Are candy, cookies and other food rewards minimizing classroom nutrition education? Part 2

Tips on creating healthy school environments.

In order to promote a healthier school environment, parents, teachers and administrators can provide students with non-food rewards and celebrations. Michigan State University Extension supports healthy school environments for students. Health experts state that there are several benefits which students receive when non-food rewards are offered in place of sweet treats and unhealthy snacks. Benefits are:

  • Non-food rewards support nutrition lessons students are learning instead of contradicting these messages.
  • Promotes a healthy school environment – students receive consistent reliable information and ample opportunity to apply it.
  • Creates excitement about nutrition. Children are excited about new and different things, including fun party activities and healthy snacks. School staff and parents should not be troubled that children will be disappointed if typical party foods aren’t served in the classroom. Holiday treats and traditional birthday parties with cake can still be served at home.
  • Protects children with food allergies: When parents send food to school it is difficult to ensure the safety of children with food allergies. Schools can protect children by providing nonfood celebrations. If food is served, obtain it from a known source such as the food service program.

Ideas for non-food school rewards and celebrations:

Elementary School Children

  • Have a private lunch in the classroom with a friend
  • Play a favorite game or do puzzles
  • Extra recess time
  • Free time at the end of class
  • Dance to music in the classroom

Middle School Children

  • Choose partners for activities
  • Listen to music while working at desk
  • Reduced homework or “no homework” pass
  • Extra class credit

High School Students

  • Reduced homework
  • Provide late homework pass
  • Use donated coupons for music or movies as rewards

Other articles in this series:

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