Food, Snacks, & Treats at Preschool & Daycare
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Food, Snacks, & Treats at Preschool & Daycare
Tell me, am I being too rigid? A stick in the mud? I was
appalled to find out that for a child's 2yr old birthday
chocolate cupcakes with marshmallows were brought to our
daycare and passed out to the children. The class is a 1-2
year old class, my child is 1.5 years old. Here is what I am
upset about: 1) I specifically requested that no sugary snacks
are served to my child (i.e. cookies, ice cream, cotton candy,
etc), but the cupcakes were served anyway. 2) Chocolate
cupcakes with marshmallowsb& I find this a bit over the top for
this age. Not only the sugar, but the caffeine factor as
well. So tell me, wise moms of Berkeley, and tell it to me
straight. Is it unreasonable that I'm upset over this?
Not a sugar-mama
Wow, how do we get into your preschool? Sounds like a fun
place. Seriously though, I imagine you'll get a lot of sympathy
from other people who limit sugar, since we seem to go to
preschool with all of them, but personally I wouldn't have a
problem with chocolate cupcakes. I think here in the Bay Area
we sometimes stress just a little too much about healthy
eating. I ate plenty of crap (including marshmallows) as a kid
and still turned out ok. I think as long as it's not a daily
occurance and his diet is otherwise generally fresh and healthy,
a little sugar and even caffeine once in a while is no big
deal. All things in moderation, right?
Had to Bring Yogurt for Our Preschool Bdays
I think you are overreacting a little. I agree with the no
sugar thing but what was the daycare provider suppose to do?
not give it to your child? So everyone would get cake but not
I think rules are wonderful and i use them a lot but do you
honestly think that having eaten this once is going to change
her life? i can guarantee you it won't. I had a friend who had
a similar experience and what it seemed to boil down to in the
end is that it's hard to have someone else make decisions for
your kid. You want absolute control but sometimes you can't. Is
this daycare a good daycare? do you and your daughter love it?
If you do, is it worth getting mad over one little piece of
Perspective is important. I always bake my own stuff because i
like to use good ingredients and as little as possible of
sugar. When they do birthdays in class and the parents bring
sugary cupcakes from a store i am not crazy about it. On the
other hand, having participated in class, i can tell you it
would extremely uncomfortable if one person didn't it any. I
don't think that one cake, or one once in a while erases in any
way the food ''education'' i give him. And even at almost 4, he
can tell you the difference..''too much sugar'' he says!
Now if you can't get over it, you could ask the provider to let
you know when there is a birthday and bring a chocolate cupcake
you approve of that way your kid doesn't feel left out.
You have every right as the mother to have your wishes met at
the daycare. Reemphasize to the teachers at the daycare that
your child is not to have sweets.
Here's another thought, once your child goes to preschool and
later elementary school, how do you plan to control their sugar
intake? My daughter goes to preschool and when a child has a
birthday parents bring treats for all the kids. The treats
have ranged from cupcakes, to cookies, to mini muffins, to mini-
cupcakes, popsicles. You can always single out your child to
not participate. But as your child gets older and wants to be
more independently minded not to mention want to be part of a
group, will your child be happy sitting off by the side while
other children have treats that happens once in a while? And
once they are in elementary school where kids often trade their
lunches, how will you control the sweet intake? Is it really
not acceptable to have sweets in moderation?
All foods are good in moderation.
Yes, you are over reacting in my opinion. This is really small in
the scheme of things.
Oh man, do I hear you on this one! At our house, we don't give
our 3 year old sugar unless it is a very special occasion like
a birthday. Unfortunately, we have come to accept that when we
are not with him, he will have some treats. I have family
nearby that babysit periodically and they will offer him treats
all the time. Fact is, we need to accept that this will happen
and be ok with it on occasion. You wouldn't want him left out
of a school birthday celebration because he isn't allowed to
have sugar, would you? The school probably should have let you
know that the cupcakes were going to be there ahead of time, if
they knew. Maybe you could have brought a different, Mom
approved treat for him to have with all of his little
classmates. Maybe you can request that in the future. If you
stick to your guns at home though, your kid may not even want
sugary treats when offered. We were recently at a birthday
party and when a piece of cake was offered to my son, he
said ''No thanks, I'd like some more carrots instead.'' You can
imagine my pride. I totally know where you are coming from on
this, I still cringe when my kid eats sugary things, but
sometimes you just have to relax about things. Just know that
you are doing what you think is best at home and your son will
be ok. Take care!
Sugar free mama too, learning how to chill out
I would say yes, you're being somewhat unrealistic. Our son is
in a similar setting, and it seems like there's a birthday at
least once a month. I believe most parents send cookies or
cupcakes for a snack on these days, and the school doesn't put
much restriction on it. We only see it after the fact, but our
personal opinion is that we don't really give our son any
desserts at home, so a cupcake once or twice a month isn't
going to do much damage. I believe the amount of caffeine is
pretty minimal, and it shows that it's a special occasion to
celebrate (which is why we tell him he doesn't get them other
I think part of the reality of being in a group program is that
you're giving up complete control of your child's diet. You can
express your desires, but with presumably at least a dozen
kids, I don't believe you can guarantee that you're going to
get your way-or, honestly, that you should, given everything
else the teachers are keeping track of (assuming it's not a
serious allergy). If this is a critical issue to you, I believe
a better forum is to discuss it with the other parents, so that
there's a consensus on how all birthdays are handled in the
You might also want to think about your feelings about this
moving forward, because we're also starting to experience home
birthday parties. Are you going to say that your child can't
have cake at someone else's house? It gets more difficult as
your child interacts with other families that may not have the
same opinions as you, so I would suggest thinking about what
your ideal is vs. what you might be willing to compromise on
for certain occasions.
Trying to find the middle ground
Since you asked -- yes, I think you are being too rigid. Your
child will be in situations with sugar (like birthday parties)
and to deny your child these occasional indulgences seems overly
rigid. It sounds like the daycare does not serve sugary treats
regularly, and since you don't offer them in your home either
your child -- even as young as he/she is -- will not be unduly
harmed by having a treat once in awhile. Even chocolate.
