In the battle to keep kids healthy, schools are starting to adopt “no food” or “healthy food only” policies for in-school birthday parties and events. Cupcakes and cookies have lost their place in the classroom, so how do we replace the joy of the sugar high while also doing a fun activity?
I recently celebrated my daughter’s birthday party at her school in the most unusual way. My school adopted a “no food” policy, and encouraged an enrichment activity in place of the traditional celebration. As a game junkie, I came up with a few options for an active play bash that did not cost a dime. Here are three ways to create a party that also promotes active play.
1. Active Game Party. Use your school’s gym or playground to plan an activity in which the entire class can participate in teams. Try playing freeze tag, dodge ball, hot potato and tug-of-war (using a long battle rope or jump ropes tied together). Have your child’s teacher create teams and designate junior coaches – one of who can be the birthday boy or girl. These classic kid games were a hit and a welcome break from the classroom. Active for Life offers creative, ready-made active play lesson plans geared to kids ages 3-12 years old. Pull a few ideas, bring them to your party and let the kids decide which ones they want to play.
2. Playground Obstacle Course. If your school has a play structure, you can create an obstacle course – Ninja Warrior Style – where the class can compete in small teams. Playgrounds with monkey bars, swings, climbing walls, steps, poles and areas to crawl under or over work best for this activity. Plan out a circuit in advance with 4-6 obstacles using the play structure. Here is one sample circuit you can try with 2-3 repetitions. Remember to warm up with jumping jacks and a few stretches first:
· 1 rep across monkey bars or loops
· 5 jump ups from the slide or monkey bar step
· 1 walk across the balance beam
· 1 time up the stairs and down the slide
· 1 climb up a pole or climbing wall
· 10 feet of bear or crab crawls under a pole
· 1 sprint 30 feet to the finish line
3. Human Art Portrait. Kids love getting into poses. A special way to honor the birthday kid is to create a human art portrait that spells out Happy Birthday for the guest of honor. View the Human Alphabet video for ideas on how the class can pose to spell the birthday wish. Remember to take pictures of this one for the thank you collage!
Betty Francisco is the Founder and President of Reimagine Play, a new Boston-based start-up bringing fun, play-inspired fitness and healthy-eating programs to school-age kids and teens. Reimagine Play hosts pop-up bootcamp classes for kids that teach fundamental fitness skills that promote a life-long healthy lifestyle. Before launching her venture, she was EVP and General Counsel for Sports Club/LA, a luxury fitness and lifestyle brand with seven clubs nationwide.