BANANA Splints - Birthdays

Dear Judy,

Are there any risks associated with birthdays? One child in my care is lactose intolerant and can’t have ice cream, another is allergic to peanuts. I’ve heard that balloons can be dangerous. The school age kids want to have a piñata, but I’m afraid there will be an accident with the bat. Also, there’s so much discussion about eating less sugar, but everyone wants a cake for their birthday. What can I do? – Wanda

Dear Wanda the Worrier,

I see you’ve covered almost every base in potential birthday problems. While there is a tremendous amount of joy in celebrating a birthday – there are a small number of risks associated with birthday celebrations as you pointed out. Good planning is one key to avoiding problems. (Click here to see our handout about birthdays for helpful hints.)

Parties at child care are usually less elaborate than “at-home” birthdays and you will want to have similar parties for each of the children. For some providers just cupcakes and ice cream the parent brings are enough; other providers have full-fledged parties. Ask your parents at a parent meeting what they would like to do to celebrate the children’s birthdays and how much sugar is too much on the special day.

Here are a few thoughts on birthday party safety for child care providers or parents: vigilance is important during a party to avoid unwanted drama. For this reason, it’s a good idea if possible to have parents attend parties with their children when the children are under age 4. If parents aren’t going to be present, assign an adult (who has no other duties) to keep an eye on whether the party chaos is getting out of hand which can happen when there are large numbers of children and fun activities. Child care parties are usually at the end of the day (highly recommended) and you may be able to recruit one of the parents or a neighborhood teenager to assist you.

As a reminder you can put a colorful self-adhesive name tag on the chest of a child with allergies which identifies the food s/he can’t have (i.e. No Peanuts). Balloons are a big “no, no” where I’m concerned. They pop and terrify young children and a deflated balloon is a real danger to toddlers who put everything in their mouths. If you must have them, hang them securely out of reach. Or use crepe paper streamers to liven up the decor.

Piñatas can be problematic but more for collapsing on the first swing (or for being impenetrable) than for cracked heads. Make sure all the other children stand well back from the “batter.” An adult must stand with the batter and point her in the right direction. Another adult should stay with the children who are waiting their turns to make sure they don’t move into the reach of the bat. Have some extra candy in your pocket to toss out when the piñata gives way to insure everyone gets some.

In the end, if parents or providers have done a good job of planning, keep the children busy and have enough adult or teenage assistance, they should be able to relax and enjoy the party with the children. The biggest risk associated with birthdays however is aging. Young people look forward to being “big” and older folks would like to slow down the clock as there is still so much to do.

Speaking of birthdays, I have a few tongue-in cheek thoughts on BANANAS’ upcoming 30th Birthday – I hope they have bananas at the party because everyone loves BANANAS. Over ripe (30 year old!) BANANAS are very sweet and soft although they might have a dark side. Some people think that old BANANAS are over the hill, but in fact this is the time when they are at their best. Bananas are the perfect party food, nutritionally well balanced and they are safe. You can mash them for the little ones, cut them up in pieces for kebobs or dipping or eat them straight from the peel. The young BANANAS are especially good just the way they are and will get better as they mature.

We definitely want them to hang around. Please do let your parents know about the party on October 18 and, of course, join us yourself.

Yours in Sickness and Health, Judy

Originally published in BANANAS Newsletter September-October, 2003, Vol XXIX, #1

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