By the way, I keep reading first-hand accounts of children denied
sugar by their parents when they were young. Later they become
obsessed by sugar to an unhealthy degree (one essayist described
being so excited to secretly eat a foil-covered chocolate Easter
egg that he ate the entire thing, foil and all, before his
parents could stop him). I think moderation, and not abstention,
should be the watchword.
Since you asked, I do think you're being too rigid. It is just
a cupcake....pace yourself, it gets wayyyyy more complex than
that as life goes on.
Cupcakes for young toddlers may be less than ideal, but I think
this is going to be something you're going to have to make
peace with in the coming years. You will find that healthy
snacks at birthdays (the ones brought by parents) are going to
be the exception rather than the rule, even in Berkeley. And
there will be many other occasions too in your child's life
where s/he will be offered food you consider not great, now
that she is an independent eater. (Think: birthday parties,
friends' houses, holidays, and so on.) The fact is that we live
in a society with a lot of junk food, and the older your child
gets, the less you are going to be able to control every morsel
he or she eats.
The best thing to do I think is to eat healthfully at home,
serve healthy snacks (which you are probably already doing),
and be careful about being too controlling/resticting on what
your child eats (to avoid making those ''forbidden foods'' seem
extra exciting). Then try not to sweat it when your child eats
a bit of sugar on special occasions. It is not going to do any
lasting damage and s/he will still most likely develop
healthful lifetime eating habits.
The question of whether the daycare defied your wishes is a
different issue altogether, and you might want to have a direct
conversation with them if this is something that is very
important to you. On the other hand, the older and wiser your
child gets, the harder it is going to be for him/her to be the
only child denied a treat at birthday time. I KNOW how you feel
about being pressured in this way to compromise your values
because of what other parents are doing ... but it won't be the
last time in your child's life! :) We are all products of both
our individual families and our surrounding social contexts. We
as parents can exercise control over the former but not the
latter (for the most part) - just the way it is. Good luck.
Mom of 2 daycare veterans
This was one cupcake for a birthday celebration not
a steady diet that your child is being fed at daycare. While I
agree I wouldn't readily feed this to my toddler, its hardly a
big deal that he ate a cupcake at a birthday celebration.
bigger fish to fry
In the grand scheme of things, it seems silly to be ''appalled''
and ''upset'' about a cupcake being served at daycare. So, to an
extent, you are overreacting a little. But when you think about
how you expressed your needs ''don't feed my child sugar'' and they
ARE 1-2 years old... I can see why you have a problem with it.
Maybe next time just say to the caregivers what you think right
then and there. That way you won't be stewing over it. I'm sure
the mother or father who brought the cupcakes just have a
different viewpoint and didn't really think other parents would
have a problem. I guess my problem would be more with the
daycare. Why are trained professionals giving babies that much
sugar? Do they have a policy on that?
Well, since you asked, my reaction is that you're being rigid. I know you're trying to do
right by your kid and teach good eating habits, and I know the ''no refined sugar shall
pass my child's lips'' sentiment is a popular one here in Berkeley, but is the occasional
birthday party cupcake really going to damage your kid? Turn him into a sugar fiend?
Sully her nutritional purity? Look at it this way: what would it be like if the teachers had
withheld the treat from your child only? All the other kids enjoy a cupcake in front of
him, and he feels like he is being left out and punished? Or, should they impose your
personal dietary prohibition on other families and tell them not to bring treats? There
are schools that cater to this way of thinking. But I think in the long run your efforts to
instill good eating habits will be more successful if you let your child enjoy different
things in moderation and not get appalled if he eats something junky now and then. If
you try to impose total prohibition, your kid is only going to rebel and pig out on sugar
when she gets the chance. Or, develop anxiety about food. Check out this NYT article
on the subject of ''orthorexic eating'':
Yes, you are too sensitive-- if this was an everyday affair, bring it up with the daycare,
but you said it was a birthday Party! Sugar is not an evil thing to be avoided at all
costs, and if that's the way you are going to approach the next 16.5 years of raising
this kid, your going to lose your mind.
Moderation in ALL things-- cupcakes (yes, even with marshmallows) are fine as a
treat-- sweat the big stuff, and this does not even come CLOSE to qualifying as the big
focus on the big things
Since you ask - yes, you are being too rigid. (I'm assuming
that this is occasional and not an everyday thing at the day
The older they get the less you can possibly control their
diet. They will eat sugar at some point, and it will be
a ''treat'' not an ordinary occurence. We used to have dessert
once a week, on Friday nights, and it was a good way for us to
both limit and teach moderation.
I was really strict with sugar with my oldest, and I still
remember her big eyes the first time she drank soda, at age
two. ''Mommy, I LIKE this juice.'' Once she busted me for
sneaking spinach and kale into her mac & cheese, she got so
worked up she'd make my husband pick out the ''green stuff'' aka
oregano out of pasta sauce.
Once she got to high school, she went off and ate junk food
every day. She also put on 10 pounds and realized she needed to
learn to eat healthfully. Which she mostly does.
And, the truth is, no matter how many rules you set down,
chances are when you're away, people tend to do what they think
reasonable and get around what they think unreasonable. It's a
fact of life, and you just need to leave them with people who
mostly follow your philosophy.
used to be rigid too
Party sugar is not great for kids, but you don't give them this
stuff every day. These are special foods for special occasions.
We just can't exhaust ourselves getting worked up over every last
Less stress makes happy eating!
Many many daycares and preschools have a policy about this--no
sweets. I think it is too hard for you if the policy is that
sweets are ok but your kid shouldn't have any. If this is a
recurring problem, I'd switch day cares.
I think you have every right to be upset. If you specifically
asked for no sugar, they should have respected that. My kids
go to a sugar-free preschool and that is one of the things we
love about the school. It would be hard for older kids to see
everyone else eating cupcakes while they get a sugar-free
alternative. But at 1.5, it would be easy enough to distract
the child with something else until the cupcakes are done. And
at that age, why have cupcakes at all? There are so many
alternatives, especially before kids get to the age when they
Not a stick
Don't overreact. Just remind the preschool that you don't want
your child to have sugary snacks. Your child is going to
encounter an occasional sugary caffeinated snack on occasion.
