Unfortunately, there is a very good chance that there is a food allergy in your child’s classroom. Recent statistics show that 1 in every 13 children has a food allergy – that’s 2 children in an average size classroom of 30. When planning a party or celebration in school, food allergies can cause confusion, concern, and stress for all parents, not just the parents of children with allergies.
As a parent of a child with a serious food allergy, I worry all the time about him being exposed to his allergen. I worry that he won’t be able to participate in classroom parties and activities because of his allergy. Other parents I’ve talked to are typically also concerned for my child’s safety. And some don’t really understand what the big deal is. All of them, though, are confused when it comes to knowing what to send in for birthdays and class parties. They aren’t always sure what safe options are, and they worry that they might make a mistake.
Here are some tips for navigating classroom parties as a parent – any parent.
Avoid Food Treats
If it’s your child’s birthday, send in a non-food treat for him to share with his classmates. Stickers, tattoos, and small toys are great choices that are safe and fun. I’ve known some kids to bring in balloons on their birthday – this is a huge hit with the elementary school crowd!
Suggest Other Options
Talk to your child’s teacher about non-food options for celebrating certain milestones or holidays in the classroom. One thing I’ve heard of is 100th day of school celebrations. Suggest that rather than asking kids to bring in 100 chocolate chips, 100 crackers, etc., that they bring in non-food items and make a collage instead. For holidays, suggest a themed craft or movie instead of a table full of snacks.
Try Pre-Packaged Foods
There are absolutely good snack options that you can send in for a birthday or other celebration. Look for pre-packaged snacks that have clear nutrition and ingredient labels. To be really safe, look for top-8 allergy free treats. To learn more about what products are safe, check out the downloadable guide from Snack Safely.
Finally, nurture relationships with your child’s teachers and other parents at your school. The more everyone knows about how to keep kids safe, the better everyone is. Give a big thank you to those who make efforts to move classroom parties away from food, and gently educate those who might not understand. Classroom parties with food allergies don’t have to be scary if we all work together to keep all of our kids safe.
Cindy Gordon is a foodie who loves to blog about gluten free vegetarian/vegan recipes on her website Vegetarian Mamma. Cindy's family is dedicated to finding/creating recipes and products that fit their families dietary needs. Cindy resides in Ohio with her husband and two boys (born '07 & '10). She enjoys spending time with her family, the outdoors, gardening, wine and cooking!