Birthday cakes banned at childcare centre

Unlike the children at this nursery, those at Only About Children will not share cakes on their birthdays.
Unlike the children at this nursery, those at Only About Children will not share cakes on their birthdays. Photo: Steven Siewert

A prestigious inner-city childcare centre has banned birthday cakes after some parents complained about too many cakes being served, sugar overload and children being left out due to allergies.

Parents who pay $120 a day for their children to attend Only About Children in Surry Hills were stunned when the ban was announced last week.

"Children's birthdays are exciting milestones and are important to recognise and celebrate at the campus," the centre director wrote to parents.

"In doing so there are many aspects we might like to consider, including family culture and preferences, health and nutrition, equality amongst the children and a sense of fun!

"With this in mind we have made the decision to STOP THE BRINGING OF BIRTHDAY CAKES ON CHILDRENS' BIRTHDAYS to campus."

The director suggested that the birthday child could celebrate instead by making a crown to wear on the day, whizzing up healthy fruit smoothies with their classmates or choosing which activities they do.

A representative of the centre said the ban was prompted by "several parents [who] complained frequently at the frequency of birthday cakes being served on campus" and the fact some kids were allergic to egg and dairy.

It is understood that some parents of the 73 children who attend the centre complained about the unnecessary sugar consumption involved in regular birthday cake celebrations.

"The frequency of birthdays each week and thus birthday cakes exceeded the nutritional guide for early childhood," the representative said. 

OAC also said some children were left out of birthday celebrations because of their allergies. "OAC has a strong commitment to inclusion for all children within OAC campuses and having to exclude children from celebrating with their peers is a direct violation of this."

Other parents whose children attend the Surry Hills service described the ban as "completely unreasonable". They said it was a shame all the children would miss out on a quintessential part of birthday celebrations because of the concerns of a few.

"The birthday cake is a tradition," one parent, who did not wish to be identified, said. "It's a coming together over something pleasant and enjoyable. It's those little moments of fun that make it a very important social event for the kids."

Initially, OAC Surry Hills attempted to gauge support for a birthday cake ban by using a voting jar, which showed most parents were against a ban. However, OAC said children were using the voting tokens as toys so the results were "skewed and inconclusive".

Parents said having birthday cake was one way children learnt that treats are something reserved for special occasions. They said that rather than banning cake, children could be given smaller slices or parents advised how to provide allergy-free cakes that everyone could enjoy.

The increasing prevalence of allergies in young children has prompted many childcare centres to ban nuts and remind parents to be mindful of any allergies when bringing in food for their child's class.

The federal government's "Staying Healthy in Childcare" guidelines permit families to bring cakes in to centres to celebrate special occasions. However, they recommend that the birthday child blows out their candles on a separate cupcake to prevent the spread of germs among young children.

Most childcare centres still allow families to bring in birthday cakes, including the not-for-profit GoodStart chain, which said it follows the government guidelines regarding "celebration cakes".

Australia's oldest early childhood service, KU Children's Services, said how birthdays were celebrated varied at each of its 150 services depending on the needs of families. "We find that most parents are happy for their child's birthday to be celebrated at the centre, including cake!" chief executive Christine Legg said. 

Some KU centres with cooks on site will offer to bake a cake on behalf of families that meets the dietary requirements of all children. Ms Legg said KU had noticed a trend towards bringing cupcakes, which can be smaller and easier to serve to children. 

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