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by Emily Funcik

Valentine’s Day can be such a fun holiday for kids to celebrate with friends and classmates. Let’s help keep it fun and safe for those children who have food allergies.  Here are 5 tips for keeping Valentine’s day safe and inclusive for our kids!

1. Communicate. Talk with your child’s teachers and/or room mom(s) about your child’s specific allergy needs. Have them send out a note to other parents alerting them of the allergens to avoid when sending Valentine’s treats. Because my son is allergic to milk, we’ve asked that his classmates send only non-chocolate treats for his class Valentine’s party. With his type of allergy, we feel fairly confident that avoiding chocolate treats alone will allow him to stay safe.

2. Use non-food treats. There are loads of fun little toys, arts and craft supplies, tattoos or other non-food items that kids will love in place of candy. This would be an especially helpful way to handle the holiday if your child has multiple food allergies.

3. Read labels. Be sure to check the label of any food or candy your child receives for his or her allergens. If your child can read, encourage them to do this before they eat any food-based treat.

4. Look out for homemade goodies. While homemade treats are a kind and generous contribution, items sent from someone’s home kitchen do pose a risk to kids with food allergies. Teachers and students may not know exactly what ingredients homemade foods have in them, and there is the risk of cross contamination with foods not made in an allergy-friendly environment. Some schools have started putting limits on homemade items allowed in the classroom. If your child’s school still allows homemade treats to be sent in, offer to send something yourself that you know will be appropriate for your child to eat. You could also ask that parents label foods really well or include a recipe or ingredient list.

5. Practice the language. Give your child phrases to use when asking about the ingredients of a food and politely but firmly refusing items that could cause a reaction. This empowers the child and also helps keep them safe.

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! Enjoy the ones you love!

Be sure to follow Emily’s blog here and check back with her next week for a yummy Valentine’s Day recipe,