The Inside Word: Birthday Cakes at School

This is a guest post by Val, from Yibba Yabba Mama

Birthdays are lovely and for many kids, celebrating at school is one of the most special days they remember. They love having the whole class sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to them, some schools hand out birthday certificates or stickers and teachers usually go out of their way make the day extra special too. For many kids, the biggest highlight is having cake at school! So, what is the best birthday treat to bring… here is the inside information…from a teacher-mummy’s point of view!

Firstly, pleasedo not bring in a cake! No matter how large it is, one cake to be shared with the class is every teacher’s worst nightmare! As magnificent your giant fairy toadstool cake may be, please imagine trying to cut that up into 28 identical portion controlled pieces, with exactly the same icing and same amount of lollies (remember we are teachers, we like things to match and we don’t cope with improper fractions!) Here is the scenario; your beautiful cake on a cake board, sent in with 7 candles and 28 children all huddled around eagerly waiting for a piece..but not just any piece…….”Miss, can I have the chimney part?”…”Miss, I don’t want the pink icing…”. Trying to cut your cake neatly and without accidentally stabbing a child is absolutely horrendous! (Not to mention the work place health and safety issues involved with smuggling a knife into a classroom!) Please, save your masterpiece for your back yard party!

Secondly, save yourself the stress and time….Less is More! You really do not need to go to much effort at all, for it is rarely appreciated. While many mums have burned the midnight oil baking and decorating, desperately fulfilling a child’s request of 28 Scooby Doo faced cup cakes, I have to tell you…most of it ends up in the bin! You may think your cakes will be different because you only use your great grandma’s award winning recipe (and your class teacher will agree it was delicious!) but, in reality, most of the kids will lick the icing and dump the rest of the cake in the bin, at the very most only half will be eaten. Kids are happy to taste your creations, but they won’t necessarily appreciate your fine culinary skills, so please, do not waste your precious time and efforts! (Mums, you do so much already!)

Try to remember, this is all about the birthday boy or girl. They want to share a treat and even better, something they can hand out themselves to each member of the class. This is also a whole lot less stressful for the teacher too, for individual treats can be handed out at anytime, perhaps during class, just before heading out to lunch or even to take home. Birthday kids love to hand out their own treats! If you can, please make them all the same and don’t assume all the girls will want the pink ones and only the boys will want the blue ones! Teachers want to help celebrate this special day and would rather not have to console the little boy who missed out on the last sparkly princess wand cake, and no, he does not want the blue wizard wand cake instead! It is great having identical treats with the same lollies and are the same size. (Actually, most kids are not good at making choices anyway!)

So……what makes a great birthday treat?

I think I have celebrated almost 300 birthdays at school! As I said earlier, most of these treats end up in the bin! By far, the most successful are little and easy to eat! (And your teacher will hug for you for the minimal mess on the carpet too!)

Here is a super easy idea, which will save your sanity, get you to bed on time before the big day and best of all…regard you as an awesome mum by everyone in the classroom….

Birthday Biscuits! Don’t bother baking! Go and buy a packet of Arrowroot, Granita, Marie or other plain biscuits. Spread on some coloured icing (nothing fancy; just mix up icing sugar, water and food colouring) and decorate with lollies and sprinkles to your heart’s content! The birthday boy or girl can help you do this too! The possibilities are endless and you do not need to have a degree in cake decorating! And….sometimes….the uglier the better! Think aliens and monsters..kids love that kind of stuff! Funny faces are great fun too, go crazy with eyes, noses and hair….they don’t need to be perfect; it is the imperfections that kids love the most!

If you are strapped for time, there are other things you can bring along for your child to hand out. Many supermarkets sell ready made mini cupcakes, mini donuts and mini gingerbread men (are you hearing this…mini…mini is good for treats at school!) Also, consider sending along a packet of stickers, chocolate frogs or lollipops. If you check with your child’s teacher before hand, another great idea is to bring in a box of ice blocks! (How ‘cool’ would that be on a hot summer day?)

A word about allergies…there are lots of children with food allergies and they do often miss out on birthday treats. Please do not try to accommodate for them by making your own gluten/dairy/egg or nut free treat. It is not worth the risk, allergens could be present anywhere, even in the icing, sprinkles or lollies. Some allergies are life threatening and while many teachers have first aid training, we would rather not have to use an epipen! You may want to bring in a balloon, sticker or pencil for the class mate with allergies. (Most teachers usually have a stash of these ready for allergy sufferers so they don’t have to miss out entirely.) If you are a mum of a child with allergies, you may want to consider baking half a dozen allergy free treats for your child. They can be stored in the staff room freezer and easily defrosted when a birthday is celebrated. (Check with your child’s teacher first, most will be more than happy to do this!)

