School parties and celebrations can be lots of fun but often involve food. If your child has food allergies, check out these tips to keep the fun and avoid food allergy reactions.
1. Partner with your child’s teacher before the party.
A few weeks before the party, contact your child’s teacher to find out how you can help make the party more allergy friendly. Sometimes teachers rely on room parents to help plan parties. Be sure to talk to the room parent too if needed. Here are some questions you can ask:
- Will food be provided for all the children (such as cupcakes, candy, chips, etc.)?
- Will the children be exchanging any gifts or cards that may have candy or treats attached?
- Will the teacher notify other parents and guardians about food allergy concerns?
- Will the teacher remind the children not to share food?
- Can you support the teacher by volunteering during the party or providing resources about food allergies from Kids with Food Allergies (KFA)?
If your child has a 504 plan that outlines how the school will handle your child’s food allergy during parties, this might be a good time to review it with your child’s teacher.
2. Make sure there are safe foods for your child.
Talk with the teacher or person in charge of the party in advance to find out what type of food will be at the party. If you can’t be sure that the food provided will be safe, send similar food for your child. This can sometimes cause confusion with younger kids who don’t understand why a classmate has different food. Talk to your child about how to handle questions from other students or parents.
KFA’s Allergy-Friendly Foods Collection is a great starting point when looking for packaged treats and candies free from the top allergens.
3. Encourage non-food treats.
Celebrations don’t always call for food! Non-food treats can be just as fun and are inclusive for children with all types of diet restrictions. They are healthier too. Kids love items like stickers, pencils, and other trinkets. Download KFA’s Non-Food Rewards at School handout and share it with your child’s teacher.
4. Recommend non-food activities.
When the kids are having fun, they probably won’t miss the food.
Instead of eating, kids can do fun activities in line with the theme of the party. Here are some ideas:
- Allow children to design and create handmade cards for classmates, teachers, and family using construction paper, paper doilies, glue, stickers, and other craft materials.
- Make paper flowers from tissue paper and pipe cleaners.
- Make a paper garland for the classroom.
- Allow children to decorate a mailbox or paper bag to use to collect their cards or treats.
- Have the class work together to decorate a bulletin board or the room door.
- Create origami shapes.
- Make friendship bracelets for classmates to share.
- Make little critters from pom-poms, felt, pipe cleaners, and googly-eyes.
- Host a poetry or story reading.
- Have children bring in games, puzzles, LEGOs, and other activities from home to share in small groups or simply use classroom games.
- Do Mad Libs, crossword puzzles, math problems, word searches, and writing prompts to go with the party theme.
5. Remind your child of age-appropriate food allergy management skills.
Remind your child not to eat anything if they don’t know if it is safe. Tell your child to check with you or a trusted adult about whether or not they can eat a certain food. Remind them not to share food.
You could also make an agreement with your child that they will not open candies or cards until you can check them together to see what is safe. Have some fun things to swap for anything that is not safe to eat.
How do you handle school parties and food allergies? Join our community to share your advice and talk with other families managing food allergies.