It's never too early to teach your children about their food allergies. Understanding and managing food allergies are essential life skills that kids need to learn about and constantly practice, in the same way they learn their alphabet or how to look both ways before crossing the street. Food allergies should not be kept a secret or whispered about. It's a fact of life for our children, and we must equip them appropriately.
While food allergies are a very serious topic, it's important to make learning about them a fun and interactive process so that the kids feel comfortable asking questions and talking about their allergies. Here are some ideas on how to introduce food allergies to a child in a fun and playful way.
My toddler loves puzzles and sorting games, so I created a game for us to play together that could help him learn which foods are safe for him to eat. It's a simple concept that can easily be tailored to suit your family's needs.
I created a series of flash cards with pictures of different recognizable foods and made three color-coded labeled bins: green for "Safe," red for "Do Not Eat - Food Allergy," and yellow for "Ask Questions." The game is pretty basic and the rules change each time we play. When I hold up a card, I ask him to name the food and place the card into one of the categories. Some foods are obvious, like bananas, apples, cheese and fish. The cards that would belong to the yellow "Ask Questions" category show images of things like a glass of chocolate "milk" where he would be required to verify whether it was cow's milk or soy or rice. On days where he needs more movement to keep his attention I add an activity layer to the game. For example, every time he gets the answer right, he earns the right to throw a green, red or yellow ball or pom pom into the bin (like basketball) or zoom a green, red or yellow car down a ramp. The possibilities are endless.
Role playing is a fun way to prepare your child to manage different situations independently. A friend of mine role plays restaurant scenes with her child. She pretends to be a server at a restaurant and her child with multiple food allergies practices telling the server about his allergies, orders his food and asks all of the relevant questions.
Music is great way to teach your child about anything, because it is entertaining and repetitive. Although the food allergy genre is not very popular, there are a some excellent children's songs that teach important lessons about allergies, including:
- Kyle Dine: He is a great musician, performer and children's educator. We always have one of the his CD's playing in our car, and it has wonderful songs that help kids feel confident about their food allergies.
- Ooey, Ooey, Ooey Allergies! by The Wiggles
- The Allergy Song, by Recess
The following allergy themed books for children have been highly recommended to me by other moms:
- The Bugabees: Friends With Food Allergies covers the top eight allergens and has books for allergic children, as well as books for siblings and friends.
- Cody the Allergic Cow: A Children's Story of Milk Allergies, by Nicole Smith
- The No Biggie Bunch
- The Peanut Pickle: A Story About Peanut Allergy, by Jessica Jacobs
- The Peanut-Free Café, by Gloria Koster
If you have other ideas that you've used with your child, please share them in the comments below.
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