Monday, May 16, 2011

Food Allergies and School Parties: Be Prepared and Have Fun!

As the school year comes to a close, many schools are planning end-of-year celebrations. Also, a lot of school clubs. sports and activities will have their end-of-year parties. Of course, that means food! Now's the time to plan so that your child can safely enjoy any end-of-year school celebrations.

1. Give the teacher a heads-up now. Don't wait until the week of, or even a few days before. Speak to the teacher, send an e-mail, pick up the phone, your choice, but make it a point to find out what is going on with regard to food. Does food have to be offered? If it is, offer to send in a safe treat and then emphasize that your child sticks to that and that only.

2. Check the crafts. Are any edible crafts being done or is food being used for inedible crafts? Ask now. These are a bad idea unless everyone is on the same page about what is safe and what isn't. I've found that is usually not the case, so suggest an alternative craft if you must. The store Michael's has tons of craft ideas; so does Target.

3. Discuss with your child the possibility of "extra" food. Some parents like to send in homemade treats at the last minute as an added "surprise" for the class. While this is well-intentioned, it can undo the careful planning you and other room parents may have done to ensure "safe" party foods. Communicate with the party organizers to find out what food will be present and then discuss with your child a few items that they can safely eat. To stay on the safe side, make sure that your child understands that anything outside of that zone is off-limits.

4. Send home a note a week before the party. Ask your child's teacher to send home a reminder note of what to avoid sending. If you have a dairy-free, nut-free classroom, for example, be sure to include some suggestions of safe brands and treats. If people are intent on bringing food, at least they will have some idea of what is OK for the kids with allergies.

5. Role play with your child. This may be the most important point. It's never too early to teach a child to refuse food they are not sure of. Our rule has always been: "When in doubt, do without." Teach your child to be polite but firm when offered food that may not be safe. This would pretty much include all candy and baked goods you have not sent to school, but pretzels, chips and popcorn brands can also be unsafe. Our daughter has always refused food since she we knew of her allergy and your child can learn to do the same. They will need this skill their entire life; why not start now?


Anonymous said...

Thank you for the great reminders during this busy time of year. I usually try to attend the party, if possible. If that's not possible I spend time with my son discussing which foods will be safe for him. I really like your suggestion to role play.

Andrea said...

Great article! I am in the process of changing my son's diet and giving him supplements so I want to let my son's teacher know about this also and see if he notices a difference in his behavior at school

Jane Anne said...

Such a great list. Two weeks ago my child's teacher emailed and said she wanted to meet with me about the events for the rest of the year. It was fantastic. I think a parent could just ask for the same kind of meeting with the teacher.