I’ve been working on this post for awhile-months in fact. My children started at a new school in September and it was a big adjustment going from a home daycare to a multi-room child development center. There are so many great things about their new school-amazing teachers, a huge indoor play space, an award-winning outdoor playground, music classes and really messy and fun art projects. There are also new things I wasn’t used to, like in a class of 25; my daughter is getting invited to birthday parties a couple times a month! Speaking of birthdays and celebrations-that’s the reason for this post.
The week Stella and Wes started their new school it was Stella’s birthday. She turned 4 and in retrospect, I don’t know that she even asked if I would bring in a treat for her classmates, I think it was my idea. So I asked her lead teacher about birthday celebrations and was told that food needed to be store-bought and observe the nut-free facility rule. Despite my cooking credentials, I WASN’T crushed that I couldn’t make homemade cupcakes or brownies laden with nuts. In fact, my first question was, “What are her classmates’ allergies?” Stella’s teacher also mentioned a growing concern from the parents about the abundance of unhealthy birthday treats coming into the classroom and asked if I might consider coming up with a healthy snack idea for her birthday. After discussing it with her teacher, we decided on yogurt parfaits with toppings that honored everyone’s dietary issues. Stella and I shopped for the ingredients and we spent less than $20 on everything.
I know there are people out there that don’t understand why I did any of the above. There are parents that feel that their children are entitled to whatever treat they want to bring into school. Recently, a mother shared such a perspective in a post called, “Why Do Your Kid’s Allergies Mean My Kid Can’t Have a Birthday?”
So why did I go to the trouble to bring an allergy-friendly birthday treat? Because in my eyes, the kids in my daughter’s classroom and your child’s classroom are OUR children. I believe that we, collectively as parents should care; we should be making sure everyone in our children’s classroom are safe. For children with allergies, that means safe foods. We can’t control who our children are friends with at school; our child’s best friend may have allergies. So how would your child feel if their best friend couldn’t have one of the cupcakes that you insisted on bringing for their birthday? That recent post ignited in me the need to finish this post, because we should care about other people’s children with allergies, we should want all the kids included not only because it is the right thing to do; it is what the birthday child would want.
So whether it’s for a birthday, Valentine’s Day or Halloween party, here are some resources and ideas for an allergy-friendly celebration at your child’s school:
- Ask your teacher for a “safe snack list” and the absolute best thing to do is contact the parent of the child with allergies and let them know you’d like to make or buy a safe and inclusive celebration snack. They will appreciate your efforts and have several safe suggestions for you.
- Non-food items are great alternatives to celebration snacks. Check out these pencils, bracelets and tattoos or bring in a homemade craft that you made with your child like bug valentines or homemade crayons.
- Instead of focusing your energy on bringing food into the classroom for a celebration, consider bringing yourself! Yes, volunteer in the classroom. Maybe you have a special talent you can share with the class or even just coming in to read a story would be memorable to your child.
- Based on the classroom’s allergy list, look for allergy-friendly products that accommodate those allergies like Enjoy Life. Enjoy Life is free from the 8 most common allergens. Products include bars, cookies, chips, cereal, granola and trail mixes. It is carried at Target, Whole Foods and Walmart.
- Check out resources online like the Snack Product Guides from Snack Safely that is updated monthly with snack ideas. While grocery shopping, don’t be afraid to ask store managers about allergen-free products and snacks, sometimes they have product lists or will personally walk you around the store and talk about the different products-I have received this type of service at Kowalskis, Trader Joes and Whole Foods.
In October, I saw this post about being an allergy-friendly stop on Halloween and it really raised my awareness about how we as parents of children without allergies can in very simple ways be supportive of families with allergies. A very special thank you to Missy Bickel Berggren at Marketing Mama for that post about Halloween candy as well as advice and consultation about this post. Check her out on Facebook and Twitter! Also, thank you to Mr. Les at St. Paul’s Childhood Center for his love, energy and care for the kids in Room X and his input on this post.