We all had plenty in our childhood.
I'd say if it's for a birthday and a rare occurrence, not to worry about it. Every day or
once a week would be too much and worth it to mention to the teacher or director.
But, probably a parent ignored the guidelines and brought this sugary confection in
and the teacher decided to serve it instead of rebuffing the parents. I would let it go.
i would be appalled at this, as im sure you are! i am a no- sugar momma myself
(mostly) and try very hard to make wise choices for my baby which means no sweets. i
try to let the people in his life know this but most (ie. my family) think im being
ridiculous and try to sneak it to him anyway. im really not sure what the deal is with
people loving to give kids sweets, i eventually had to get over it with my older son and
just taught him to make good choices and have good eating habits. but i agree those
cupcakes seems over the top for anybody, especially a 1 year old! i would be upset
too. not sure how to deal with it at the daycare aside from letting the staff know your
rules again. i find it very annoying that people think its ridiculous, but oh well.
stand your ground
One, I think it's hard when the other kids have a cupcake to not
allow your child to have one. Two, sugar treats as TREATS on
occasion are not like feeding your child rat poison and I think
some people go way overboard on this. When someone celebrates a
birthday, a cupcake is fine and I just don't see the big deal.
Life is too short to not have sugar. AS A TREAT. I do think, tho,
if this is a deal breaker for you, you are the one that should
find another day care that complies with your restrictions rather
than foist this on a day care where everyone else is ok with it.
We had a no sugar mom at our daycare who came down hard on my
provider. I LOVE my day care. The main person and her assistant
love my kids in a way I could never imagine. they get from
scratch meals all day and it's awesome and this person who came
into our established group came in and pitched a fit when there
were cupcakes one day. It really upset my daycare provider and
she did not ask the woman and her child to change day cares, but
it has changed the relationship between all of us. So, you might
want to weigh things out. Excellent daycare is hard to find.
I completely agree with you, and You are _NOT_ a stick in the
mud. Like you, I do not offer my 2 year old sugary sweets for
several reasons: 1)it's not good for him or his teeth (2 y.o are
not the best brushers) 2) i don't want him wired and 3) b/c kids
are SOOOO drawn to sweetness, I don't want to disappoint and
battle him every time he sees a cookie,cupcake etc. In our case,
my son sees sweets at the cafes, stores etc. and will call them
by name... But since I have not offered them, he doesn't ask for,
whine for, or cry for them. My son does get ''treats'' though. In
our house they consist of fruit/yogurt smoothies (we call it ''ice
cream'' sometimes), and occasionally very healthy, fruit-juice
sweetened pumpkins and the yearly birthday cake (again, no
refined sugar). The way I see it, as long as I can totally
control what he eats, I will and continue to offer healthy foods.
Once he's in the free world of elementary school, I know I will
not forbid his enjoyment in the goodies. It's part of childhood.
BUT toddlers are NOT school-aged children and I think it's
totally unacceptable to feed toddlers chocolate marshmallow
cupcakes, PARTICULARLY, when you've already requested as such.
I'd say something.
I am a ''no sugar in the house'' mom, too. A small bit a cookie or
cupcake on a day that my kid has had a good diet it OK with me.
If they were mini-cupcakes then with mini-marshmallows, then
that's OK. One small cupcake will not make a huge difference in
the big picture.
Cupcakes and birthdays come with daycare. Feed your toddler
healthy lunches and be glad birthdays only come once a year!!
I know that Berkeley is full of people who think sugar is evil,
but I personally think you should relax. Unless someone has a
birthday every day this sounds like it is no big deal.
raised 2 kids just fine and they had sugar
If cupcakes or the like are occasional treats for birthdays,
then, yes, you're overreacting. If they serve stuff like this
twice a day, then your concerns are justified.
Kids can cope perfectly well with different dietary rules in
different places. If your child asks for a chocolate cupcake at
home, you can just say, ''No, we don't have cupcakes at home.''
Chocolate does have a small amount of caffeine, but not enough
that it would be a problem.
Chill about the cupcakes
OK, I'll give you my honest opinion, straight, just as you
requested. You're being unreasonable and you're overreacting.
First of all, with respect to your directive that no foods
containing sugar be given to your child, I am assuming that the
daycare interpreted that to mean 'no regular snacks.' If you
want the daycare to exclude your child from getting birthday
cake, you are going to have to tell them that specifically.
Second, I think it is silly not to let your child have birthday
cake (or cupcakes). That includes cake with !gasp! chocolate
or !!gasp!! marshmallows. (What is so horrible about
marshmallows? Too lowbrow for you? Carrot cake may sound
better, but it can have a much higher fat content and just as
much sugar.) The amount of caffeine in chocolate cake is
negligible, too. (If this doesn't horrify you more, I also
suspect that the chocolate in the cupcakes wasn't even real.)
Third, even if your child is the most popular kid in Berkeley,
I doubt she is included in more than 50 birthday celebrations a
year. That's approx. one serving of cake per week. Assuming
you aren't serving any sugar at home, she's getting so little
that it can't possibly do any harm to her. Fourth, the worst
form of sugar is the sugar in beverages. It goes straight to
the bloodstream. This includes all natural juice drinks, which
are worse than cake, in my opinion. I would really try to
relax about the birthday cake. And, later on, s'mores.
There are worse things in life than marshmallows
My simple answer: Yes. You are way overreacting. I agree that
little kids don't ''need'' sugar but not getting a cupcake when
every other kid around you does would do a lot more harm to
your kid than a couple marshmallows and some chocolate and the
amount of caffeine in the cupcake is not going to damage your
kid more than the smog he is breathing living in an urban
environment. As a mom who has never restricted treats for my
kids, I can tell you that they could care less about eating
junk as opposed to their friends who rarely or never get it.
Two licks of a lollipop or two bites of cake and they are over
it and can toss it. In fact, we have had a huge bag of Easter
candy sitting in our kitchen and they have never even asked for
a piece. The hunt was the fun part to them. In my experience,
the kids I see who are restricted from eating ''junk'' will
inhale it every time when given the chance. Sounds like you
feed your child very healthy food 99.99% of the time. Allow
that .01% of the rest of the time to be one of those small
things you don't sweat.
