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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Can the Cupcake or Tips for Sending Treats to School


My Son's Allergy Bracelet
It's that time again, and so the topic of sweets and schools is in the forefront. With allergies and sensitivities at an all time high, many parents do not realize that sending a treat to school can lead to disappointments and tears for a growing number of children (or worse). Who can blame these parents for wanting to send something special for a class party or a birthday? Food is one of those things that has been the center of a community for countless generations.

Switch Witch
Disappointment is something that children with allergies/sensitivities and/or food preferences are just going to have to learn at an early age. As adults we can understand fully what happens when we eat something that we should not, however, children have a real hard time understanding this especially from the ages of 3-7 when being like your peers is a daily goal. Protecting our children from disappointment is easier when they are not in daycare/preschool/school as we control the environment and/or we can distract and/or we can be prepared in advance.  For example, being the "switch witch" at Halloween you can take all the candies that your kids cannot eat and leave a toy in its place, or you can take your children to venues that have goodies that they *can* eat. It is only when the child is asked to do this self-policing that things can get a bit trickier…

As a parent with a child with food challenges here are some ideas to make the early years a bit more manageable:

Can't get any simpler than that. 
1.) Ask the teacher for a list of all the birthdays in the class. Make sure that when they land that your child has a substitute (frozen treat that they can eat) already at the school or send with the child in his/her lunch.
2.) Ask the teacher for a list of all the food sensitivities/allergies and preferences and then sign up to bring a treat and make sure that it does not have any of the trouble foods in it. Tell the other parents so that they know and are aware of the food challenges in class.
3.) Get shirtspins, bracelets or labels to go on your children’s school items so that all the parents/teachers that see your child will know that they have food challenges. With more education comes more change.
4.) Get involved in your child’s parent council. Especially if your child has a severe allergy. Peanuts are not the only food that can kill a child, and again education is key.
5.) Consider doing a presentation or have a coffee meeting with the parents to let them know that having a heads up when they want to bring treats is preferable… sometimes parents will just keep kids from home, it  can be simpler that way.

As a parent of a child who does not have any food challenges.

Leave the Cupcakes at home.
1.) Try not to send baked goods. As much fun as it is to have the whole class celebrate with your child, baked goods are one of the most common things that all children can not eat. There will always be one child who must miss out. If it is the child with diabetes, the vegan child or the child with a dairy, egg or gluten allergy; one of them will be disappointed when everyone else gets to share in the celebration and they can not.
2.) If you really want to send baked goods, ask the teacher for a list of all the food challenges that are in the class and try to accommodate. The children may not be able to eat it anyway, with all of your efforts as cross-contamination is really easy to happen when baking, and most parents will not let their child take that risk.
Little Tree Crayons
3.) Send stickers, pencils or homemade crayons as a way to celebrate. This way the celebration can last longer than eating a cupcake in 5 seconds flat!! (and I bet the kids will treasure it more!)
4.) Make your child an extra special birthday lunch with their favourite foods. You could also make a themed lunch. Just typing into google-bento lunch and your child's favourite thing can give you a whole host of ideas to try. It will also make your child feel really special – and isn’t that the point entirely?
5.) Save the cupcake for home or the birthday party. A lot of it comes down to the parents of the other children not knowing that a treat is coming so that they can prepare accordingly. If you save the treats for the party the other parents can warn their child or have a substitute.
6.) Send fruit or vegetables. Childhood obesity is on the rise and many children do not get the proper servings of fruits and veggies needed for optimal growth, a celebration day is a great way to get them into children.

We don’t have to take food completely out of celebrations to make everyone happy, but we can choose other things to make it a more inclusionary practice. There are many different ways that we can dress up good allergen free foods to make them fun too. It just takes a little more creativity and some time…time you have when you are not icing 24 cupcakes. 

It's even Vegetarian!

2 comments:

Heather said...

dairy is a struggle for us too. Awesome post!

Alisha Brignall said...

Thanks Heather. This is something we have been struggling with for years.

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