Now that most kids are out of school, that means that they will be invited for more play dates, visit more relatives and generally be exposed to more risk. We've already run into some unexpected circumstances, so I figure that many of you will as well. However, that risk can be minimized and managed with a few simple precautions.
Here are a few of my top tips for dealing with food allergies at summer parties and play dates:
Always assume food will be present. It always is, so have an allergy-free alternative on hand for your child. I'm putting together a couple of "treat bags" that my daughter can grab as she heads over to a friend's house. The last thing you want is for parents to give your child an unsafe food just because the kid is starving. Make up some of your own treat bags and have them ready near the front door.
Educate other parents. What does a reaction look like? How do you read a label? What are your kids permitted to eat or not eat? All of these questions need to be answered, so be prepared to answer them. It will ease your mind as well as theirs.
Become the hostess (or host) with the mostess. If possible, host the play dates at your home where you control the food, especially if your child is very young. It's often the best way to ensure safety when kids are too young to take responsibility for their allergy themselves.
Give them the tools. If your child is older and can understand more, make sure they understand that they only eat approved foods. Teach them to read labels and "when in doubt, do without." When they learn to politely refuse foods and go about playing, you're giving them confidence to handle themselves in the world without you.