The real issue is the pre-school giving your daughter something
you asked them not to. They need to pay attention and respect
your wishes. As a mother with a child with a life-threatening
allergy, this sent up a red flag for me. You could bring in an
acceptable treat for your child, and tell the school they are to
give it to your child as an alternate treat whenever there is a
birthday. Maybe they were afraid your child would cry if she
was not given a treat? I would ask them why they did not
respect your wishes. Consider changing to a pre-school that
does, or has policys that are more in line with what you want
for your child. Mine does not allow sugar treats for birthdays,
and I am fine with that policy.
No sugar Mom
No, you are not overreacting! However, it seems to be a losing
battle in this day and age. 1-2 year-olds do not request
desserts because they don't have any experience with them
(unless older siblings or school buddies). And there's the
rub, you can't control alot of things that you wouldn't have to
have worried about in the good old days. A recent study showed
that a little over 25% of preschoolers have at least one
caffeinated beverage a day! What is that all about?! I can
only bemoan the lost days of no desserts for infants.
Yes, I think you are being unreasonable.
First, sugar--and even chocolate-- in moderation isn't as bad as
some BPN advice-givers would have you believe. (A few BPN digests
ago I remember reading, for example, that giving children sugar
increases the likelihood they'll grow up to be alcoholics or
something crazy like that.) The studies show it just isn't that
terrible in moderation. I grew up in an almost no-sugar, all
carob home and all that taught me was to scavenge like crazy for
sugar when visiting my friends' homes. I never learned
self-control around sugar until I was an adult and my sister
still hasn't. I remember my well intentioned mother's constant
policing, which felt especially rotten at social events. Seeking
a more reasonable path in my home, I allow my nearly two-year-old
child an occasional sugary sweet, especially at social events.
I've noticed all interest is usually gone after a few bites and
the item is left unfinished.
Second, if the daycare had provided the cupcakes, that's one
thing. But they came from another child's family. All parents
expect the school will not regularly give their children sugary
snacks. The teachers probably considered this a special treat and
didn't connect it to your request. Unless you framed it as an
allergy issue, the teachers acted reasonably. Is it fair to ask
the teachers to police in a way that will make your kid feel
crappy and seems unnecessary given that birthday treats happen
once a month or so?
One last thing that may or may not apply in your case but it's
been on my mind after overhearing snobby comments by other
parents at my child's daycare. I chose my child's school in part
because it's racially, ethnically, and socioeconomically diverse.
I see this diversity when I look in the fridge at the lunches
other parents pack for their children, which include things I
wouldn't pack (cans of Chef Boyardee) and other things I couldn't
pack (all homemade from scratch, all organic food I don't have
the time or money to make and ethnic dishes I don't know how to
make). This diversity is also reflected in the treats parents
send for birthdays, which include everything from Safeway
cupcakes to organic no-sugar carrot muffins. I take this as part
of the benefit of daycare-- letting my child experience the world
in a safe setting and learning to do it tolerantly.
I think that the childcare shouldn't have served your child the
cupcake, per your request But obviously, one other parent at the
childcare was okay with the cupcakes (the one that brought them),
so other parents may have been okay with the cupcakes as
well...if my kids were at that daycare, I would have been okay
with them eating the cupcakes and the marshmallows (couple times
a year isn't going to kill them...) Have you considered that you
are the only parent at the daycare who has a problem with the
Something that I have found as my children have gotten older (now
4 & 6) is that everyone has very different ideas of what is good
and right for children. I have met some lovely parents and
children of parents who advocate for Babywise and I have met some
lovely parents and children of parents who think that Sears and
his doctrine is the only 'right way.' Neither really works for
me, but I am perfectly happy for those parents to choose what
works best for their own families. It isn't my place to judge or
require them to live by my rules (something that I try to model
every day to my children who are struggling with these same
issues with their peers. 'I want to play tea party, but she
wants to play princess...have you heard of anything stupider than
I guess what I am saying is...it is fine for you to choose
whatever it is you want for your own child, but that is as far as
your power should extend.
I know that you've already heard from a lot of people, but I
thought I'd add my 2 cents. You have every right to make sure
that your child eats a healthy diet. The only problem with that
is that you don't live in a vaccuum. My advice would be to talk
to the preschool director and remind her of your wishes. My
daughter has food allergies, so the school lets me know when a
special occasion is coming up. I have a stash of low-sugar
banana muffins in the freezer, and I'll send one to school with
her on that day so that she'll have a treat, too. I know a lot
of moms who do this. I think there's a way for you to make this
I have to admit that I was reminded of a very rigid Mom who I
used to know. We were in a Mom group together, and we both
toured the same preschool. I asked her what she thought of the
place, she told me how upset she was that they were giving the
kids hot chocolate that day. It was said in such a judgmental
way that I thought she was kidding, and I couldn't help but
laugh. Within a few years, this same Mom was serving high-sugar
desserts w/ gummy worms at a party.
Sure, I wish that my daughter wouldn't get sugar at school or
parties, but I think it would be worse if I made it into
I just wanted to agree with your (old) post re: sugar for your
tot at daycare. That is truly ridiculous. I would go ballistic if
someone handed my one-year old an entire cupcake! Kids are WAY
too young at that age for a big amount of sugar--and basically,
the sweeter food you give them, the sweeter they will ask for. We
are programmed to eat the sweetest food available.
Where my three year old is now the food is terrible, it's not
so much the odd cupcake, but having a cupcake with no other good
food in the tummy is not good for kids. I am taking him out of
there in the fall. He seems to eat crackers and fruit punch all
day, gets constipated by the end of the week, and yes, there are
many cupcakes at birthdays, which would be fine if the food were
better! Don't feel badly for looking for a program with better
food (and perhaps a little sugar here and there), but they are few.
Way too much sugar over here too
Perhaps it's because I'm not a ''wise mom of Berkeley'' that I
think your reaction to a birthday celebration for a 2 y/o with
cupcakes - at a daycare - is over-the-top and is taking the joy
out of the little pleasures in life - like a cupcake to help
celebrate a birthday.
