We all know just how fast the prevalence of allergies amongst our children is rising, it seems every family I know has a child (or an adult) that is “something” intolerant! From kids going into full blown anaphylaxis from a nut allergy to parents choosing to omit food groups for health and behaviour benefits, knowing your guests dietary needs is both medically responsible and respectful when planning your child’s birthday party. So what is the easiest, stress-free way to cater for kids with allergies at your next kids event? Here are some tips to help out the hostess!
When writing out your invites, ask all parents to let you know immediately of any food allergies you need to be aware of, and just how allergic their child is. There is a big difference between anaphylaxis and simply needing to stay away from a certain dish/colour/additive. Most parents will not expect you to cater to their child’s allergies or intolerances, but it is always nice to provide alternatives so these kids don’t miss out.
Expand Your Repertoire
If you have gluten/dairy/egg/nut etc-intolerant guests, be prepared and do some research. There are heaps of resources and recipes online to adapt existing party favourites.
Be aware when packing lolly bags.
Many parents these days are opting for less lollies and more of the party favours, so maybe keep this theme with all the bags and choose appropriate lollies and treats for those with allergies.
Now some hosts are happy to go for egg and dairy free cakes, they are just as yummy and most people cant taste the difference. Another option is to make (or buy) a birthday cake and provide smaller, allergy-free cupcakes for those who cannot eat the cake. Or maybe try a cupcake tower, with different coloured patty pans for the allergy-free? This way the kids don’t notice the difference. A lot of parents opt for a professional to make their child’s birthday cake: these people usually can offer fantastic allergy-free alternatives.
Before your guests arrive, place some labels on or near the dishes. Parents will appreciate this little extra effort and allows them to see what each dish contains (or does not contain). This also saves you from having to hover near the food table explaining the different choices.
Hand wash and wipes
It is a nice idea to provide wipes or easy access to hand washing facilities for all kids, especially if you have some kids that react to nuts or other foods when touched by a child who has handled or eaten them.
During The Party
Your earlier preparations should have allowed you to have plenty of options for your guests with allergies. Chances are most older children will know what they can and cannot eat and will steer clear of these food items. Younger children usually have their parents still with them to supervise and can monitor what their children choose from the table and what other children may give them. Don’t be offended if the parents bring their own foods, or choose not to allow their child to eat yours, old habits die hard and the severity of their child’s reactions will dictate just how much they allow them to eat.
Parents of kids with allergies and intolerances will usually wish to stay at the party. Given their lists of allergies and reactions, this is mostly a relief, and an extra pair of hands is always helpful. Make sure you let these parents know they are more than welcome to stay, and maybe even ask if they would like to help out by taking photos or running party games.
Food allergies and intolerances don’t need to dictate how you cater for your party; a little extra precaution and preparation can make the day fun, safe and delicious for ALL of your party guests.