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Wednesday, December 20, 2023

7 Ideas for Making Student Birthdays Special

As a teacher in the primary classroom, you probably already know how important student birthdays are. Celebrating student birthdays helps cultivate a sense of community in the classroom and makes each kiddo feel special! If you're looking for ways to make celebrating a doable part of the routine, come along to see some of my favorite ways to make student birthdays special! 

Use these 7 ideas for making student birthdays special in your classroom this year.

Why Celebrating Student Birthdays Matters

Before we dive into my ideas for making student birthdays special, let's chat about the why behind this! Chances are, if you're a classroom teacher you probably love being part of a community. 

Build community and help each and every student feel special by making student birthdays a special celebration throughout the school year.
Teachers play a vital role in cultivating a sense of community in the classroom, and celebrating with students is a great way to do so. 

Aside from helping to strengthen your classroom community, celebrating also offers an opportunity for students to feel special. Young children love having a day that's all their own. While many students will be celebrating at home with their families, not every child will get to do so. Taking time to recognize them in your classroom will help them to feel valued and cared for. 

And finally, celebrating birthdays is just plain fun! Once you've got a routine in place for birthdays, they will become a joyful experience rather than a disruption to routine. Your students will love it and I'm willing to bet it will put a smile on your face too! 

Now, onto my favorite ways to celebrate student birthdays in the primary classroom! 

1. Start the Day with a Crown 

In my opinion, every student needs a birthday crown! 

Create a simple birthday crown like this to help make student birthdays extra special for each student.
When I was still in the classroom, I always took a few minutes to make students a simple crown to kick off the day. 

For this, I took a piece of long construction paper folded in half lengthwise. Then, cut a jagged crown shape. It doesn't need to be perfect so don't stress about this!

Finally, take your 2 pieces and staple them together to make a large band. 

Write "Happy Birthday" with the student's name across the front and staple it to size when they arrive. You can also decorate it with a few stickers if you'd like to jazz it up a bit. Students love wearing these on their special day! 

2. Read a Birthday Book 

Books like these are a great way to make student birthdays special with a themed read aloud for birthdays.
In my classroom, I had a collection of birthday-themed read-aloud books. I kept them in a birthday gift bag and on a student's birthday, I'd have that child pick a book. There are tons of great books out there but here are some of my personal faves:

Whenever I saw an inexpensive birthday book in the Scholastic flyer, at a yard sale, or thrift store, I would grab it and add it to my collection. This is a really fun way to start the day during your morning meeting! 

3. Sing The Happy Birthday Song

In my classroom, I had this really fun, interactive birthday chart that we used every time someone had a birthday. 

Create a fun chart like this to help your students sing Happy Birthday to make students birthdays special.
Mine was shaped like a cake that had sentence strips with the lyrics for the "Happy Birthday Song" on it. 

On the morning of a birthday, I would add the special student's name and we'd sing along as I pointed to each word. 

If you don't have a chart like this, try setting up something similar in a pocket chart or making your own poster. You can make a large birthday cake shape or just grab a piece of poster board.  Write out the birthday song leaving a blank space where the name would go. Then laminate the poster for durability so you can use it for many years. 

Then, on the morning of a birthday simply write the student's name in the blank using a dry-erase marker.  You can also create a name card for each student and connect them to the poster using sticky velcro dots.

It's a really easy way to make kids feel special.  

4. Celebrate with More Birthday Songs   

In my room, we sang a lot of songs throughout the year. We used them in regular lessons, and especially to celebrate fun holidays and birthdays! Our favorite birthday song was by Greg and Steve. I'm pretty sure you can't buy their CDs anymore, but I found it on YouTube if you'd like to try this one in your classroom! 

When we sing, the birthday boy or girl gets to stand at the front of the room and hold a cake.  They also get to answer the questions from the song during the musical pause.  The lyrics ask for the name and age. Then for the big finale, the student gets to pretend to blow out the candles when we get to that part of the song. 

In my classroom, I had a small inflatable cake that was perfect for this. I haven't been able to find a similar mini cake, but a wooden one like this Melissa and Doug set would also be fun to place on display for the day. This is a great way to celebrate as a class if you're not allowed to have food in your classrooms. 

5. Make a Plan for Treats

Speaking of food in the classrooms, it's a good idea to map out your plan for birthday goodies. 

While candy and snacks may not be an option when celebrating student birthdays non-edible treats like these are pretty amazing too.
In my school, we had a no-food policy due to allergies. This meant that if parents wanted to send in a treat, they needed to be individually wrapped or bagged items that could be sent home. 

I had my birthday kiddo distribute these in student mailboxes at the end of the day. I also encouraged parents to bring decorative pencils, stickers, mini toys, and small party favors instead of food so that everyone can enjoy them, regardless of allergies! 

If you are allowed to have food in your classroom I would suggest creating a policy and informing parents at the beginning of the year.  The last thing you want is to be surprised with an unexpected birthday party in the middle of your math lesson.