Let Them Eat CupCakes
I just read all of the archived posts about ''junk food,'' yet
didn't quite find what I was looking for. I'd love to hear some
practical suggestions for how to provide my under-two toddler
with an alternative to cupcakes/birthday cake at daycare. Of
course, I can send fruit, but wondered if anyone has come up
with something more special. We've come up with a good plan for
daily snacks, but I'm wanting to be prepared for the birthday
celebrations. (I'm hoping to receive supportive ''advice'' from
like-minded parents. Thnx.)
Our preschool had a no-sugar rule, so one year (I think I stole
this idea from someone else on BPN) we brought in vanilla yogurt
and a bunch of preschool-approved toppings (berries, fruit
sauce, granola, sunflower seeds, etc.) and let the kids make
little yogurt ''sundaes'' -- that was a big hit. Other easy and
relatively healthy solutions for birthdays are raisin bagels,
cinnamon-raisin bread, homemade banana bread, etc.
Missing Cupcakes but Toeing the Line
My mother was very passionate about health and nutrition. She
often reminds me that she did not feed me sugar until after I
turned two. It was special for me when my mom brought carrot cake
muffins with cream cheese frosting to my first grade class for my
7th birthday treat. I was shocked and sad watching all the kids
make faces as they realized that what they thought was sugary
vanilla frosting was not so sweet. One by one, the ''cupcakes''
ended up in the trash.
As many of us do, I have turned into my mother. I want to
celebrate my son's birthday with his classmates, but I also want
to provide a healthy treat (while making sure that it won't end
up in the trash). When my son was in preschool, my sister made
rice krispies treats in the shape of letters. She used alphabet
cookie cutters to spell out Happy 5th Birthday. This was easy for
the teachers to pass out and familiar enough for most kids to
enjoy. Not sugar free, but a compromise. For Kindergarten, I
bought sugar ice cream cones and filled them with vanilla non-fat
yogurt and frozen berries. Both the teacher and the kids really
liked this treat. It was a quick and easy treat that tasted
similar to ice cream and required no utensils.
For first grade, the teacher requested NO treats and I was off
the hook for at least one year! She suggested that if parents
wanted to acknowledge their child's birthday to bring in a
non-food treat (pencils, stickers, etc.) for each child or to
donate a gift to the class - child's favorite book or game - in
honor of the birthday child. I just went to my son's second
grade open house and learned that sugary treats are okay this
I have been thinking about making fruit kabobs this year, and my
son seems to like that idea. I have also had good luck with fruit
and yogurt smoothies, too. You might consider making a
''celebration mix'' (based on the idea of colorful confetti and
like a trail mix - no peanuts, though). Or maybe, provide the
trail mix items in bowls and let the kids make their own mixes.
Granola bars, graham crackers or animal crackers are always an
idea, too, especially for younger children.
It can be hard to compete with cupcakes and cookies, but I try to
remember that fun and/or creative snacks can be just as special a
treat, even for kids that may be expecting a traditional cupcake.
Good luck - I look forward to reading other parents' idea, too.
This birthday stuff is hard work!
Not so ''Sweet'' mom
You could do mini-bagels with lite cream cheese and sprinkles?
Perhaps Annie's brand Bunny Grahams that come in the tie-dye box
- it's a mix of different flavor graham crackers (and they're
really good!)You could put them in individual little bags or
something. It's still a little sweet but significantly less than
Oh my gosh...SEND FRUIT! I work at a daycare. We rarely see
fresh fruit and NEVER any vegetables My colleagues and I bring
fruit and veggies to compliment the lunches that come from home
filled with pre-packaged garbage, because we are afraid that the
children won't get any unless we provide them. I am sorry, but
lucnhables are not food...Cut fruit up and put them in foil
cupcake papers. Send them in on a tray that you've decorated.
Trust me -- kids will finish the fruit, but will only eat the
icing off of cup cakes.
At my sons very PC pre-school, no refined sugar treats were
allowed for birthday parties. So, 100% fruit popsicles, trailmix
(but only if there were no kids with nut tree allergies currently
at the school) and veggie pizza were the usual celebratory
offerings. I suppose you could also freeze juice-sweetened brand
yogurt (such as Brown Cow) for ''ice cream''. And frozen bananas
are a real treat.
You can totally make sweet treats without sugar. Look up recipes
for cakes and cupcakes using agave nectar, maple syrup, or honey.
I've even make cookies and muffins using only ripe bananas as a
sweetener. Frosting can be mostly cream cheese and butter with a
little agave or maple syrup mixed in. I make things like this all
the time for my 20 month old because I'm not into giving her
refined sugar and lightly, naturally sweetened muffins are a
great vehicle to get some grated veggies (usually carrot and
zucchini, but sometimes pumpkin or winter squash) into her picky
Although I don't object to sugary treats on occasion, our
daycare provider requested that we bring a healthier treat for
our son's birthday. I made one of my favorites: whole wheat
banana muffins, and I added blueberries instead of nuts. I'm
sure you could find millions of muffin recipes (some even use
applesauces instead of oil to make them healthier) online. My
recipe came from the Williams-Sonoma Muffins and Quick Breaks
cookbook... I searched but couldn't find the recipe online.
I don't have any helpful suggestions about special treats for
daycare birthday parties, but I just wanted to say that if these
parties are only happening once in a while, let the kid have a
little sugar. You wouldn't want your kid to be the only one who
never gets to eat a cupcake. (unless there is a dietary issue)
Once in a while is okay
Our daughter has always brought mini blueberry muffins to
school on her birthday. I buy the Betty Crocker ''Twice the
Blueberries'' and put all the finished mini muffins in a big
basket. It's a huge treat for the kids and I leave the extra
muffins for the teachers.
Oh yes, please do avoid the sugars! At our preschool, we are
allowed to bring in food items without sugar or non-food items.
The kids really don't miss the sugars, it's the parents that
do. Where we equate food with happiness. We all want happy
children, but healthful behaviors will make them happiest in the
end. Set a good example for your children and for other parents
by bringing in healthy fruits or non food items like stickers or
pencils. There are too many celebrations -- in the classroom,
parties, special treats -- involving cupcakes and cakes. Follow
your instincts and be creative. The kids won't have a problem
with your choice.
