If your child’s birthday falls between August and May, chances are you’ve had to host your share of classroom birthday parties. Elementary school students love treating their classmates to cakes, treats and games each year. But the classroom birthday party can be tricky to pull off. Here are ideas to host themed classroom birthday parties your child’s friends will love and make the event smooth and seamless for his classroom teacher as well.
First, contact your child’s teacher at least two weeks before you plan to bring birthday treats to her classroom. If your child’s birthday falls in the middle of the week, her teacher may request you wait until a Friday afternoon to host the party. Tell the teacher what items you plan to bring, any goodies or favors you want to give away and ask her if there will be time for a few party games. Especially in younger elementary-aged children, teachers have to be cautious of foods with nuts, flour, dairy or other common allergens. The teacher probably has a list of allergies for each student in her class, but be sure to ask just in case.
If your child’s class has an afternoon recess, it is best to plan the party just before or during that time. Kids will be more energetic after sugary foods and recess offers a chance to burn off the energy before transitioning back to classroom mode. Whatever your child’s teacher recommends, or requires, be respectful and honor it. Remember, your child might not be hard to handle. But the teacher knows her students and the triggers that set them off. She is ultimately responsible for her classroom management, and combining 30 young children with sugar and a change in schedule is usually a recipe for headaches and meltdowns.
Next, enlist a few volunteers to help you conduct the party so the teacher can focus on classroom management. Ask other family members, older siblings or cousins, or family friends to help you carry in your supplies, set up and serve refreshments, and clean up. Make a supply list so you don’t forget any essentials, especially large garbage bags, plenty of plastic silverware and napkins, and larger serving spoons. These are the most common items left out of party planning, and usually make for larger messes. School janitors hate dumping tiny classroom trashcans crammed with leaking drinks and cake plates. And trying to cute and serve ice cream cake with only a plastic fork inevitably leads to major messes and frustration. Bring your own and offer to carry all the large trash bags to the school’s dumpster before you leave.
The supply list should also include a package of moist wipes to clean up each child’s face after messy party snacks. Add some disinfectant wipes to wipe down any tables and desks on which food will be served and eaten. Most classrooms now have hand sanitizer or sinks in the room, but bring an extra bottle so children can wash their hands just in case. Finally, be sure to bring plastic cling wrap, aluminum foil and some disposable storage bowls to deal with leftover cake or treats.
Try to include your child’s administrative staff or alternate teachers, such as music, art and physical education instructors, in your party planning. Something as simple as sending a small tray of cake slices to the front office will brighten the principal’s day. Office staff, like secretaries and front-desk staff, lunchroom workers and janitors are often overlooked on special occasions. Bring colored plastic cling wrap and small party plates to prepare single-slices to send to these workers around the school. Older elementary children might want to deliver these treats themselves, if the teacher allows small groups to go around the school alone, and tell these workers how much they appreciate them.
Try to plan birthday treats and snacks that are classroom friendly. Opt for cupcakes to omit all the hassle of slicing and serving. Cupcakes also have the same amount of icing, decorations, and usually come with a single favor (like plastic rings or small toys). This eliminates melt-downs because one child thinks another got a bigger slice, more icing or more decorations on his piece. Cupcakes are easy to eat without silverware, cutting down on waste as well.
Instead of buying and scooping gallons of ice cream, give each child a small single-serving cup – the kind with wooden spoons attached to the lid. These may seem more expensive, but can be more cost effective. You can buy multi-flavored packs so each child can choose a vanilla, strawberry or chocolate.
Its not just the above flavors, but various others can also be included like black currant, orange, mango, treacle tart and a combination of one or more of them because ice creams are of different varieties and the flavors are too many to be taken into consideration. Kids are never fond of caricature so in a bid to make a unique combination, make sure that the basic ingredient is not ruined.
Prepare goodie bags or favors well in advance. Ask the teacher for a class list of names. Label each bag with a child’s first name to make handing out party favors as easy as possible. Skip large amounts of candy-kids will already be an a sugar overload from the refreshments, and many parents like to watch their kids’ candy intake. Instead, look for fun toys, games and school supplies in the party theme. Pencils, mini-notebooks, erasers and pencil sharpeners come in millions of colors, designs and shapes. Avoid making “boy” and “girl” favor bags with traditional pink and blue favors. Don’t assume girls won’t enjoy your son’s favorite frog pencils or boys won’t use your daughter’s Dora the Explorer notebooks.
To really demonstrate the spirit of giving to your child and her classroom, consider giving a birthday gift to the entire class. Consult the teacher beforehand and choose something the entire class can use for the remainder of the year, like a huge colorful parachute (many teachers use these on activity days and the entire class can play at one time), a bag of kick balls for recess, or new art supplies for the classroom.
Finally, before planning party games, ask the teacher what they are studying in science and art. Look for a craft activity that can tie in to your child’s birthday theme, but still have educational value in the classroom. Crafts that use photos of the child or her handprints, fingerprints or footprints, make great keepsakes that other parents will cherish. Offer to bring all the supplies and help the teacher conduct the activity. Bring an instant camera so children can take home photos of themselves to their parents.