Whether the child of honor or guests at your party face allergies, a little planning can go a long way toward creating a safe and fun event for everyone.
With the number of food allergies in children on the rise, it is worthwhile to consider asking guests to include allergy information when they respond to an invitation. Having a little extra time to plan and prepare a party to suited to a guest with allergies will be appreciated by parents and kids alike. It will also give you an opportunity to discuss the specific allergy with the parent and have a conversation about what accommodations will be helpful.
Once you are aware of an allergy, it does not necessarily mean that you need to eliminate that particular item from the entire gathering. Clear labeling will help mark foods that should be avoided, and highlight which treats can be enjoyed. To ease the concerns of parents of children with allergies, having very simply assembled treats may be a good solution. Sliced fruit that can be scooped into sugar cones or eaten with whipped topping, a crudité platter with vegetables cut into fun shapes, and party-themed kabobs are all simple dishes where all components are easily seen. The idea is to avoid potentially hidden ingredients.
Provide wipes and encourage children to wipe their hands often. Be careful to serve foods that include any allergens on a separate table or area, to reduce the possibility of serving spoons being used for multiple dishes or and to prevent food from being accidentally dropped into a second dish. In fact, this is a great opportunity to use creative, cute packaging to individually wrap and serve sandwiches, salads, and other dishes. Labeling cups and even plates with pictures, photos or names so that even young guests remember which is theirs can be helpful too.
Save recipes, packages and labels for parents who may want to inspect the details of a food item that you’re serving at your party. FAAN has a great database of recipes where you can screen out dishes based on specific allergies (http://www.foodallergy.org/recipes). Another idea is to serve all food at the beginning of the party and offer parents of kids with allergies the option to arrive at a specific time when they know that the coast will be clear of any edible items.
Consider eliminating food items from a piñata and from the favor bag. Our last column has lots of great ideas for creating favors without using food. Piñatas can be created using some of those same ideas, or by including bags of confetti for children to toss, bouncing balls, beads or stickers.
Even when you’ve done your best to create a party that is allergy-friendly, some parents may still prefer to bring their own treats from home for their child to eat. Inviting parents to stay may make them more comfortable, and if the parent does stay, it may be wise for the host to avoid offering food directly to the child at all, leaving it for the parent to manage. If a parent is dropping off an older child with a serious food allergy, ask them to leave a list of instructions, signs to watch for, and steps to take if allergy symptoms do emerge. Make sure they leave any medications used to treat an allergy with you, such as an antihistamine or epinephrine pen.
Keeping kids with allergies safe at a party requires planning, communication, and above all, assuming nothing. In the end, it is up to the parent and child to ensure the child’s safety, but using these tips can go a long way toward helping everyone relax and have fun.
Ask The Party Planner is a biweekly blog written by Laura Floyd, owner of Laura Floyd Events, LLC (www.LauraFloydEvents.com).