Healthy can be fun too
Our daughter is nearly 4 years old. She started preschool last
September, has slowly adjusted, and seems to rather like the
school. But she will not eat any of the food provided unless I
drop in around lunch time and encourage her to try something.
We've essentially stopped giving her food in the car with the
understanding that unless she eats at school, she will not be
snacking in the car. When we ask her why she doesn't eat at
preschool, she says she doesn't feel like eating. Although she is
clearly ravenous by the time I pick her up. The other day she
said she might eat when she gets to be a big girl. It's rather
disconcerting since all the rest of the ~38 kids eat their snack
and lunch when it's given.
I don't have any real solution to your daughter who won't eat at
preschool, but wanted to tell you that I did essentially the
same thing when I was in preschool many years ago, and turned
out just fine :) I do know that my preschool had rules of sorts
(like you must have the soup if you want to eat the cookies) --
you might consider checking if there are some rules that could
be bent or modified for your daughter.
Try setting a date (say, 4 weeks from now) when she's going to be a ''big
girl'' so she
can start eating at school. Make a big deal out of the countdown (build a
have a ''big girl'' party if she eats at school on her big day. Worth a
try? Until then,
keep encouraging her to eat. Also, you don't specify how long she's at
school, but if
she's home by mid-afternoon, yeah she'll be ravenous, but she won't
starve. If she's
hungry enough, she'll eat.
My son doesn't eat very often at preschool either. He is nearly
5 and has been at the same school, which he loves, since age 3.
When I ask him why he didn't eat he usually says 'I didn't have
time'. It drives me crazy, but I try not to let it since he's
perfectly healthy. I suspect it's a mixture of the stimulating
experience of sitting with all the other kids distracting him
from eating, or perhaps he's just not hungry yet. They feed him
a few crackers at 9:15, then a snack around 10:30, then eat
lunch at 11:45. At home he doesn't get hungry until 1 or 2.
Remember, kids will eat when they're hungry. Forcing the issue
usually makes matters worse. I have resorted to asking him to
bring home whatever he doesn't eat and have him eat it when we
get home. I pack a balanced lunch each day so he at least knows
what he SHOULD be eating, and remind him that he should be
eating with all the other kids so he has energy to learn and
play. Hopefully someday it will click for him. Good luck, and
don't stress too much about it. I think it's a pretty common
Ignore it. Don't punish her. Let her eat in the car, if that's what suits
her. The more
attention you put on the struggle, the deeper it will go.
I would like to ask some advice about food at daycare. My son,
nearly two years old, attends daycare (home daycare) three days
a week. He always eats a healthy breakfast (oatmeal and orange
juice). When we arrive at daycare however they immediately
start offering him food (also sometimes to stop his occasional
crying on arrival, which gives him a wrong association that
crying will get him food or cookies). I am trying to follow a
normal schedule of breakfast snack lunch snack dinner, which
goes well when he is at home. But I have the feeling this is
not really done at daycare (where he already gets cookies on
arrival in the morning and I have even seen him get sugar,
colored Cheerio, which he never gets at home). He gets a
healthy lunch there, with vegetables which he eats. I am
worried though about all the snacks. I have tried to address
this, but to no result. I am really pleased with the daycare
except for this issue.
Tell the daycare provider not to feed your child these snacks.
How they feed children is one of the main ways you can determine if you
have a good daycare. It sounds like your daycare is not as good as you
think it is.
You might try bringing health snacks for him, although in my experience
(both our daughters were in a home daycare) it's pretty tough to fight
the environment and even harder to get your daycare providers to change
the way they do anything. Also you have to nip those things in the bud -
once it's been going for a while, it's even harder to change. One time
when I dropped my daughter off I lingered to chat with her caregiver and
saw the woman's mother give my daughter (then 2) a gummi bear. I was
shocked!! (choking hazard, sugar, first thing in the morning!?!) I told
them we didn't want her eating those things and they said it wouldn't
happen again and it was the first time, which I knew was a lie since my
daughter knew what they were called. But they did stop. Anyway, my point
being you have to decide how bad it is, and if you can't change it,
either let it go or go somewhere else. In our case, the good things
outweighed the bad, so we were happy to stay.
I was wondering if you guys have suggestions for healthy snacks
for my soon-to-be-4-year-old boy bday party. We are going to
celebrate his bday at his preschool and they want us to bring
healthy snacks. I would like out of the ordinary snacks,
meaning not the usual things they give them at school (carrots,
fruit, etc.) Also, the more appealing to the kids, the
better. I have only come up with cupcakes w/o frosting and
popcorn (they love popcorn). But have no other ideas aside
from the fruit and vegetable thing. I would appreciate any
Make vegetable sculptures! Kids LOVE this, and I have done this successfully
as anti-halloween programming with a class full of sixth graders and their
Stock up on *lots* of veggies---including at least one green or red pepper for
each kid. Also great are sliced broccoli and carrots, sugar snap peas, cherry
tomatoes, etc. Green onions can be used for hair, also sprouts. You'll need
wooden skewers and toothpicks and healthy (but THICK) dips to ''glue'' the
sculptures together. I really recommend olives, too---they can be eyes,
wheels, etc. Have paper plates for each kid as a base for their sculpture.
You can use ''Play with your Food'' and other books by Joost Elffers for
ideas, too. One note, unlike the books, kids do not make as many faces, but
they do make awesome veggie sculptures and eat lots of them as they are
How 'bout cheese? Hummus & pita? Bagels and cream cheese? Edamame?
We just had our 4 year old's party. I cut pb& j's into cookie cutter shapes.
(we had flowers, but you could do dinos,
trucks,etc) They were a hit-I was actually surprised at the number of girls
who said ''WoW! Flower sandwiches!''
