I have many fond memories of play dates with my friends as a young child. But as a child with Type 1 Diabetes, my mother had to be prepared when dropping me off at a friend’s house to play. Before the playtime fun could begin, she would always have informative discussions with the family to ensure they were comfortable and understood my condition.
First, my mom had to make sure that my friends’ parents understood what I could or couldn’t eat - in those days, sweets of any kind were a big no-no for Type 1 diabetics. My mom also had to educate the family on what to do if I became hypoglycemic, a scenario that could quickly become serious if not managed quickly.
Play dates are also often a challenge for families of children with food allergies and related conditions. Today we are going to share some of our favorite tips to help parents and caregivers with food allergy kiddos plan an allergy-safe play date. Keep in mind these tips can be used for both older and younger children.
Make play date cards. A play date card is a card you give to the adult in charge of a play date with important information. There are tons of choices of templates for play date cards on the market.
For children with allergies or related conditions, the play date card will be a lot like one you might give to a babysitter or the staff at a restaurant - an allergy card. Here's one mom's blog in which she shares ideas for allergy play date cards. These cards are ideal for documenting your child's dietary and medical needs. We really think the host will appreciate this!
Bring your own snacks (for the whole gang). Create your own allergen-free snacks so that your little one and their play date guests can all enjoy snack time together. Here you can find some allergen safe recipes to look through. Or a quick online search will come up with many options from experience allergy parents, too! We think the host will also really appreciate this. They have enough to do watching multiple children, much less come up with a snack that works for everyone!
Create a caregiver book. Prepare a three-ring binder with all of your child's food allergy and medical information. Having this information all in one place will make it easy to find in an emergency.You should consider including:
- a list of food allergens and ingredients to avoid
- a list of contacts in case of an emergency
- instructions for your child's epinephrine auto-injector
- medication schedules
allergy-friendly recipes, etc.
Consider inviting parents, too. For very young children who aren't used to being away from mom or dad, and even for older kids making their first visit to another family’s home, consider making play dates a family affair. Invite the other parent (or caregiver) to join you for coffee and chat while the kids play.
Many kids need to work up to the "drop-off" play date, and many parents are wary of leaving their children in the home of someone they don't know very well. Having a parents-too play date the first time will give you time to speak with the other parent, get to know them better, and educate them on your little ones’ food allergies and related conditions.
Communication is the most important part in ensuring that your child’s play dates are both safe and fun. The best thing to do may be to ask the host in advance 'What do you need from me?'
What do you do to prepare for your child’s play dates? What tips can you share with other parents?