Join me in welcoming Kathy Thornburg from Food Allergy Jams. Kathy has one of my favorite Instagram accounts and also did the design work on my logo! Today she is presenting a Food Allergy Game for Preschoolers in our Teaching Kids to Be a Food Allergy Advocates Series. Check out her Food Allergy Printable Pack too!
My son was 15 months old when he had his first bite of peanut butter and his first allergic reaction. At such a young age and still staying at home with me, I felt like we had plenty of time to learn about food allergies and teach him everything he would need to know before he was old enough for school.
The years have flown by and now we are faced with the reality that preschool is less than a month away. I feel confident that in our years living with food allergies, our family is very knowledgeable about our son’s allergies, how to keep him safe, and what to do if a reaction happens. Still the thought of dropping him off at preschool and leaving him there for a few hours makes me nervous. Have we taught our son well? Does he understand why he needs to say no to foods that might not be safe? Will I get the dreaded call sometime this year that something went wrong and he is headed to the hospital?
Now is the time to quiz my little one and see how we’ve done. I need to take this time before school starts to refresh him on all he needs to know, and I need to find a way to make learning fun.
10 things I want him to know…
I am allergic to peanuts, walnuts, and dogs.
I should not eat foods containing my allergens (or pet furry animals).
If I accidentally eat my allergens, I will get sick (if I pet animals with fur, my eyes will get itchy, water, and start to swell).
If I feel sick, I need to tell an adult right away.
I need to always have my injector near.
If my mom or dad haven’t approved a snack, I need to say, “No thank you”.
I wear my allergy bracelet to help others remember my needs.
I should wash my hands with soap and water before eating.
I should not eat food from anyone else’s plate, even if they offer it to me.
Mom will always pack me a safe snack in case I need it.
After thinking through what I wanted him to know about his allergies, I needed to find a way to make teaching him fun. Here’s how I tackled preschool prep.
Food Allergy Game for Preschoolers
When I told my little guy we were going to play a game to get him ready for preschool, he was very excited to get started. I told him he could invite one of his stuffed animals to join us, and he quickly ran to find Curious George. I already had my questions typed, printed, cut apart, and waiting in a little treasure box (you can “laminate” with packing tape and use dry erase markers to make your cards last longer). I also had his allergy bracelet and his AuviQ training injector nearby to help during times of discussion. Half of the questions in the treasure box where about food allergies and covered each of the areas listed above and the other half were just silly, light questions.
My son and his stuffed animal took turns picking questions out of the box and answering them. After each question, I wrote a little note of his answer on the question card so I could look through his responses again later when I had time to myself to process the game and compare his answers to his previous answers. Over time, this helps you see how your child has grown in their understanding of food allergies.
It’s best if your child doesn’t sense they are being tested, but that you truly are playing a game and enjoying time together. You might find that only tackling half of your questions in one sitting works best so you don’t feel rushed and stressed to get through them all quickly. If at any point, your child gets frustrated or upset, end the game and tell them how proud you are of all they have learned. You can pick it up again later when the mood is better.
Sometimes, a child may not feel comfortable giving an answer, and you may need to step in and say that you want to help the stuffed animal answer the question. Then, they have the opportunity to hear your great answer and the next time you play, they may feel like they are ready to give an answer on their own. I’ve learned from experience that games like this are best done when you can be one on one. Having a lot of commotion going on in the background or a little sibling trying to swipe the game cards, can make the game more difficult.
If it starts to feel a little stale after a while, but you still don’t think your child is ready, take a different approach and consider acting out scenarios together. Have them practice packing a bag for school, sitting down for snack time, using an injector (with the trainer!) during a reaction, and saying, “No thank you”, when a friend offers food.
Hopefully, this simple game will help spark great discussions between you and your child before the new school year starts. Don’t forget…you also need to be sure your child’s teachers understand all of these same things and more (although you probably need to teach it in a slightly different way to an adult). Have fun learning and stay safe starting a new school year!
I am Kathy Thornburg, stay at home mom, food allergy blogger, and freelance graphic designer. I live in Ohio with my husband and my two littles (ages 3 1/2 and 1 1/2). It is my passion to stay current in the world of food allergies, teach my family what they need to know to stay safe, and to encourage others living the food allergy life along the way. Both of my children have eczema. My son also has asthma and allergies to peanuts, walnuts, and dogs. He has outgrown allergies to wheat and eggs. We hope you will follow our food allergy journey on ourblog and on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. We love to post recipes, reviews, giveaways, and pictures of our fun meals and crafts.