Birthday treats are not essential at school, some schools may not even allow them. If you aren’t able to bring anything in, don’t feel guilty about it- your child will have a magic day at school regardless! But if you are wanting to to bring something along, have fun, think small and don’t make it stressful for you…..oh, and don’t forget to pack an extra one for the teacher!

About Yibba Yabba Mama

Hi! I’m Val. I’m a teacher by trade but for now I am mum to three gorgeous little yibba yabbas.  I am not particularly good at anything, my house is a chaotic mess, I am always tired, I eat too much chocolate, I’m a dreamer and a procrastinator. Join me as I yibba yabba about my life with kids, the fun times and everything else in between!

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This post was written by a guest contributor. If you are interested in ‘being my guest’ please visit Be my Guest page for more details.

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33 comments

Alyssa June 5, 2013 - 7:44 AM

Or…. just celebrate your birthday at home! We have noticed a huge difference in our son’s behaviour since he has moved from preschool – where he was constantly given highly coloured cakes and icing (without even telling us!) – to school where he eats what’s in his lunchbox. And he doesn’t get the squirts any more! Hurrah!

Why can’t parents make it a special day after school hours? How many cakes and lollies do these kids need really? All day long?

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Carli Thom June 5, 2013 - 9:18 AM

I absolutely agree!

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Mishelle Smethurst June 5, 2013 - 2:47 PM

Oh my, not sure what pre-school your son attended but our NEVER give sweets or junk. In fact, we provide their lunches and if the teachers cinstantly find junk in their lunchbox, they have a talking to to the parents.

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Alyssa June 5, 2013 - 4:53 PM

It wasn’t the teachers. Other children’s parents would bring the cakes to preschool for the children to share. Often they (the cakes) would arrive after we had dropped our son off, so we wouldn’t know until the end of the day, when it was all over! It was very annoying.

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Katrina June 17, 2013 - 12:12 PM

When my kids attended kindy they were strict on some foods, only those with choking hazards, not really what is bad for the kids. But that was many years ago now, I am sure over the years they have become a lot more strict in their ways.

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Lisa S June 5, 2014 - 8:27 AM

Totally agree.

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Melinda Di Palma June 5, 2013 - 10:29 AM

This is some great food for thought. I have a 2 1/2 yr old. Daycare make a cake for him, but never thought about this from a teacher perspective. It makes alot of sense to do smaller and individual treats. Thanks for this Val.

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yTravelBlog June 5, 2013 - 1:38 PM

Great post Val!! I always hated birthday cake time in the classroom for these reasons you outlined. I loved it when parents made it simple!!

I love your idea too for the biscuits.

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Katrina June 17, 2013 - 12:13 PM

I love these biscuit ideas, perfect for the busy mum!

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Lisa Warren June 5, 2013 - 7:41 PM

Great tips Val! I’ve given up sending in stuff for my kids to celebrate at school. I used to make a fuss, but the kids really don’t care. They prefer the special cake I make for them at for home!

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Katrina June 17, 2013 - 12:09 PM

We have stopped sending in on birthdays too. We can only send fruit and sadly a platter of fruit isn’t really exciting, they are just as happy being sung happy birthday to

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Kelly June 5, 2013 - 9:44 PM

Thanks for the great tips – I’m going to make the face biscuits for my kids.

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Katrina June 17, 2013 - 12:08 PM

the kids would love these sure to make them laugh

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Trish June 6, 2013 - 8:16 AM

Thank you for this advice, we have a birthday coming up.

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Katrina June 17, 2013 - 12:08 PM

Aren’t they cute ideas Trish, they would be easy to make up for your boys

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Suzanne June 14, 2013 - 11:28 PM

Love these ideas. I never liked having to cut up cakes evenly either for class birthdays when I was teaching. Best “cake” I saw in my teaching days was a stack of donuts with enough for 1 per child done as a “cake” (tiered). Another simple idea!!

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Katrina June 17, 2013 - 11:33 AM

A donut cake would be a lovely idea, I can just imagine the mess after cutting up a cake.

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shauna June 5, 2014 - 1:17 PM

I always send cupcakes for my kids from preschool until their last year of primary. I find the number of kids in the class and add an extra dozen for my kids to hand out to teachers, friends in other classes. I also usually send them in the cardboard cake boxes so all the mess can just be put in the bin and nothing needs to be sent home.
I just make plain vanilla cake and ice with white icing and sugar/fake colour free sprinkles.
I dont try to fit all the diets and any left overs get sent to the staff room.
My kids also get a cake at home on their bday plus a cake for their party.
Now I have 4 kids (1 set twins and 2 singles) all born within a 6 week period so I make 4 simple cakes (bday dinner), 4 fancy cakes (to suit party theme) and approx 35-40 per child, all in a 6 week period.

