Sugar in the classroom: How do YOU handle it?

The Question:
 I’m interested in what “treats” are allowed in Kindergartens across the country.
I tried to limit the candy on Valentine’s Day and had some happy moms and some upset moms. I know you can’t please them all, but any thoughts?
The Answers:
Gloria Sanchez Craine
What would VD be without CANDY? I make sure sugar is not used in my classroom for rewards or treats so that on special days like VD and Halloween I know that it really is a treat. We also talk about treats being special and how they are not “brain food” or “growing food.” Of course, I always remind parents that non-edible treats and healthy alternatives are always welcome.
Debbie Crocker Baker
Out district has a healthy snack policy. For parties we can have one sweet snack and we keep the rest healthy. Some like it, some don’t, but overall I think its great.
Judi Wirenius Morris
I only use Capri Suns for snacks because they are not expensive, have no colors or additives and easy and quick to drink….and when holidays come we eat a ton of junk..LOL
Teresa Brown
We have a no food sharing policy at our school due to a number of kids with severe allergies at all levels. Even when you explain that to them, for many, it makes no difference and they bring treats in anyway, which I promptly send right back home at the end of the day. I don’t think we’ll ever please all of them.
Myrinda Ray Siciliani Dixon
My kid goes to a home study school and even at our previous school, homemade treats are still allowed. Usually the parents coordinate who is bringing what so there’s a balance of healthy/junk/non food treats and drinks…we also always make MINI cupcakes, instead of giant ones, lol!
Karen Hollowell Gaduyon
We have a very extensive nutrition policy that limits what can be brought in for celebrations. However, if we as teachers are incorporating it into a standards based lesson, we can use pretty much anything as long as nobody in our class is allergic to it.
Celina Norris Davis
We send home a Baggie asking for a bag of chips, a juice pack, and a “cake” for their child for them to eat during our “party”. The parent decides how junky they want to go by what they put in the bag and the kids get things they really like b/c they picked out their own snack. It works great! (have a few packs of crackers and juices on hand for kids that don’t bring anything…)
Tina Lageson
Our only policy is not homemade. I tried to limit the vs treats to juice box, cookies and fruit snacks. I got those items and…doughnuts, chips, cupcakes, candy and more cupcakes. We don’t do this often and they don’t usually eat it all.
Christine Corrigan
We have a pretty strict snack guideline because of state regulations, so we stick to our snack policy. We do allow treats, but we send them home for parents to regulate. We do allow the children to choose their one, favorite candy treat to have.
Kristi Tribble Dorant
We try to stay pretty healthy at our school. My party food consisted of cheese and crackers, apples and grapes, smart food popcorn and a juice box. Parents did send candy in with valentines and these went home with each kid. I understand that we need to teach kids to be healthy but as a mom I think it is sad that these kids don’t get a treat at school sometimes. I don’t think an occasional holiday party is what makes our kids heavy. It is all the video games they go home and play vs going outside.
Andrea Bortner
At our school, we are only allowed one “food” party per year. They are allowed candy/sugar foods at this party but no homemade. Other than that, no food parties and no candy with valentines, treasure box, etc. Some parents hate this but we have several allergy concerns. I am allowed to use food for lessons as long as I have pre-approval from the principal and no one is allergic (like graphing M and Ms).
Catherine Cason Rutkoski
My school has a very extensive wellness and nutrition policy. We are not allowed to serve any homemade foods because of allergies. Anything served may not have sugar listed as the first ingredient and have no more than 4 grams of fat per serving.
Candy is never allowed. Beverages must be 100% fruit juice or water. All labels of food being served much be checked by the school nurse prior to a party or celebration to see if it meets the policy and is safe for children with allergies in each individual class.
This is a huge undertaking for her and parents complain all the time and try to sneak in foods that don’t meet the policy. It causes a lot of problems because some teachers will close the door and allow the parents to serve foods that don’t meet the policy while others (like me) enforce it.
Sandra Hogan
We have no restrictions at our school yet. I think that there are too many restrictions on food. Our healthy lunch food tends to be wasted and there was case proving that the restrictions seem a bit too much. A NC student brought a sandwich, an apple, and chips for lunch and it was confiscated and replaced with a school lunch where she only ate the chicken nuggets. Are these food restrictions really in the best interest of our students or are they a way to conteract the fact that children don’t get play/recess time like they used to?
Melissa K. Harris Armann
 West Virginia has gone to healthy snacks only. There is a list of approved foods that can be served. We are no longer allowed to use any food for rewards. We really don’t do any cooking projects anymore because of all these limitations.
Lynn Green Robinson
All food we use must have an ingredients list. This is for all the kids we have with food allergies.
