I recently attended the Kids with Food Allergies Family Fun Event at the Whole Foods in North Wales, Pennsylvania and I was so impressed with how responsible the kids I met there were with managing their food allergies.
This made me think about how important it is to train your little ones to manage their food allergies and related conditions. As a parent, you will always play an important role, but once your child goes off to school and picks up extracurricular activities you won’t be with them all the time. Plus, although some food allergies are outgrown, others are life-long conditions. For these children managing food allergies will always be a part of their lives.
Teaching Toddlers and Young Children About Food Allergies
The skills and information you give your child about her food allergies will depend on her age. Start out with the basics; providing too much information too soon will confuse young children.
- You have food allergies and some foods can make you sick.
- Do not EAT, TOUCH or SMELL ANY food until it has been approved by mom or dad (or a designated family member or caregiver).
- If you don’t feel well, or even just feel funny, let a grown up know right away.
- When in doubt, spit it out! (From ‘How to Mange your Child’s Life-Threatending Food Allergies, Practical Tips for Everyday Life’ by Linda Cross)
The best way to get through to a toddler or young child is to communicate with them in their language and on their level. Teach them through activities they enjoy!
- Binky Goes Nuts (part of the ‘Arthur’ book series)
- Kyle Dine’s educational CD, “You Must Be Nuts” (also on iTunes!)
- Food allergy crosswords and other puzzles
- Back To School Online Interactive Game
- Or, if you’re the creative type, make your own food allergy education games! For example, print out pictures of safe and unsafe foods and put them on flashcards. Then you can have your child go through the cards and identify which ones are safe and unsafe. Another idea is to make a variation on the game “Where’s Waldo” and play “Find The Allergen” with examples of ingredient lists.
Teaching Older Kids and Teenagers about Food Allergies:
For those of you with older kids and teens, below are some resources that may be helpful for you as you continue to educate them on food allergy management.
- Talking To Your Teen About Food Allergies
- Presentation on Food Allergies for Secondary School Kids
- Smartphone Apps: We don’t have to tell you that teens love their cell phones! Apps are a way for teens to manage their food allergies in a way that’s familiar and convenient for them! Here are just a few apps that showed up in a quick search. We haven’t tested them all out, and there are new apps every day, but they could be of interest:
How are you teaching your little ones about their food allergies? What tips or resources would you recommend for other parents?