The Allergy-Parent’s Play Date Checklist

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Planning play dates for a child with food allergies can feel overwhelming, especially if you’re not prepared. The idea of sending your child to another home to be cared for by people that may not understand food allergies can be a scary concept, but it doesn’t have to be.

Simply follow this checklist and you’ll be sure to have everything covered so that your child can enjoy a fun and memorable allergy-friendly play date with their friends.

1. Communication

  • Inform your host as soon as possible about your child’s food allergy, the severity and whether your child carries an Epipen. An email with the details is great, but it’s important to follow up with a phone call so that you are sure they received the message and there are no misunderstandings.
  • If appropriate, offer to stay at the play date with your child to alleviate any anxiety the host (or you) may have.
  • Ensure that the host knows what the signs of an allergic reaction are, and tell them what they need to do in case of an emergency. This may require training the host on how to use an epinephrine auto-injector.
  • If you are not staying with your child, provide your contact information and make sure to keep your ringer on and phone close by for the duration of the play date.

2. Snacks

  • Provide a safe snack list. Be specific and suggest safe brands and stores where they can find the items.
  • Ask if the host is planning to bake or cook food to serve, and if so, discuss cross-contamination risks and provide tips on allergy-friendly cooking.
  • Make things easy for your host and send an allergy-friendly snack that everyone can enjoy

3. Activities

  • Find out details about the activities your host has planned for the play date and make sure that they don’t involve allergens. Some craft supplies can contain allergens, like tempera paint containing eggs and paste containing wheat.
  • Make sure to tell your host about any activities they need to avoid that might contain allergens in case they decide to introduce an unplanned activity at the last minute. For example, if your child has a wheat allergy, you need to remind the host that Play Doh contains wheat, as most people don’t know this.

4. Prepare your child

Make sure your child knows what to expect at the play date. Discuss the following concepts with them and come to an agreement about how each needs to be handled

  • what they can and can’t eat or drink
  • washing hands before and after eating
  • what to do if they have an allergic reaction

5. Scan

Upon arrival, it’s important to inspect the play area, kitchen and dining room. Look for potential hazards and remove them, like a forgotten bowl of nuts or candy wrappers left on a table.

A thorough scan of the house will give you a good idea as to whether you can confidently leave your child at the play date on their own, or if you should ask the host if you can stay. Always follow your instincts, and if you have any doubts, it’s always best to air on the side of caution.