Barbara Reid
We’re allowed healthy snacks and one small sweet at our parties- which are Christmas and end of the year. During the year parents can bring something healthy for birthdays or other holidays. My kids brought tons of candy to school for Valentine’s day, but I just put it in a baggie for each kid to take home.
Sara Montgomery Tucker
 Texas allows 3 food days each year. On those days, anything goes. The rest of the year we are not allowed to feed kids food of minimal nutritional value. I use candy and goodies for games, but the kids don’t get to eat it. I put my leftover V-day candy in my Friday treasure box. The kids have to put it in their straight in their backpack to enjoy at home.
Pamela Boulter Patrick
Whenever we have a celebration in my room, I ask for a mix of “good” and “bad”… Pretzels or chips are usually included, but also grapes (a favorite with the kids!), carrots and dip, and occasionally Jell-O. If cookies or cupcakes are sent in, I limit them to one. Oh… and everything must be store bought. We also have a very strict NO PEANUT policy in our building due to numerous allergies.
Carrie Blehm Dresslaer
My school doesn’t have a policy but I’ve noticed some teachers limiting the sugar for their class. One first grade teacher was having pretzels, cheese cubes, and strawberries along with one mini cupcake for the kids. She talked with the room mom ahead of time to get things coordinated. All the other treats that come with the valentines go home with the kids.
Kristin Marie
I have a list at the beginning of the year for each party where parents sign up for what they want to donate. Options include a salty snack, cookies, juice, and paper products (which are divided). Usually, that helps control what comes in. When party time comes, if parents send in extra things, the children may eat 1 piece of candy. I send everything else home in a ziplock bag and let the parents decide from there.
Amanda Weaver
I request parents to volunteer for cookies or cupcakes and drinks. I tell them which parent will bring what. I usually allow anyone to bring in candy or snack type food, but during the party they only get to eat the cookie/cupcake and 1 or 2 pieces of candy. One year, I let a parent who asked me coordinate the V-day party. She told EVERY parent to send a bag of candy, which always have more than piece per child. Those kids went home with a paper lunch sack bulging at the seams! Never again!
Jessica Kloppenborg
I also put up a sign up sheet for all of my parties. I make it very specfic (however I do leave two emply slots) and I include a variety of healthy snacks and one sweet snack. This year I had many parents/grandparents comment on how the snacks were so healthy this year. My classes just eat up the healthy snacks. The only item that we had left over were the cupcakes 🙂
Lynne Murray Smith
I coordinate all parties through a homeroom parent. Although I might start requesting mini cupcakes because all they eat is the mound of frosting on store bought cupcakes. We also have baggies for the kids to bring home most of the treats!
Diane Trepiccione Dean
 The only food restriction in Oregon is that food from home to share should be individually wrapped to prevent the spread of germs. Our school is in a special snack program so the kids get a healthy snack each day either a vegetable or fruit. The kids love it. As for parties kids are allowed to bring a treat in for their birthday. They shared candy to take home for Halloween and Valentine’s Day, and I usually provide the end of year party fare. Our school lunch program is very healthy.
Martha Stevenson Wright
I agree that VD and Halloween are OK times to allow candy BUT as far as what would VD be without candy, how about love? In the old days, we gave cards. Now EVERY card comes with candy. Why do we have such an obsession with over doing it?
Marcy Davis Wegner
We have many food allergies at our school, so families are asked not to send any kind of edible treats for Valentine’s Day. Most children were happy with making homemade cards, some included little trinkets like pencils, erasers or those tattoos. But we have a party with cookies provided by our school kitchen, so they are perfectly happy with that as a treat! I teach at a private school, but I believe in Minnesota the state health code restricts all treats at school to commercially prepared items, so nothing can be homemade.
Karen Kerns
We have a healthy snack policy, but after a couple of years of no sweets at all, they relented for parties. I’ve found it’s easier to collect a couple of dollars from everyone for parties and then we get pizza and a cookie and some party favors or something like that. Still fun, but no sugar overload.
Lisa Shuster Evans
For our class Valentine’s Day festivities, we make a “Friendship Fruit Salad”. All the kids bring in one whole piece of fruit (or a container of grapes, strawberries, blueberries, etc). We spend the morning working together to cut up the fruit and mix it all together in a big bowl, and then we eat it in the afternoon. The kids love helping to prepare the snack and are so excited when we get to eat it! This eliminates the need for parents to send in a bunch of unhealthy treats.
Buena Kaylor
Our only limitation is that we cannot serve homemade treats (Oh, I miss the homemade chocolate chip cookies…but my students always preferred store-bought treats). For holiday parties, I always put my name on the snack calendar so I have some control over what we have at the party. When parents ask what I want them to bring, I tell them it’s taken care of. If someone sends a treat anyway, we chose which we will have at the party and save the extra for another “surprise!” party day!
