For parents and teachers, Valentine's Day -- which traditionally involves colossal candy and cupcake consumption -- can cause a quandary. Many schools already have dietary restrictions on snacks for classroom celebrations to accommodate for children with nut or dairy allergies, and some school districts are adopting healthy snack and beverage policies for class parties.
So we’ve compiled a few naturally sweet tips to help parents and teachers create a fit and fun Valentine’s Day classroom party. And for even more tips, visit our Healthy Classroom Valentine’s Day board on Pinterest!
Fresh fruit will provide sweetness and festive colors without the sugar rush of candy.
- Create fun fruit kebabs or carve pineapples, melons, kiwis and more into heart-shaped “lollipops” with popsicle sticks on the end for a colorful treat, or make your own granola bars for a more filling snack.
- If you must keep chocolate on the menu, we recommend this snackalicious chocolate-dipped fruit chips recipe that uses antioxidant-rich dark chocolate instead of the standard milk chocolate.
- Some parents and teachers have gotten creative and made little valentine robots, using fruit juice boxes for the bodies (watch for sugar content of the juice), applesauce-container heads, raisin box feet, pretzel rod arms and googly eyes to make a funny face. Or provide natural fruit juice with a fun caption, like “You are BERRY sweet!”
- There are plenty of cute, fun and affordable giveways and incentives that don’t involve tons of candy. Heart-shaped erasers, red mini race cars, bookmarks and friendship bracelets are some food-free options.
Fit and Fun
In addition to being the month of Valentine’s Day, February is also, fittingly, American Heart Month! A few ideas for heart health include:
- The American Heart Association has resources for schools to host Jump Rope For Heart (a day of jump rope and Double Dutch games) and Hoops For Heart (a basketball tournament) to raise awareness about how to stay healthy and prevent heart disease. Kids will love the opportunity to play and get active and may learn a thing or two about creating healthy habits for life.
- This Spell-A-Heart game promotes early literacy in a fun, active way (and couldn’t be easier to make!), or have students go on a scavenger hunt around the school to look for letters that will spell a Valentine’s Day-related word, like “HEART” or “CUPID.”
- If you’re teaching language arts or Spanish, hold a tasting of various fresh fruit or vegetable samples for the class and, as an avenue for talking about the joys of healthy eating, have them write poems about their favorite fruit or veggie. Use Pablo Neruda’s classic poem “Ode to Tomatoes,” published in English and Spanish for easy translation, as a jumping-off point. For more on promoting healthy lifestyles through fun, seasonal activities, check out our Fit To Learn program.
Do Good, Feel Good
We shouldn’t forget that mental and emotional health are important for building healthy, successful adults. A few tips:
- Have students create “Cupid’s Compliment Cups,” where students decorate containers and then write one thing they admire about each of their classmates to put in their Compliment Cup. Not only will students beam with pride and joy at the positive affirmations from their classmates, but they will enjoy the opportunity to make someone else feel great, too!
- Or, you can extend the theme of love to the community and the world at large. Have students craft, decorate and send homemade Valentine’s Day cards to local families, seniors or recent war veterans, or partner with an organization like Project Linus, where fabric squares are the canvas for students’ Valentine-themed art, and made into quilts and blankets given to people who need them around the country. Spreading the love will make everyone feel good!
Next week, we'll share another healthy Valentine's Day treat recipe!
Related, a post on the USDA's proposed national standards for competitive foods.