Crafts vs. Cupcakes – Alternative Ideas for Birthday Celebrations in School via Sheri Silver @Donuts, Dresses and Dirt


I am so excited to have my friend, Sheri Silver, guest posting for me today. I love her writing and her exceptional way of making things look so beautiful and inviting. I have been thinking about putting together a suggestion of crafts to celebrate birthday celebrations in school for a while. I feel like people are struggling for an alternative to cupcakes. Whether it is because of food allergies, celiac, diabetes or just plain nutritional concerns, this whole junk food for school celebrations thing is becoming a bit stressful, don’t you think?

Why not spend a little time, go into class and do a craft with the kids? It shouldn’t require much more time and effort than baking or buying cupcakes and wouldn’t the kids just love it? If it is sweet treats they crave…they can still have lots at their family and friend celebrations outside of school, can’t they? Just a thought.

I’m going to let Sheri take it away with her great suggestions. If you’d like some more, you can follow this new board I created on Pinterest. If you have some of your own craft ideas for kids, I’d love for you to share them in the comments below.

Hello! I’m Sheri Silver, and I write the blog Donuts, Dresses and Dirt. I’m thrilled to be guest posting here today, as I am such a fan of Jackie’s blog (and of Jackie too!). I think what impresses me most about Jackie is her insistence on using “real” ingredients as much as possible when cooking for her family – which is challenging given the restrictions inherent in most food-allergy situations.

My youngest child, Noah, has a peanut allergy – my first experience since becoming a mom. And as he gets more and more “out there” in the world, the persistent (and often hidden) possibility of encountering a potentially life-threatening ingredient looms ever larger in our day-to-day life.

Noah starts kindergarten next fall and we will no longer be protected by the “no nuts” policies of his current pre-school and day camp. I already keep a stash of frozen blondies in his pre-school’s freezer, which his teacher gives him when a child’s birthday means “outside” (aka, suspect) food is brought in. And – for now, at least – Noah doesn’t seem overly bothered by this. But what happens as he gets older? How will he feel, seeing his friends indulging in brightly colored and festooned cupcakes and cookies?

Here’s a radical suggestion – what if sugary treats weren’t the go-to for birthday celebrations? I mean seriously, don’t our kids – between sports celebrations, birthday parties and holiday gatherings – eat enough sweets? What if the kids created a craft instead? Something they could work on as a class and bring home – to celebrate the birthday boy or girl’s special day?

Now I have to fully disclose something here – I am NOT a crafter. I can’t sew, build or carve, and am decidedly uncreative when it comes to thinking up anything starting with the letters D.I.Y. So I turned to some of my favorite craft bloggers (and moms!) to share their favorite picks for crafts and activities that would be perfect to bring into the classroom.

Caroline started her blog, Salsa Pie, to help foster an innovative and creative spirit in her four young children. I’m always amazed at the clever – yet easy – crafts she comes up with. Like this “Geometric Mod Art”: 

These frame-worthy creations are made from easily sourced materials, and can be scaled up or down depending on the age of the class. Get the details here.

And while we’re shaking things up here with the whole no-sweets-in-the-class idea, let’s get really groundbreaking and go back to (are you ready) writing letters!!!! My older kids will happily regale you with long, sad tales of being forced to write actual thank you notes and create handmade (and signed) birthday cards. But they are now all grown and well-schooled in the art of the handwritten note – and I hope for the same with Noah. Jillian – of the lovely blog Jillian in Italy – is a fan too, and I can’t imagine a teacher who wouldn’t love to work on this sweet project in the classroom: This is a great way to use any leftover scraps of wrapping paper and cardstock, and the project is appropriate for almost any age. Instructions for these “Snail Mail Booklets” can be found here.

Kids are natural explorers (and Noah has the “rock” collection to prove it), and these botanical-themed bookmarks would be the perfect end to a class scavenger hunt: This project is just one of dozens of beautiful crafts you’ll find on Jennifer Cooper’s blog, Classic Play, along with great, family-friendly recipes and wonderful , relatable stories about parenting. Click here to get the details on those bookmarks!

Okay – I simply couldn’t choose between these last two – so I’m sharing both (I’m a sucker for tape, what can I say?). Deborah writes the lovely blog My Life At Playtime and these crafts are perfect examples of her bright, clean aesthetic. What kid wouldn’t love making these bookmarks and the notebooks pictured at the top of the page? Tape seems to be all the rage these days so these are sure to be a hit. Find out how to make the bookmarks here and the notebooks here.

Finally, I wanted to share Jackie’s own post about talking with her son’s school about dealing with food allergies, as well as her “go-to” resource for talking points when addressing school staff (as well as other parents) about this issue. I’ve bookmarked both and plan to refer to them often well before Noah enters elementary school next year.

I hope you’ve found these ideas helpful – change can sometimes be met with resistance, but I have a feeling that these charming and fun craft ideas will help get the ball rolling!

Sheri Silver is a mom, landscape designer and author of the blog Donuts, Dresses and Dirt. She loves sharing tips and tricks on the things she’s most passionate about, including baking and cooking, gardening, shopping and her adventures in and around New York City with her 3 kids. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram and read her regular contributions on Babble.


  • I LOVE THE BIRTHDAY CARD IDEA. When my son was in first-grade in Manhattan at Manhattan New School there were no outside snacks or parent involvement for birthdays. Master Teacher Lorraine Shapiro instead would arrange for every child in the class to take out their art supplies and write a birthday greeting to the celebrating student. The greetings were then collected in a big envelope and sent home with the birthday child. It provides a special activity for the students, a special memento for the birthday child, and a chance to reinforce ELA concepts for the teacher. In the context of this post, it might be interesting to see if folks could provide special stickers, papers, or pens to be distributed to all the students for the project of the day.

  • Sweets are never allowed in our classrooms or even the entire school! I’m glad we aren’t the only school around that needs alternative suggestions to sugar. 🙂 Thanks Sheri!

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