Correction to This Article
An earlier version of this article incorrectly implied that large pretzels served at a birthday party at the Montessori School of McLean were baked by a student's mother. They were bought at the Heidelberg Pastry Shoppe in Arlington.

A Birthday Celebration Without the Sweets

Monday, May 19, 2008

When kids at Archisha Singh's school in Loudoun County have a birthday, there are no parents sweeping in with towers of cupcakes dripping with frosting. Little River Elementary is one of a growing number of treat-free schools.

Some school districts, concerned about childhood obesity, food allergies and federal nutrition guidelines, have banned cupcakes altogether.

So what's a kid to do?

Lots, it turns out.

Stickers Instead of Sweets

At Little River, birthday kids can donate a book, which Principal Joyce Hardcastle will read to their class. She also hands out birthday certificates, badges and special pencils, and makes sure the kids' names are read on the school's morning news.

Parents can send in stickers, pencils and other non-food favors for the class. Kids who donate jump-ropes and other sports gear get their names on a certificate that's displayed at school. Archisha's second-grade teacher lets birthday kids bring in a CD of their favorite music to play during downtime.

Archisha does miss cupcakes, especially the vanilla ones with sprinkles that her mother made for her preschool class. But the Little River way is fun, too.

"I like both ways," she said.

Hardcastle says it's important that the school is not only teaching, but is modeling healthy choices for kids: "There is life after cupcakes, and I think, for the most part, it is a better life. The truth is, if you eat a treat, then it's gone in two seconds. But a book lasts a lifetime. The sports equipment lasts, and kids can use it day after day after day."

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