My son turned 7 last week, was able to take a birthday snack to school, and had a party with some of his friends over the weekend.
For school, he took what he was calling “fruit cupcakes.” Grapes, strawberries, and apple slices in paper cups. I believe he called them cupcakes because we were going to put the fruit in muffin tins, but I realized that passing out fruit in cupcake wrappers would be much harder than just putting it in small paper cups.
I asked him, his dad (who was there for birthday snack), and his teacher how the other kids liked his birthday snack. All of them said the same thing: most of the kids liked it.
“Almost all of the kids loved having the fruit. Some even asked for more! I think one student said ‘no thank you’ and two others picked out something they didn’t care for.”
This is the fourth year he’s been given the opportunity to choose what he wanted to serve to eat at his party.
I wrote down what he asked for the first year (his third birthday): peanut butter on pita bread, apple chips, cherry tomatoes, raspberries, coconut chips. So that’s what we served.
I know the next two years, we had customized cookies but otherwise no sweets.
This year, he asked for watermelon cake*. There were also grapes, apple chips**, pretzel sticks, and, because we had a giant Costco bag only partially eaten, popcorn. We made popsicles (bananas and blueberries) but forgot to serve them. We had water to drink.
First: serving water was easy. We had activities in the yard planned, starting with an obstacle course, and it turned out to be in the high 80s that afternoon. Water was necessary.
The kids ate without saying anything one way or the other about what was served. Ate, talked, joked, like kids do at kid birthday parties.
I asked parents later if their kids had said anything—positive or negative—because I was writing a blog post about it and wanted it to be as accurate as possible. One said that her daughter loved the watermelon cake. Everyone else said they didn’t say anything.
One of the activities he really wanted was a piñata. Easy enough.
For holidays where he gets a lot of candy (Halloween, Valentine’s Day, Easter), he keeps a piece or two and trades the rest in for a toy. I didn’t think it would be right to have him trade in his birthday candy, so instead, we stuffed the piñata with LEGO. We bought a couple of boxes of just pieces, and when the piñata broke, kids could grab pieces and start to build. They took home with them whatever they built. It was a big hit!
His birthday party had no added sugar.
He was happy. Other kids were happy.
For his birthday proper, he chose to have pizza and cupcakes, so we had pizza and cupcakes that evening.
For his parties, I’ve had a couple of parents say thank you, and tell me that their kids don’t go to many parties because it’s all junk food and they don’t want their kids eating that much of it. (This is not the majority, for sure, but it’s more than one.)
I’ve had other people (who were not actually involved in any of these events, just knew about them) tell me that I’m depriving my son of his childhood.
Seriously? Childhood is comprised only of out-of-control junk food eating? Methinks maybe some people were projecting. Or defensive. Or both.
It’s possible to celebrate and be happy and have fun without loading up on junk. And, as a result, teach our kids that they can celebrate and be happy and have fun without loading up on junk. Or maybe learn it from them.
*I used glasses with different mouth sizes to cut the circles. For the little pieces around the edges, I have a set of tiny cookie cutters.
**With a mandolin and a dehydrator, apple chips are easy to make, and they’re so tasty! We just slice them thin (don’t bother coring or seeding–most of the seeds fall out anyway) and dry for 8 hours. No additions necessary.