Lynn Goers Quick
 In my class a mom brought in homemade Valentine cookies for the children to decorate as their craft activity. Another mom brought in heart shaped jello jigglers. Children brought in candy with their valentines but we did not eat it in class.  I do give teddy Grahams or goldfish as small incentives or awards. We have a super worker system where I give a lollipop on Friday to children who have been good 4 or 5 days. They take the lollipop home. No one has ever objected.
Karen Burnat
One thing that I notice is that many teachers have a strict “no sugar” policy and encourage things like yogurt, juice boxes, crackers, etc. All of these these are terrible for kids and FULL of sugar, salt, fat, chemicals, and other horrible additives. When you think that a standard 6 ounce cup of yogurt has 27 grams of sugar and a regular sized Snickers has 30 grams….I’d actually rather the kids have the Snickers and explain that it is a treat that must be limited rather than teaching them that garbage is “health” food. We are very misinformed in this country about where are food comes from and what’s in it. The old school nutrition program from the dairy industry is one of the worst offenders.
Willo Harris
Along with what Lynn just said, we can not have homemade treats, but I buy the plain sugar cookies at walmart and have parents bring in frosting and sprinkles. All the children get to decorate their own cookie for the party (I actually do this at Christmas). I would love to do jello jigglers, and used to do that, but no more. When parents ask why they can’t bring homemade things to school, I ask them “Have you ever seen someone and think I WOULDN’T LIKE TO EAT SOMETHING FROM THEIR KITCHEN, well, their child is the next to have a birthday. The parents get it.
Lisa Marie Haboush
Too bad, homemade treats are the best! We only allow healthy snacks for daily snacks, including only 100% juice. But birthdays and parties, anything goes! At parties I let mine choose what to eat and provide a baggie to take home leftovers. All candy has to be taken home. We only limit certain things when there is a food allergy….then they ususally provide their own snacks and treats. Lucky for me no allergies this year! Karen…you’re right about the” Healthy” junk. Ever see how many carbs are in goldfish? Carbs turn into sugars, ask a diabetic!
Teresa Florence Delucchi 
Lisa Shuster Evans I LOVE the friendship fruit salad idea! perfect idea! and it dovetails beautifully with MLK day discussions and Lincoln and Black History Month! thanks for posting!
Sylvia Lusk Harwell 
We had one iced Valentine cookie and our usual bottled water. Some of the Valentines had a sucker or some kind of candy with them. The kids got to pass out their own Valentines. It is really such a simple thing, but they LOVE Valentines Day… probably better than Halloween or Christmas. I think they really like giving each other those little cards. So many kind words being exchanged, “thank you”, “happy Valentines day”, “I love this card!”, “this is my favorite”, etc. Simple pleasures. 🙂 We made a Valentine holder out of 2 paper plates that we decorated like a “valentine dog” the day before the party. We also decorated a paper sack for any candy, pencils, treats, etc. that wouldn’t fit into the card holder easily. Throughout the day, and at the end, I heard several, “Miss Sylvia, this is/was the best day ever!!!” Now, we do lots of fun things in kindergarten, but there’s something about Valentines Day that they really LOVE!
Ginger Di Paola Kleypas 
We are allowed to have two sugar days throughout the year. We usually have it at Christmas and Valentine’s. Other than that, no sugar, but sometimes we send things home in their backpacks and they can eat them at home.
Robin Barrett Hoff
 We can only have treats at our three (or is it four) allowed celebrations a year- Fall, Winter, Valentines and I think end of year. It has to be store bought as there is too much risk with homemade stuff with allergies and how it’s made, etc. I try to vary it- cookies at halloween, gingerbread houses at winter, ice cream sundaes at Valentines, etc. NO birthday treats are allowed and food is allowed for lessons, but not as a reward.
Laura D’Amico 
This year we did strawberries and pretzels covered with a little bit of melted chocolate 🙂 and I mean a little bit!
The state of West Virginia, where I teach…has very strict policies state-wide of what we are and are not able to give our children at school. There are “nutritional guidelines” which they must meet or be under while they are in school every day. If we serve something, we have to calculate the breakfast, snack and lunch nutritional value then figure out if there is any “left” to give the students.
Elaine Kindl 
We have a wellness program in our district. Daily snacks from home need to be healthy. Valentines day we had pizza, frozen yogurt and fresh fruit on top. Parents are supportive. Treats are called sometime food. We never say they are taboo.
Pattie Ross Millard 
We had a “Dipping” party for V’day. Veggies and crackers and dips (no peanut butter). The kids loved it and could have as much as the wanted.–All candy was sent home.

2 thoughts on “Sugar in the classroom: How do YOU handle it?

  1. We are a 5210 school, and we have healthy Valentine treats. They’re all over Pinterest, and we encourage our families to use that resource.

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