I admit, avoiding peanut-containing products is not something I think about personally on a day to day basis. I must eat gluten-free and was dairy- and soy-free while breastfeeding our oldest, but peanuts have thankfully never been a key food for concern with our family.
As we all get back into the swing of the school year though, peanut-free foods naturally get pushed to the forefront of all our minds (and rightfully so).
With an estimated 1 in 200 kids having a peanut-allergy (according to Kids with Food Allergies), we are seeing more and more peanut allergies in the average classroom. More so, each of us are meeting families whose lives are impacted by keeping their child with food allergies free from harm in a variety of environments. Although school is an obvious place for us all to start, there are other ways we can continue to extend our support to these families by establishing peanut-free environments and allergen-safe activities.
That’s why my friend Ashley, over at the Littles and Me, and I want to highlight how you can host an allergen-friendly play date with peanut-free snacks!
Any of us with young kids know that play dates are the social gatherings that spur young friendships and create community around our kids.
We want these for ALL kids, don’t we?
Whether you are a parent of a kid with food allergies or not, I know all of our answers are emphatically “yes!”
Play dates should be an undeniable rite of passage for our kids and one we as parents work hard to protect – even if that means going peanut-free.
That’s why this post is going to go outside of the classroom to consider how else we can support kids with food allergies. Imagine a fellow peanut-free parent’s peace of mind if their kid could enjoy a playdate “just like everyone else” – free from fear over an anaphylactic occurrence.
Let’s make that happen together, as families supporting families with food allergies.
In this post, we will highlight what are the best peanut-free foods to offer, how to take proper precautions to ensure a peanut-free environment, and how to talk to your kids about food allergies and their friends.
Although these suggestions can be added inspiration for peanut-free lunchbox ideas as well, here is what you need to know specifically about hosting a peanut-free play date.
A special thanks to my peanut-free mom friend, Beth over at Days with Grey, for her taking the time to review and give firsthand feedback on this post! She shares another valuable post on peanut-free parties here.
How to pick peanut-free foods to offer at play dates
Want to find your own peanut-free snack ideas for a play date? Follow these tips when shopping for safe, peanut-free snack foods. Children’s allergies can vary in severity but the following five steps can help ensure the proper steps are taken to eliminate peanut-containing and/or cross-contaminated products.
- Always check the ingredients list and product label for peanuts. Don't assume because a food doesn't naturally contain peanuts that it isn't cross-contaminated through manufacturing. Check for the statement “Contains: Peanuts” beneath the list of ingredients. This is required by the federal Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA).
- Look for an advisory statement. This may include a statement that reads, “may contain peanut” or “made in a facility with peanut.” While these are voluntary, it is good to avoid any item that may contain traces of peanuts when planning your peanut-free playdate.
- Contact the manufacturer. As stated on SnackSafely.com, "due to flaws in US labeling rules, it is impossible to tell whether a product is safe from the label alone." For this reason, it is best to check the company’s website or call the company’s customer service to see if the food item is manufactured in a peanut-free facility any time you are in doubt. Sometimes, one item in a product line is safely “peanut-free” and another item from the same company is not; so when in doubt, reach out to the company to clarify.
- Use peanut-free resources. Still feeling unsure about safe peanut-free snack ideas? Consider downloading a free, peanut-free guide like this one for a list of peanut-free food options that is updated often.
- Stay up to date. A product’s peanut-free status can change frequently, so never assume an item that was peanut-free still is. Check labels, call the manufacturer, ask the child’s parent, or use a reference guide to keep up with which items are safe to offer.
Looking for tried and true peanut-free favorites to offer at play dates? Here are 12 of our favorite go-to's!
- Bitsy's Brain Food Smart Crackers and Cookies
- Stonyfield Whole Milk Squeezers (serve frozen for an extra fun treat!)
- Pirate’s Booty
- Skinny Pop
- Sargento cheese stick
- Late July Organic Multigrain Tortilla Chips
- Mary's Gone Crackers Original
- Partake cookies
- Made Good Granola Bars
- Any of the items from EnjoyLife
- Bananas (fruits with peels are preferred!)
- Oranges (fruits with peels are preferred!)
How to take proper precautions to ensure a peanut-free environment[
- Thoroughly clean all equipment. If preparing any foods at home, be sure to thoroughly wash and clean ALL equipment from cross-contamination, including items like knives, cutting boards, and counter tops. When in doubt, avoid using kitchen appliances that are harder to clean like toasters, blenders, or other items that may have been used previously with peanut-containing foods.
- Plan ahead. If you know you have a peanut-free play date on the calendar soon, try to avoid offering peanut-free items in the days preceding. This helps to lessen the chances of cross-contamination while giving you plenty of chances to clean counter tops, booster seats, kids tables and chairs prior to the play date.
- Communicate openly. Parents of children with food allergies tend to be among the most educated resources out there on establishing safe and peanut-free environments, so show your support by seeking out their input on anything you have questions about. Nothing reassures a parent (whose child is peanut-free) more about the upcoming play date than you showing you care and concern to keep everything as safe as possible.
How to talk to your kids about food allergies:
- First, educate yourself more on peanut allergies by learning more at Kids with Food Allergies.
- Practice how to talk with your kids about food allergies with sample ideas here.
- Show your child this episode of Daniel Tiger on food allergies.
- For older kids, consider this lesson plan from Arthur’s “Binky Goes Nuts: Understanding Peanut Allergies” for a fun and interactive way to engage your kids in allergy education.
- Talk with the family beforehand to let them share about their food allergy in a welcomed, warm environment.
Time to (safely) Snack & Play!
With "safe snacks" and manufacturing practices constantly changing, this is something that requires our ongoing attention to. By partnering with our children's friend's families and food companies, however, we can establish a safer environment for children with food allergies.
For more ways to make this an extra-special allergen-friendly play date
Be sure to hop on over to Ashley's allergen-friendly play dough pack at theLittlesandme.com.