One thing we used to always make in college were pizza rolls. You just buy
pizza dough, layer it with cheese (and if you want, pepperoni or veggie
toppings), roll it up, bake, then slice it into pretty little cross-section
pieces. My daughter also loves hummus with pita, or you can buy peanut butter
pretzels (although watch out for peanut allergy kids). Homemade mac and cheese
is also easy to make and fabulous. (Barefoot Contessa has a good recipe)
Not totally healthy but kids love it - if you have a homemade ice cream maker,
you can make ice cream that isn't full of artificial junk and bring it with
My daughter was thrilled to bring fruit-kabobs with edible flowers added. We
skewered a variety of nice fruit pieces on bamboo skewers, and added an edible
pansy at the end. Be sure you buy edible flowers - not florist kinds, - to be
sure to avoid pesticides. This is still fruit, but the fancy presentation
makes it seem special.
Another fun, slightly special treat - Use cookie cutters to cut shapes from
the Middle Eastern Flatbread from Trader Joes (or similar). Spread it with
goat cheese or low-fat cream cheese.
Sprinkle lightly with colored sugar (just a bit).
Other ideas - mini muffins (pumpkin are good), a ''bug'' or ''flower'' made of
healthy food components (again, the special presentation); a special dip for
fruits, vegies, or whole grain pretzles.
If your kid is in the ''cinnamon-lover's'' club, as mine is, you could make,
in place of cupcakes, a really great recipe for whole-grain pumpkin muffins to
take. I sent this for both of my kid's preschool birthday snacks, and they
were gobbled down by kids and adults alike.
Whole wheat and oats, canned pumpkin (very high in vitamin A), low in sugar,
and delicious. What more could you want?
There is a great book, First Meals, I can't remember the author but it has a
lot of fun and healthy kid snacks and ideas for party foods. Also, the same
author as the Moosewood Cookbook (Katzen I think?) had a kids cookbook with
fun food/projects for kids that might be good for an inclass party.
my daughter's kindergarten has snack every morning and afternoon, which is a
lot to keep up with. some that i've had success with:
japanese style rice crackers, the party mix kind (trader joes, they also have
''nori crackers:'' rice with a bit of seaweed wrapper), semifreddi's cinnamon
twist bread (tastes sweet, but not too much sugar, since it's all on the
outside) which i cut into thick slices, then cut each slice into 4 squares,
each kid gets 2 squares (~10 kids/loaf). our class also haas a rice cooker,
and they like sticky rice (sushi type, white or brown), especially with
furikake on it (seaweed/sesame sprinkles),
which you can get at asian markets or berkeley bowl.
for the naked cupcakes, you can put a few cookie sprinkles on before you bake,
and it gives a bit of decoration without it being a big spoonful of sugar.
+ Hummos and vegie sticks (cucumber, carrot, peppers,
cauliflower, broc, etc)
+ Fruit salad
+ Cheese chunks
+ Quesadilla trianges
+ Pasta salad
+ instead of frostingless cupcakes, how about muffins with
frosting or cream cheese?
Instead of ice cream sundaes, how about ''make your own yoghurt smoothie?''
Put out tubs of different flavors of yoghurt, and bowls with all sorts of
different fruit, plus some granola, and tell the kids there's a prize for the
most colorful smoothie, or if they try each kind of fruit or something like
Hmm... I'm making myself hungry...
Many of the parents at our preschool either bring pizza, corn dogs or frozen
fruit bars for b-days. They're always big hits with the kids.
My mom used to occasionally make a spice cake to bring to my youth
group. It was a huge hit. It's more like a muffin than cake, really. You
can make it really healthy and still pretty yummy. And maybe you can cut
it up into bite-size chunks and make a pumpkin dip for it (I have the
recipe - just email if you want it).
That would be so much fun!
My daughter's non-profit daycare center serves what I consider
unhealthy food - lots of high-sugar, high-carb, processed foods
(corndogs, jelly sandwiches for lunch, cookies for snacks,
muffins for breakfast). I'm trying to spearhead a change
towards no sugar, whole grains, and organic as much as
possible. It's probably an uphill battle because I have little
support from other parents, staff or the director, and the cook
is almost hostile. I think I am perceived as a hippie health-nut
(which may be partly true...). So far I've talked to the
director, who wasn't totally closed to the idea of changes. I'm
also considering talking to the board of directors. I'm trying
to figure out the best approach before I really stick my neck
out. I haven't done anything like this before. Does anyone have
any advice about how to make some changes without being
counterproductive? Right now I bring all my daughter's food,
and I think they want me to stop. Can they legally not accept
the food I bring?
I don't blame you for being upset about that food. I would be livid if
my son were being served that stuff. You don't say how old your
daughter is, but I am assuming she's a toddler. One thing I would be
concerned about is her feeling singled out because her food comes from
home but everyone else gets to eat the yummy sugary stuff. I wouldn't
want her to feel like sugar was a treat you were denying her.
The fact that the daycare center is not willing to change the kids' diet
would be enough to send me looking for another daycare. I know you are
trying to get them to change, but it seems clear that they aren't going
to. We are very careful with our son's diet, and I think it makes a
huge difference. He is a healthy little boy who does love his sugar,
but never seens to want to eat too much of it at a time (and I suspect
that it's because we don't have it around very often, and he's not
exposed to it much - he doesn't feel like it's being denied to him, so
he just eats what he wants of it instead of gorging himself). He also
happily eats the healthy stuff, and I suspect that it's because he
hasn't gotten used to food like corn dogs and white bread. He has a
great attention span - I think because of not getting too much refined
sugar - and he has lots of energy.
So if I were in your position, I would move her out of there to keep her
from being exposed to that stuff. I know they get exposed to bad food
once they are in kindergarten or preschool and see other kids with it,
but hopefully by then our kids'
tastes will have somewhat settled into the healthy stuff.
By the way there are plenty of daycares that serve good food. We go to
Sundance and I am very happy with it. Check around or ask in the
recommendations listserve if you do decide to switch.
Another hippy health-nut mama
Since your food philosophy appears to be at polar opposites to that of
the daycare center, the best thing you can do is switch your daughter to
a different daycare provider that more closely matches your food ideals.
