Play Date Prep!

Gina Clowes is the founder of We would like to thank her for guest blogging for us and sharing her family’s allergy story.

Moms or no moms? That is the question. Chances are if moms are invited, your child is a little tyke. If so, it’s okay to be protective and you’re less likely to be labeled neurotic when you want to wipe off toys or remove bowls of HoneyNut Cheerios from the play area.

Socializing equals food so when your little one gets invited to a play date, you can count on snacks, drinks and possibly some anxiety on your part. Let’s look at some of the variables and how you can make your child’s next outing a safe one.

Consider calling the hostess ahead of time to ask if you can bring the snack so that your child will be safe. Bring a safe, labeled sippy cup for your child and lots of wet wipes.

Sending your child on a play date without you can be more of a challenge so here are some points to consider before leaving your child in someone else’s care.

Who will care for your child and does the parent “get it?” When you explain the vigilance required to keep your little one safe, do they seem receptive?

What will the children eat? Until you are 100% certain the caregiver can safely prepare foods for your child, bring your own treat and have enough to share. Learning about label reading and cross contamination issues can take awhile. Don’t risk it when you’re not available.

One boy was given a “safe” frozen ice pop at a play date. Within minutes he started to react even though the ingredients on the box indicated the treats were safe. The boy needed an injection of epinephrine to stop the reaction. He later learned that the hostess stashed a few remaining dairy treats into the ice pop box to save space in the freezer. She had completely forgotten about it when she offered the ice pops to the dairy allergic child.

Where will they play? Survey the environment carefully through your “allergy-colored” glasses. Do they have pets? Pet food can contain allergens. There are now peanut butter filled dog treats. Are there babies or toddlers who will have sippy cups, bottles or snacks with foods to which your child would react?

When will they play? Schedule the play date so that you don’t have to coordinate a whole meal. Keep in mind that Valentines Day, Easter, Halloween and Christmas time are all celebrated with an abundance of candy.

How do I train caregivers? Caregivers need to be given an overview of food allergies, your child’s Food Allergy Action Plan, his/her medications and safe snacks. You will need to go over the Food Allergy Action Plan in detail and train the adult on administering epinephrine. Make sure to bring it every time and let your child know that this is part of the routine.

As your child gets older, more of these responsibilities will be passed along to her. For now, remind him or her to eat only what you have provided, and to let the caregiver know right away if she feels sick.

Why am I doing all of this? It may seem like more work than planning a wedding yet your child’s social and emotional development is as important as her safety. Our challenge is to balance the need for safety with the need for a “normal” life. Stay positive and you’ll find friends and family who will go the extra mile to take care of your child.

Sometimes we’re pleasantly surprised at friends, relatives and even strangers who become our closest and dearest friends because they rise to the challenge of learning about food allergies and how to help us to protect our kids.

— Gina Clowes

Published: 09/09/2008
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