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Birthday Bags: nonfood alternative to cupcakes in the classroom

Birthday Bags: A Nonfood Alternative to Celebrating Birthdays in the Classroom


How do you celebrate birthdays in your classroom? For me, in years past, parents would send in cupcakes, we’d sing happy birthday and that would be that. Kids were happily sugared up on blue and red tinted frosting and our classroom life went on. But, then there were the kids who’s parents did send in cupcakes for birthdays because they were too expensive, or the kids who couldn’t have a cupcake because of allergies… it always made my teacher heart ache to see this. A birthday is a special day and shouldn’t we celebrate our students with EVERYONE in our class? Well… today I’m sharing about birthday bags, an alternative idea to cupcakes in the classroom.

Birthday Bags: nonfood alternative to cupcakes in the classroom

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Birthday Bags- an alternative to cupcakes in the classroom. Great for classes with food restrictions. TheAppliciousTeacher.com #classroom #birthdayintheclassroom

The Birthday Bag Idea

Ok… so this past June I was visiting my family up north. Over the weekend, my cousin and I were relaxing by the pool and sharing “mom” stories as our kids jumped in and out and all about. Her daughter has a summer birthday and she mentioned the interesting way that her child’s teacher celebrated birthdays in her classroom. You guys… I had to literally sit up and listen… Seriously, I couldn’t believe it! I asked her to repeat it again to me. Then, I needed to know how it worked!

Birthday Bags: An Alternative to Cupcakes in the classroom #birthday TheAppliciousTeacher.com #classroombirthday

Instead of sending in birthday cupcakes for the class, the teacher sends home a Birthday Bag the week of the child’s birthday. Parents can then fill up the bag with small items and a note. Then, when the child celebrates their birthday in class, instead of the cupcakes, the class sings happy birthday and the child then gets to open the bag and enjoy the treasures inside. She shared that there was like a $5 suggested cap and the teacher encouraged parents to only send one or two items and a note. Mind blown!

First, I was all like… yeah… but aren’t the kids sad that they aren’t getting cupcakes?

To which she replied that the kids actually LOVE it! Everyone gathers around to see what treasures or note was inside. And that her daughter has been talking for weeks about how soon she’ll get a birthday bag.

You guys… if you are this teacher, or know this teacher… I need to give you a virtual hug! This is amazing! A way to celebrate a child in a small and meaningful way that doesn’t cost much AND allows for children with dietary issues to enjoy too???? #teacherwinning

So, I knew I had to bring this idea to the masses! Shout it from the roof tops! “THERE IS AN ALTERNATIVE TO CUPCAKES!” And that’s what I’m doing today… sharing this cupcake alternative idea with all of you!

setting up classroom birthday bags

Setting Up Your Birthday Bags

So setting up your bags is pretty easy! You will need some supplies:

Birthday Bag supplies:

To set up your bags:

  1. First, print out enough covers and letters for each child in your class. Please note the letter is completely editable so you can make it work for you and your students.
  2. For each bag, cut out the cover image. This can be done quickly by using a paper cutter.
  3. Paste the cover on to the bag. In the free file, you’ll see there are two options, a color and a black-line. For the black-line option you can print on fun colored paper or make it a special week of project for the student!
  4. Attach the parent letter by stapling it to the back of the bag.

And that’s it! Do this for all your students. I figured it’d be the easiest to prep these at the beginning of the year and have them stored somewhere safe. This way when a birthday comes around, you can just grab a bag and send it home!

donut themed birthday bulletin board

Teacher Tip!

To make sure this practice doesn’t come as a surprise to your parents and special people, be sure to include an explanation of this practice in your “Welcome Back Letter” or at “Open House/Curriculum Night”.

Birthday Bags

The week of your special friend’s birthday, be sure to send home the bag (I’d say at least a week’s notice!) with the letter attached. Then, be sure the parent returns the bag either the day of or the day before you plan on celebrating your student.

birthday bags- an alternative to cupcakes in the classroom

On the day of their special celebration, have students gather around and sing “Happy Birthday” to your birthday kid! Then, allow them to open the bag! Afterwards, have the child place their bag and special treasures in their backpacks to take home. That’s it… no messy clean up like you get with cupcakes! #yeah

Tips for Making this Routine Work in Your Classroom

Ok… so one of my first thoughts of this routine was… wait… “What about those kids who…” and this is such a valid concern! So here are some suggestions to make sure that every child feels special and included with this routine.

Un-involved Parents

We know these types of parents exist. They are busy… never sign the planner, come to conferences. But, keep in mind that their child is the most precious thing to them. (It’s true!) So, be sure to touch base with these parents in advance. Call them and let them know what you are sending home and that they should keep an eye out for it. Even if this is left as a message (and a follow up email!)

Not in the Budget

So many times, parents want to celebrate their child in a special way but just don’t really have the money. This is such a valid concern and one that I hold dear to my heart. First, this practice is less money for the parents then cupcakes or treats for the class. For these parents (especially if you work in a Title I school) make sure you alert them well in advance. Give them time to stash some money for the bag. Or encourage the bag to only hold a note for their child. A special note from a loved one is worth a thousand toys in meaning and costs NOTHING!

Either way, as a back up, prep a few bags ahead of time (with a special note and treasure box item from you!) What kid wouldn’t want a special treat from their teacher on their birthday? #youareimportanttothem

Download Your Copy

Ready to try this alternative to cupcakes in your classroom? Click below to download the free birthday bag cover and the editable parent letter.

birthday bags free download

So yeah to no more messy cupcakes or worry about allergies! These birthday bags will make your students feel special without costing you (or their parents!) an arm and a leg. Just a little time and thought!Thank you again to the teacher who came up with this simple solution to the birthday cupcake!

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Hi, I'm Leigh.

The Applicious Teacher is all about creating hands-on and engaging lessons that align with the standards while still having time for your life. This is your place for ideas, tips, and resources for the REAL teacher!


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