents feel welcome to join in singing along, too! Birthday traditions can be simple, but taking small opportunities to celebrate the child will make them feel special throughout the day.

  • Have rules clearly posted: Whatever your rules are, ensure that they are clearly posted and shared with parents. You can have “birthday guidelines” clearly written out and hung in your classroom, or they can be included in your handbook. This will ensure that everyone is on the same page, and will help you to not feel stumped when parents ask you how they should plan to celebrate their child.  

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