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  • Writer's pictureGayle Rigione, Allergy Force

A School Craft Becomes Food Allergy-friendly Holiday Fun

(Updated December 2023)


Being the allergy family in a school is a balancing act – while you cannot ever compromise your child’s safety, you don’t want to isolate them from sharing fun with friends, and you don’t want to dampen their classmate’s fun, either. The middle ground is there. Sometimes you just have to look for it. And if you can’t find it, then you create it.


Find out how one food allergy mom made a holiday craft at school allergy-friendly and inclusive for her small son.

Three decorated gingerbread houses with gingerbread man and Christmas tree cookies. Image by Dario Mingarelli on Unsplash.

While I would have preferred my son with food allergies' Kindergarten classroom in 2003 to be food free, I was realist enough to know that would be an uphill battle that I could not take on at the time. We were brand new to town and to the school; we needed to settle in, find our footing, find our community.


Timid? Possibly.


Pragmatic? Definitely.


Food Allergies at School


Even with a 504 Plan in place, I was plagued with uncertainties about the care and management of my son's food allergies at school, especially since he had multiple allergies (to eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, peas and shrimp):


Did I explain everything clearly enough to his teacher?

  • Would his teacher make sure he only ate the food he brought from home for snack and lunch?

  • Would she give me the promised heads-up on class parties so I could send in a special {safe} treat?

  • Would she be able to the connect the food allergy dots when planning crafts for the class?

  • Would his teacher recognize signs of an allergic reaction?

  • Was the school nurse someone I could trust to be there when it mattered most?

  • When he set off for school, would he be safe? Be ok?

To quell my anxiety, I became a dedicated volunteer, always raising my hand to help with class projects. While we'd gotten through pre-school craft 'boot camp' unscathed, I quickly learned that similarly, elementary school...


Crafts Can Also be a Food Allergy Minefield


In December, his Kindergarten teacher planned a special craft to celebrate the holidays – decorating mini ‘gingerbread’ houses made from graham crackers. I spoke to the teacher about the project and my concerns — from the graham crackers, to the candy decorations, to the frosting ‘snow’ used as ‘glue’ for the decorations. The project had potential to be a food allergy minefield for my little guy.


Not wanting to be that mom, but needing to protect my son, what to do?


I made his teacher my ally to make the project work {i.e., safe & inclusive} for my son and I volunteered time and donated materials to make the project fun for everyone.

  • I raised my hand to assemble the houses for the classroom ahead of time, working with another mom. We used graham crackers that were safe for my son.

  • When parents were asked to donate candy for the decorations, they were asked avoid candy with peanuts or tree nuts. I also donated generously — all vetted candies that would be safe for my son.

  • When parent volunteers made the frosting ‘snow’ in the classroom, chock full of egg whites, I was there, cans of safe frosting in my bag for my son.

  • My son was specially seated on the end of a row, safely distanced from flying frosting, BUT still in the mix.

  • When it came to choosing candy decorations, I helped my son pick from the safe candies I'd donated, with plenty leftover for his classmates' creations.

  • I hovered in his vicinity, watchful, helping him and his classmates when they needed help.

The kids could hardly wait to decorate their little houses with colored sugars, licorice ropes, candy canes, peppermint drops, chocolate kisses, gumdrops and frosting ‘snow’.


The tweaks we made to make the project possible for my son?


My son didn’t notice. No one else noticed, either. They were all too intent on creating their gingerbread house masterpieces.


Spring of holly with pine and red berries. Image from WIX Media.


“The middle ground is there. If you can’t find it, then you create it.”

—Gayle Rigione, Co-founder of Allergy Force


 
gayle-rigione-CEO-allergy-force-informal-outside-headshot

About the Author: Gayle Rigione is CEO and Co-founder of Allergy Force, the food allergy app. She’s also an allergy mom. She’s lived the heart stopping moments when her son ate the wrong thing, second guessed reactions and raced to the ER. These experiences inspire her to create tools and resources for people with food allergies that make life safer, easier. Whatever you do, do it with a full heart. Audentes Fortuna Iuvat


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Images: Dario Mingarelli on Unsplash and WIX Media

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