Keep school birthday parties simple

I applaud the Government's resolve to tackle inequality early and level the playing field (Govt tackling inequality early from pre-school: Shanmugam; April 21).

This calls to mind a discussion I had recently with mothers of young children.

Typically, there would be at least one or two birthdays celebrated in each pre-school class every month. The children usually get goodie bags filled with sugary snacks and stationery items.

This practice should not be encouraged.

First, it is an unnecessary additional burden on parents who may not be in a position to purchase and prepare these goodie bags and celebrate a birthday in school.

It can lead to comparisons, and increases perceived inequality among children.

The mother of a primary school child told me that her daughter was told by a friend: "My mother loves me more than your mother because your mother does not celebrate your birthday."

The spectre of such an attitude becoming the norm is disturbing.

Second, we should be promoting good eating habits and choices with our children.

As sugar consumption is one of the contributors to diabetes, schools should not condone the giving of unhealthy snacks.

Birthday celebrations in schools need not be accompanied by extravagance and unhealthy food.

Classmates can sing a simple happy birthday song and write notes to the birthday child.

This promotes good simple values and a healthier lifestyle.

Genevieve Chua Kwee Huay (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 25, 2018, with the headline 'Keep school birthday parties simple'. Print Edition | Subscribe