Play dates are good for all: kids get to interact and learn while they laugh and play; parents get ever-coveted adult interaction! But what about play dates with kids who have food allergies? How do you ensure it’s a safe time that truly is good for all? Our friend Emily Allen, who blogs here, shares her experiences and tips on surviving a play date with kids who have food allergies.
When I arrived at the park for my daughter’s first play date, I let her loose on the playground and gabbed with the other moms. It was so nice to talk with adults, and the kids were having a great time. I wondered why I had never done this before.
Emily’s middle daughter – Look out below!
Soon kids started wandering over asking for food, and that’s when I realized something that should have been completely obvious. The perfect kid food for a picnic at the park is, of course, PB&J. The kids happily munched away, wiping smears of peanut butter across their shirts. I sat my peanut-allergic daughter apart from the other kids for her lunch, a turkey and cheese sandwich.
“I don’t want to be that crazy allergy mom”
The other kids quickly finished lunch and went back to the playground. I watched as their peanut butter hands touched the playground equipment, toys and the other kids.
And I had no idea what to do.
I couldn’t let my daughter go back out to play, since she would have a reaction even from being touched with a little smear of peanut butter, but I didn’t want to be that crazy allergy mom who worries too much. Instead, I made an excuse and left early.
Don’t miss precious moments like this one: Emily and her youngest daughter.
Tips for safe play dates
Since then, I have learned a lot about having a child with a life-threatening allergy. Here are a few things I keep in mind when planning our play dates:
1. Speak up!
Don’t be afraid to let people know your child has an allergy, and don’t be afraid to request a peanut-free gathering. The more you talk about it, the more people will be aware and understand that it is a very serious issue. They might feel inconvenienced at first, but most people would rather be a little inconvenienced than be the reason a child has a severe reaction.
2. Be the host.
You have much more control over what food is in your own house and can make sure all the food is safe. If other people will be bringing food, be ready with a list of safe things they can bring. If people want to bring their own PB&J sandwiches, have them bring their own bread and provide plenty of SunButter for sandwiches that can be made there. We have done this so many times and have yet to have another child even notice they weren’t eating peanut butter!
3. Scare people.
Okay, not really, but don’t be afraid to emphasize the severity of the allergy. For those who have never dealt with a life-threatening allergy, it can be hard to know how serious it can be. It’s amazing how peoples’ attitudes can change once you teach them how to administer an Epi-Pen. Suddenly they become very diligent about what goes in your child’s
mouth at their houses.
4. As always, be prepared.
Have an Epi-Pen and/or whatever medications your child may need available and make sure that anyone you are leaving him or her with knows how to use the Epi-Pen and the medications, and has your emergency contact information.
Playdates should be fun, and 911 calls are not fun. I hope these tips help you have many safe, fun playdates for your kids!
Thanks, Emily. See you at the playground! Do you have additional tips for play dates with kids with food allergies? Comment here or on our Facebook