Your daughter probably sees and wants what the other kids are eating, so
it may be difficult for the daycare center to ensure that she only eats
what you send with her. As you say, trying to change the center's food
selection will probably be an uphill battle, and may take years.
i am afraid i don't have much help to offer you...except to say that i
feel like i'm exactly in your shoes and that you are NOT the only one
out there with these problems. all i can say that might be a tad
reassuring is that it sounds like the day care is such a small and
closed community that you just aren't going to have much success as long
as your daughter remains there BUT the good news is that once she gets
into school, which won't be all that long in the general scheme of
things, you will at least be more able to travel under the radar and no
one will care that you send with your daughter lunches and snacks the
quality of which most others are not able to comprehend. doug
My daughter's preschool does not serve what I consider the best
snacks in the world. In an effort to improve on this, I'm working
with another parent to try to get paren's to bring snacks on a
regular basis. I know that some preschools do this; have parents
rotate bringing snacks. If you participate in a preschool like
that, I'd love to know the logistics of how you do it. Also, I'd
love to hear from anyone else who may have experienced this
problem and have solved it, or anyone who has some great ideas
about this issue in general! I thank you and the kids at the
preschool thank you!
I can tell you how we do things at our preschool (CCC, in
North Berkeley), but it is a co-op, so the situation will no
doubt be quite different from yours. Every family participates
as parent-teachers one morning a week, so we're already
on site. As participating parents, we have one of five
potential jobs, which rotate. One of those jobs is snack. The
snack parent brings enough snack for all the kids (26) and
then serves it to them. Up to 8 kids at a time can sit at the
snack table. We don't have any rules about what sort of food
is okay, though this has periodically been subject to
discussion. There is a sort of unofficial agreement not to
bring meat or very sugary snacks. We avoid allergens. A
typical snack is cheese cubes, crackers and grapes, but
some parents bring or make miniature waffles, noodles,
latkes, mini pizzas, etc. There is almost always some fresh
fruit or vegetable. We almost always serve just water to
drink. The kids get a good variety of snacks, and each
parent brings a snack every 5 weeks. We have a tiny kitchen,
but it doesn't have a stove or an oven, so cooking must be
done in the microwave, the toaster or a hot-plate.
I belong to a coop preschool and had some of the same
issues about snacks. We had a nutritionist come to speak
to our parents group and specifically asked her to talk about
snacks. It was not expensive ($40).
I cannot agree with you more about the need to improve school snacks.
What is cheap and convenient (i.e., has a long shelf life, can be
stored for years in the classroom cupboard, still has a salty or sweet
taste, but is deader than a doornail) tends to be the current trend.
Nevermind that the children's palates will be perverted to wanting
only salt and sweet, and refusing the healthy nutritious foods you
Your plan to bring healthy foods is great but potentially time
consuming. But a bowl of fresh fruit, some cut up veggies and a bean
dip or avocado dip, some nuts and seeds with small quantities of dried
fruit, cut up cheese all are fairly manageable and usually
well-received by most of the children. A crockpot of homemade oatmeal
can also be a lovely cold-day treat. I've made applesauce too.
Good luck with your efforts. It's really hard but so important to
help children keep their palate for whole, healthy food.
Another mom swimming upstream
We're new to the preschool scene and could use some advice. At
our school the families can bring in a birthday treat to
celebrate their child's birthday. This treat is eaten with the
morning snack around 10:30. The school makes some reasonable
suggestions for treats(popcorn, fruit, etc.)in the parent
handbook. They ask that no chocolate or nuts are used due to
allergies. Sounds fine, right? What has happened so far is that
the parents have brought in these yucky super sugary cookies,
both which had chocolate and nuts! When I asked the teachers
about it they just threw up their hands and said, ''We keep
asking but the parents just do what they want.'' There are
several children who have allergies at the school too. And now
the kids think you are ''supposed'' to bring cookies!
So I am looking for guidance. First off, what is the
birthday/treat policy at your child's school?
What should I do? I am not happy about my child eating this
junk, especially in the morning. If I approach the parent board
what is the best way to do this?
I am a Preschool teacher and it is hard to tell parents what to
bring. Our school also has a treat policy. But if parents bring
things that are too sweet we cut them very small, and remove
icing and such. I like it when kids bring fruit, muffins,
popcorn, dinosour gramcrackers( these look like cookies; you can
get them at any store I think) or oatmeal cookies can work.
Some parents have brought fruit with wip cream which is less
sugery but fun.
We also have parent that have requested their children not eat
cetrain food because of allergies. These parent bring 'special'
snacks for their children. Some kids have these even 'more
special' snacks on birthdays so they can join in the fun. We
never serve children food they are allergic to. Most children
understand why they can not have certan foods.
I would say try and model what you thik is a good birthday snack,
bring what you think if not to sweet but stil fun. It is hard
when all the children bring cookies and your child wants to bring
cookies too. Maybe make cookies at home that don't have too much
suger ( if you have time) or have your child pick from some other
things you are willig to bring.
Hope something helps.Good luck.
I feel that along with a birthday is invariably a sugary snack
and I am okay with that. As long as your child is offered a
healthy snack along with it and at other scheduled snack times on
regular days it should be fine. My child is allergic to
chocolate, dairy, and nuts. I brought a box of doughnut holes on
her birthday for the kids to share. The kids loved them and at
least they are small!!
All the preschool and elementary schools I have seen ban nuts
of any kind at school, request nutritious snacks, but allow
junk food for birthday treats. You should definitely approach
the school about sticking to policies on allergy-sensitive
foods, and even request that they reiterate the request for
healthy snacks, but forget about eliminating treats for
birthday snacks. It will never happen. Just remind yourself
that the number of birthdays are limited and get used to it
because this is only the beginning.
another healthy snack parent
Someone mentioned that ''all the preschools I've seen ... allow
junk food for birthday treats.''
Not true! The New School (preschool) has a very firm policy
against junk food and sugar. Children are not even allowed to
have lunches with sugared items in them. Both parents and
teachers work together to achieve this ... it takes both sides.
Birthday treats are fun and delicious -- but they do *not*
contain sugar. And none of the children feel deprived.
Even with parent/teacher cooperation, I think that the driving
force behind enforcement of a ''no sugar'' policy is always the
director of the school. If the director is unwilling to be a
leader for the school's stated policy, then that policy should
not be written into their literature. If you place your child and
pay your tuition, you don't want to feel mislead.
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