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How to Accommodate Children with Food Allergies

Allergies, from mild to severe, can affect the way children feel about themselves and the way they’re treated. While food allergies are becoming more commonplace, we all want to make sure we’re not “othering” our child’s friend’s who already deal with the issues that come from these disorders. Knowing ahead of time, preparing appropriate meals or snacks, and making sure we know what to do in case of emergency creates an inclusive and safe environment for everyone! 

Children eating together in a lunchroom.

How do I know who has allergies?

These days, one in every thirteen children has an allergy to everyday food items such as milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish, or shellfish. That means there’s likely one or two children in your child’s classroom who have a food allergy! If you’re not already aware, the best thing to do would be to ask. Most children who have an allergy are typically aware and will let you know themselves, but it’s always best to be safe by asking ahead. This will also communicate to the other parent that you take the issue seriously, allowing them to feel more comfortable. 

How do I keep the environment safe?

Understanding the severity of the child’s reaction is important. For some children, even touching a kitchen towel previously used by peanut-butter-hands can cause a severe reaction. If you’re inviting the child into your home, make sure that you have out clean towels, have taken out the trash, and wiped down the counters with soapy water. Encourage your child to wash their hands with soap before their friend arrives. Always remember that you can ask the other parent how you can best protect their child—they will appreciate your concern and effort to keep their child safe!

What food should I serve?

Whenever you have play-dates in the home, it’s best to serve allergen-free food to all the children. Children with food allergies can become anxious when the allergen is present and may be worried about being perceived as being different by not being able to eat the same foods as their friends. Foods like fruits or vegetables are generally a safe bet. For other foods, it is a good idea to keep the original packaging that you are considering serving, so you can double check ingredients if necessary. It’s always appropriate to share your snack or meal ideas with the other parent prior to the play date. This way you’ll be putting both yourself and the child’s parent at ease. 

What about birthday parties?

The next time you’re planning a party for your child, try including a section in your invitation for parents to fill out food allergies or preferences to accomodate for vegan, vegetarian, or dairy-free kiddos as well. This way you can better plan snacks or a meal that can be consumed by everyone. Most child-friendly venues in the city will be accustomed to working around common food allergies. If you’re hosting your own party, try this yummy allergen-free cake recipe

How should I talk to my child about food allergies?

Food allergies are becoming so common, you may find that your child is more knowledgeable and accepting of others eating habits than you even expected! The bottom line that everyone needs to understand is that food allergies are serious. It’s not something to joke about or make fun of, but something that we should offer support to our friends over. There’s no universal cure, so harm reduction is our best bet to make sure everyone is feeling good and getting to eat yummy food we all love! 

Do you have an idea for an allergen-free snack or meal? Tag SmartSitting in your Facebook and Instagram posts so we can see and share your posts on our channels. Looking for more tips to navigate your child’s friendships? Make sure you sign up for our newsletter for all the latest info coming from our team!

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