Using birthdays as a way to build classroom community and explore cultural diversity
For many children, birthdays are an opportunity to create magical and lasting memories, and they are often viewed with a sense of joy and excitement.
In some cultures, birthdays hold even greater significance as a meaningful rite of passage, marking the transition from childhood to adolescence to adulthood. This sometimes involves ceremonies or rituals specific to the individual’s culture.
Some cultures and communities do not celebrate birthdays at all.
It is of the utmost importance to respect the values and traditions of other cultures and differing personal beliefs around birthdays. We should demonstrate an appreciation of cultural differences and promote an atmosphere of understanding and respect.
Ultimately, we are all part of a global community and in showing respect for others, we can strengthen the bonds between us.
If you’re looking for fun ideas or inspiration for how to celebrate birthdays in the classroom, read on.
Benefits of celebrating birthdays in a classroom setting
Below is a list of some of the many benefits of taking the time to mark a child’s birthday.
- It can instil a feeling of community and inclusivity.
- Children are reminded that they belong to a group, reinforcing a sense of identity.
- Self-esteem/confidence boosting. Highlighting an individual’s birthday can highlight that they are a valued group member.
- It teaches the importance of respecting each other. This promotes a sense of empathy – which has cognitive benefits for personal growth and learning.
- It highlights the passing of time and gives children a sense of ‘progressing’ or ‘growing up.’ It can also signify a change in responsibilities or expected behavior.
- Use birthdays to reinforce class rules linked to respect and how others should be treated.
- It creates a positive sentiment and environment which sets the foundations for growth. A positive environment allows children to take risks and experiment in a supportive setting safely.
- Celebrating a birthday can help create positive, happy memories, leading to a feeling of self-worth. It can provide positive acceptance of identity and individuality.
- Encouraging family involvement (which may include parents or trusted adults) can bridge the gap between home and school. They might be encouraged to provide ‘treats’ or snacks, or to participate directly in-class activities. If a child’s birthday involves a particular cultural tradition or practice, a parent might even be asked to share some interesting insights into the tradition to foster understanding and celebrate cultural differences.
- Birthdays offer other learning opportunities, like reading and using a calendar (days/weeks/months, etc). You could also look at ‘this day in history’, observing which culturally significant events happened on this day in the past. This sometimes sparks unusual and unexpected avenues for further investigation.
- Team-building games and discussions can strengthen peer relationships. Play games that encourage getting to know the birthday child’s likes and dislikes. This contributes to social skills development and grows emotional intelligence.
Ideas for marking/celebrating a child’s birthday at school
- A morning announcement – followed by applause or a song.
- A birthday chart or display on the wall with their name on.
- Create a birthday message book or card – other children can write a kind message or create a special drawing.
- A growth mindset exercise. Everyone has to say or write one thing they respect or admire about the birthday child. (The answers can be collated and made into a keepsake card or note to take home).
- Virtual celebrations – For children who cannot attend in person, a video message of the class singing or giving warm wishes can be sent virtually. (Always make sure to adhere to relevant rules / regulations regarding technology use.)
- Special privileges – The birthday child could choose a 5-minute fun activity or be first in line to select a reading book.
- Use a pretend cake as a prop for celebration activities.
- Playing a fun 5-minute end-of-lesson game in honour of the birthday child is a great alternative to giving out treats, as everyone can benefit.
- Conduct a birthday interview in which class members ask the birthday child questions to get to know more about them. These kinds of activities rely on the child’s desire to participate. A child should not feel uncomfortable taking part.
Enhance classroom birthday ideas with displays, using exciting visuals as backdrops, along with background music where appropriate.
Treat ideas (Non sweets and candy)
Who doesn’t enjoy birthday treats? Sticky, sugary snacks are much loved by children of all ages. In spite of this, they are not always the best option. If you’re trying to avoid the sugar-induced mayhem that can ensue after kids gorge on sweet treats, here are a handful of healthier alternatives:
- A small celebratory cup of fruit smoothie or fruit juice.
- Homemade veggie samosas.
- Fruit kebab sticks.
- A small bag of popcorn (decorate the back with personal labels).
Hopefully, the classroom birthday ideas in this article have given some food for thought that you can use to help make some happy memories for children celebrating a birthday at school.