Allergy-Friendly Play Dates

Play dates can be very stressful for parents of children with food allergies.  However, just like adults (maybe even more so), young children need social interaction with their peers. Often this takes place in the form of play dates.

The toddler and preschooler age group presents a unique challenge in that they often do not fully understand the gravity of having a life-threatening food allergy and they love to explore using all of their senses. It isn’t uncommon for children in this age bracket to put objects in their mouth as soon as they have them in their hands. Generally speaking, the younger the child is, the more controlled the environment needs to be.  With that in mind, you might consider keeping play dates completely free from your child’s allergens. While I am not a huge proponent of “blanket” food bans in general, I think you always have to look at each individual situation and circumstance when creating a safe environment for children with food allergies.

For this population, and especially in this situation, keeping your child’s allergens out of the picture makes absolute sense. My daughter had her first anaphylactic reaction at 1 year-old when she found a miniature peanut butter cup and put it in her mouth (wrapper and all). Little kids are pros at finding things and putting them in their mouths. Don’t let that deter you from letting them explore their environment and interacting with their friends, though.

Here are some tips for a safe (and less worrisome) play date:

  • Make sure the other parents are aware of your child’s allergies. Don’t forget to mention common toys and crafts that might contain your child’s allergens (paints, play-do, latex balloons, egg cartons, etc.).
  • Train parents on the signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction and when and how to use epinephrine, particularly if you won’t be present at the play date.
  • If food is involved, make sure you know what everyone is planning to feed their child. Provide your child with a safe snack. You might even offer to provide something for the other children to lessen the chance of cross contact. It’s perfectly fine to keep the play date food-free.
  • Discuss the risk of cross-contact with the other children’s parents, especially if food is involved.
  • Offer to provide clean toys and a safe place to play to reduce the risk of an allergic reaction. Bring a few of your child’s favorite toys, meet at your favorite park, or host the play date at your own home.
  • Practice frequent hand-washing with soap and water. You can also carry hand-wipes just in case your play date takes you some place where sinks are not easily accessible.

The most important thing is to keep the lines of communication open and inform your child’s parents about how they can help you create a safe and care-free environment for everyone.

I would love to hear your thoughts and what’s worked for you. Please feel free to share your comments below.


About Tiffany deSilva

Hi I'm Tiffany deSilva, MSW, CPC, CHC, Founder of BrightFire Living, LLC. I am a social worker, speaker, author, certified health, wellness and lifestyle coach, certified green living coach and toxic-free consultant. I am passionate about helping women like you to detox each area of your life, safeguard your family's health, and live life fully charged and completely lit up! I am on a mission to empower women and families who are managing food allergies, autoimmune disorders, and other modern chronic health conditions to live a safe, happy, and healthy life that truly lights your fire!

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