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Katrina June 16, 2014 - 8:25 AM

Wow Shauna, I have 2 twins and a single within 2 weeks so I feel for you having to make so many cakes within such a short period. You were very lucky to be able to celebrate your kids birthday’s at school with cakes, I think the kids love the fuss of their birthday’s and sharing cake at school, so sad it can’t be done these days.

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Vonni October 20, 2014 - 6:42 AM

My son took a bag of balloons to hand out to his class of 5 and 6 year olds on his special day. I got there at the end of the day just in time to see it. He was grinning from ear to ear as the class all thanked him and sang “Happy Birthday”. After the bell went it was even funnier to see all the kids leaving the school making “fart” noises with their balloons. Good fun all round 🙂

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Katrina - The Organised Housewife October 21, 2014 - 1:42 PM

That’s great your school let you do that, sounds like the kids had a lot of fun.:)

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Andrea March 30, 2015 - 2:11 PM

Jelly is a great birthday treat that all children even those with allergies can eat. Simply half fill a plastic cup with the jelly and send in some plastic spoons too for the children to eat it with. It’s cheap and easy to make and if you had the time you could make it in different coloured layers like a rainbow.

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Katrina - The Organised Housewife April 1, 2015 - 8:40 AM

What a fantastic idea, Andrea!.:)

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Joan June 9, 2015 - 6:33 PM

Kids can be allergic to the colours/flavours/preservatives in jelly and also, it may have come in contact with any number of foods while being made (for example, the person making it might have been consuming peanut butter toast or drinking milk or preparing other food) and so the jelly becomes contaminated. My allergic child came out in a huge rash after being given jelly that had been brought in for a birthday child, by her teacher who assumed that “it’s just jelly, there’s nothing in it you can be allergic to”. You can imagine how upset I was, especially considering it could have turned into a tragedy had it been an anaphylactic reaction. It was especially dissapointing considering I had already provided lollies for my child in place of birthday treats and asked the teacher strictly not to give my child any foods other than what I brought in. Please, please, PLEASE do what the article says!!

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Judy June 9, 2015 - 8:22 PM

At the school where I teach we have a healthy food policy and cakes,biscuits and muffins are a no no. I love it! No putting up with behaviour issues caused by preservatives and colourings or sugar rushes. The parents support it and for birthday celebrations we have fruit platters, fruit pizzas, rice crackers, homemade dips and vegetables. The birthday kids really are more interested in singing happy birthday and blowing out our celebration candle.

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Katrina - The Organised Housewife June 11, 2015 - 10:29 AM

Sounds very similar to the school were my kids go to, Judy. ~ Kate

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Michelle June 9, 2015 - 9:24 PM

I agree on not trying to provide for kids with allergies. It only takes a crumb to trigger an allergy so i prefer to provide an alternative treat for my children. I just wish people would give the heads up on when they’re bringing things in. I always try to have an alternative available for them, but I have been surprised by how difficult some teachers are and how accommodating others can be.

Some wonderful ideas here though! A great article and i really appreciate the ideas!

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Michelle June 9, 2015 - 9:27 PM

Yes Joan, neither of my children can have jelly either

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Jacqueline packer October 19, 2015 - 6:34 AM

I am a primary school teacher and it has always concerned me about the kids that didn’t have birthday cakes from home to bring in, so I made a whole class decision to make the cupcakes myself! Then the parents didnt worry as I provided them…. (they are always pretty simple.) It just meant that all the kids could have a special day and they all shared the
celebration! I love birthdays at school!

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Kate - Kat's Assistant October 20, 2015 - 8:54 AM

I think that is a really lovely idea, Jacqueline. I remember celebrating birthdays at school and loved it, it really is an extra special day for the child.

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michelle February 15, 2016 - 9:23 AM

For the last birthday my son took in mini lolly bags, a mini chuppa chup and a small chocolate in each little cellophane bag with a tie. He put them together, and he gave them out, he was super pleased with himself. He took extras for his teacher, the teacher aide, his teacher from the year before, and the librarian! They were handed out at the end of the day, so most kids were already with their parents before they even opened the bags. Not ideal from a lolly/sugar perspective I guess, but it was simple, small, and my son loved it.

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michelle February 15, 2016 - 9:29 AM

I must admit after reading the article and all the comments though, we probably won’t even do this anymore. Maybe toy erasers from the $2 shop or pencils or stickers instead! It’s easy to forget what a minefield food treats can be when you don’t have allergies in your immediate family.

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Steven March 7, 2022 - 6:56 PM

Thanks for sharing these helpful suggestions and recommendations to make tasty cakes at home for our children.

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