Your policy should clearly state what type of food items are allowed under your school or district policy, what time the parents should bring the treats, and ask for the parents to notify you in advance when they plan to send a treat so that you can make sure the schedule is adjusted for that time.

6. Use a Birthday Box 

I loved using a fun birthday "treasure box" for student birthdays. 

A prize box like this is an extra way to help your kiddos celebrate student birthdays.
I used a sturdy, lidded box that was decorated with wrapping paper. This type of box works well because it looks festive, but the lid comes on and off easily. This box was special and only came out on birthdays.  

If you have a treasure box in your classroom, I would suggest keeping them separate and have different items in your birthday box.  That will keep it feeling extra special all year long.

I filled the box with all kinds of small treasures from the dollar store like stencils, bubbles, crayons, bracelets, matchbox cars, and other trinkets. 

You can often find piƱata-type prizes like these in the party section of stores like Walmart and Target too!

After singing Happy Birthday, I always let the student choose a gift from the birthday box. Everyone was always SO excited to see what they picked!

7. Make a Birthday Book 

Have you ever made birthday books in your classroom? 

Help your students remember their special day with a sweet student birthday book like this.
This idea is a little out of the ordinary birthday celebration and so much fun to complete as a class! 

I have each birthday student complete a "birthday application" form and the rest of the class completes a page for the book all about the birthday child. The idea here is that everyone will write something special about the birthday boy or girl. 

Once all of the pages are complete, you will bind the application and pages in order then present the book as a keepsake to the birthday child. 

This is such a fun way to recognize them and make them feel special! They will love flipping through the book for years to come. 

Have Fun Celebrating 

I hope you enjoyed these ideas to help make celebrating student birthdays a snap! With a routine like this one in place, you'll be able to make every child feel special on their birthday. If you're looking for more fun activities to add to your daily routines, be sure to check out my TPT shop for ideas! 

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Pin this post on Pinterest to keep these ideas for student birthdays at your fingertips. 

Looking for fun ways to make your student birthdays extra special this year? Here are 7 fantastic ideas to help you celebrate each and every one of your students this year on their special day. #tarynsuniquelearning #celebratingstudentbirthdaysintheclassroom

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

6 Cozy Staff Appreciation Ideas for Winter

Winter is a great time to recognize staff members at your school. This time of year can feel a little drab and gloomy. Help brighten things up with fun and unexpected staff morale boosters! Whether you're looking for staff morale activities that are non-holiday related or need some cozy staff appreciation ideas for January, I've gotcha covered! Let's dive into 6 fun ideas you can use this winter!

Implement these cozy staff appreciation ideas for happy teachers this winter.

The Importance of Staff Appreciation 

Teachers, school administrators, and staff members are a special kind of people. The members of this group usually have big hearts, a giver's mentality, and a deep dedication to showing up for our kids. 

With the hustle and bustle of the holidays over, it's time to remind your staff how much you appreciate them with thoughtful staff appreciation goodies this winter.
These people are changing the future and deserve to be recognized for that! While there are specific days of the year geared towards teacher and staff appreciation, I'd argue that this is something we should practice all year long for strong school morale! 

Aside from being appreciative to staff, there are even more benefits to boosting morale. We all know that happy staff members are more likely to create a productive work environment for our students. This can help sustain the overall health and social climate of your school, even in these changing times. 

Winter is an especially good time to lean into fun staff appreciation ideas. After the holidays have come and gone, things can feel a little dreary, and staff need a little sunshine in their days! 

These winter-themed staff appreciation ideas are just the thing to make teachers and staff smile and show them how much they are valued for their daily efforts!

1. January Scratch-Off Tickets 

Do staff meetings feel a little lackluster in your building lately? If so, I have just the thing to perk up your team! These January Scratch-Off Tickets are aimed at building excitement for meetings while awarding staff for their daily hard work. Talk about a win-win! 

Use scratch-off tickets like these for an extra special staff appreciation goodie which includes prizes your teachers will love.
This resource uses a fun winter theme on each ticket and allows staff members to uncover a prize. Give these out at your staff meeting and watch the smiles spread across the room! Some of the prizes include:
  • prime parking spots 
  • recess coverage 
  • prepped copies 
  • jeans day and more! 
These are low-cost, easy-to-make staff appreciation tokens with gifts that faculty will actually want to receive. Use them as prizes during your meeting or hand them out to all attendees. 

The resource includes two options for printing including information on pre-made scratch-off paper as well as a DIY version so you can choose what works best for your school. 

2. Winter Staff Appreciation Board

What better way to recognize staff than to "shout out" a job well done? 

A staff appreciation board like this is a great way to showcase all the awesomeness going on where everyone can see.
This winter staff appreciation bulletin board is a great way to spruce up your staff lounge after all of the holiday decorations have been taken down! 

This resource includes headings, decorative accents, and staff recognition tags to make this project simple and easy to put together. 

Simply add some wintry-themed paper and border to your board, add accents and headings, and then fill out the cards with personalized recognition for staff members. 

You can have staff recognize each other for a job well done, or principals and administrators can write encouraging notes for each person in the building. Then, all you have to do is put them on display for everyone to see and enjoy.

Either way is a great option to show staff that their good deeds are valuable and appreciated! 

3. Staff Snowflake Hunt 

Ready for something a little different this winter? You'll love this next staff appreciation idea! This morale-boosting activity involves a guessing game to find snowflake erasers or table scatter that have been distributed to staff members. 
Turn staff appreciation into a game with a fun snowflake hunt activity like this.

The idea behind the game is to determine who has a snowflake and acquire one for yourself before it's over! Staff will try and guess who has a snowflake and "steal" it away. The game is played throughout a previously determined day and when the time is up, prizes are distributed.  

You can even play more than once if you'd like by choosing different types of prizes for each day. One day you might have school supply-themed prizes, the next could be candy and food, and the third could be acts of service. 

The sky is the limit on this one and it just adds a bit of fun to an otherwise ordinary day. Staff will love shaking things up with this game this winter!

4. Winter Shout-Out Decorations

Are you looking for a fun and simple way to decorate staff lounges and prep areas this winter? 

Shout out decorations like these are a great way to show staff appreciation in a fun and unique way.
You'll love these Staff Shout-Out Decorations that are aimed at showing appreciation for your team! 

Use these printable signs to decorate bathroom mirrors, bulletin boards, the staff lounge, and more. 

Each sign has a fun and motivational winter saying that will make staff smile and add a bit of seasonal flair to your building.  

These would also be fun to print in bulk and leave in the staff lounge with a supply of pens. Staff members can jot down notes to each other on the back and leave them in mailboxes or post them on classroom doors throughout the month to show appreciation for each other. 

Recognizing things like patience, kindness, tidy classrooms, and prompt arrival goes a long way in making staff feel valued and part of a great team! 

5. Soup Luncheon Potluck

This next option is my absolute favorite winter potluck idea! Have you ever hosted a soup luncheon? The idea behind this is that everyone signs up for and brings different soups to school to share. This one takes a bit of planning, but it's well worth it in my opinion. 
Organize a soup luncheon potluck as a way to celebrate your teachers and as a fun and cozy staff appreciation opportunity.

To host this event, put out the sign-up sheets in advance and allow everyone to sign up for different soups. You could also have each team decide on the soup they will bring. If possible, try to encourage a certain number of specific types to allow for variety. You might ask for a few vegetarian options, a few chili-style soups, and maybe a few cream-based soups to offer a little something for everyone! And... don't forget to include salad, bread and/or crackers if you'd like to have those options.

On the day of, set up a few tables with power strips for everyone to plug in their crock pots full of soup. I also recommend using signs and labels to make sure everyone knows what is what. The soups can simmer away and warm up all morning long. 

When lunch rolls around, everyone will be excited to taste the different soups and enjoy them with crusty bread or crackers. This soup potluck is the perfect activity to help staff feel warm and cozy in the winter! Check out this resource for everything you need to successfully host this event! 

6. Frosty Friday Treat

I saved the best for last! If you're looking to treat staff members, you'll love this Frosty Friday Treat! 

Get a local business involved in staff appreciation with a fun Friday treat like this.
This idea involves coordinating with your local Wendy's restaurant to get all of your team members a delicious frosty. If you don't have a Wendy's near you, consider alternatives that would work as a good swap. In my opinion, any type of ice cream, milkshake, or other frozen dessert would make a perfect alternative! 

Hang up signs around the school in staff areas the week you plan to have treats available. This way, all staff members will know they can swing by the lounge during lunch to pick up their frosty treat! 

This is a great token of appreciation for staff at the end of the month to recognize their hard work and let them know they are valued in your school. 

Everyone loved Frosty Friday at my school, and I know your staff members will too! 

Staff Appreciation Winter Bundle 

Are you having a hard time choosing a favorite in this round-up of winter staff appreciation ideas? If so, check out the BUNDLE, which includes all 6 resources! This bundle will help ensure you're keeping your staff motivated and excited to come to work all winter long, without having to spend hours planning and prepping. 

Grab this bundle for low prep printable staff appreciation ideas you can use all winter long.

These ideas make staff appreciation simple and easy to incorporate into your monthly routine. Have fun celebrating your staff this winter and don't forget, a little sunshine is all it takes to make your school feel cozy and your staff feel appreciated! 

Save these Winter Staff Appreciation Ideas! 

Save this post on your favorite Staff Appreciation Pinterest board so that you'll be armed with fun ideas to boost staff morale all winter long!

Looking for fun and cozy staff appreciation ideas for the winter months? These 6 staff appreciation ideas and resources come with everything you need to plan amazing ways to show your staff how much they mean to you and the school community this winter. #tarynsuniquelearning #staffappreciationideasforwinter #winterstaffappreciation #staffappreciationideas