The one thing the parents of a celiac or gluten intolerant kid fear is the invitation to a PARTY. Celebrations are almost always associated with food. Party food is often full of gluten and can be especially tricky to navigate during the festivities.
Not going to a party for the fear of food is excluding your kids and making them feel left out. Remember birthdays are about fun, games, and interacting with others; not just food.
Here are some tips to prepare for parties and make them stress free for you and the child
The center of any birthday: THE CAKE
It’s not surprising to see children crowd around the table eyeing the cake and waiting to sing and dig in. It is heartbreaking to see your child there and know they cannot have any of the beautiful cake.
But hang on! It’s all about being prepared with an equally amazing alternate, carry along a gluten-free cup cake or a slice of your child’s favorite gluten-free cake. Bake an extra batch of treats to keep in the freezer – if you don’t have time to bake or forgot about the party you can grab one from the freezer in a hurry.
Make it look extra special by adding nice frosting and sprinkle with chocolate chips or rainbow sprinkles! Bring along an extra one to share too sometimes other kids aren’t any wiser and the gluten-free option looks better than the cake.
Food, food everywhere and not a crumb to eat
Eating even just one gluten containing crumb can be dangerous to your celiac child. Don’t take a hungry child for a party. The hungrier the child the more attractive the food looks and harder to say no. Feed your child a good meal before arriving for a party so the attention from food is mediated.
Have a chat with the host
If you know the host well enough, ask what will be on the menu. Knowing what will be served makes it easier to bring gluten-free alternatives along. Once you’ve brought the food try to be discreet about serving it to your child, let him be involved and serve him/her his meal along with his friends.
Pitch in at the party
Try not to be accommodated. Nice hosts may ask about food restrictions or preferences and offer to provide allergen free food. Keep in mind that it is overwhelming to coordinate a party for small children, let alone prepare special food for a single child.
Do not expect the hosts to be aware of all the cross contamination hot spots that you know. Offer to stay and help out at the party.
The host is often appreciative of an extra set of hands to keep the party running smoothly. This will give you a chance to oversee your child’s food and be aware of any potential cross contamination issues.
Bring your own meal
Do not expect a outside party venue to provide allergen free food for your child. Bring a meal along for your child to eat.
Speak discreetly to the management at the venue to let them know your child has serious food allergies and they will have their own food. Most party venues do not want to deal with the inconvenience or liability of an ill child and will be agreeable to you providing food.
Work with school staff
School birthday celebrations often leave the kids feeling left out, there will be times you will not have advance notice to a birthday being celebrated. If possible get a birthday list from school and keep a track of upcoming birthdays.
Keep special birthday cupcakes in the freezer in the nurse’s office for when there is an unexpected celebration. In there is not freezer available, ask the teacher to keep shelf stable special treats for you. Provide the teacher with a ziplock bag of your child’s favorite lollies. Small packs of M&Ms or Skittles are a nice treat that store well.
Birthdays occasionally fall on a weekend so it’s a good idea to check when it’s being celebrated so your child feels a part of every possible celebration.
Trust your child’s good judgement
As children get older, there will me more parties that you are not invited to join. Teach your child to make safe choices for when you’re not physically present at the party. Learning how to politely decline food and ask for an alternative is an important social step in the upbringing of a celiac child.
It’s your child’s birthday…a celebration is on the way!
Cake is not a requirement at a party! There are so many other options that are easily gluten-free. Make your own ice-cream sundaes are always a big hit. You are in charge of toppings and can make sure they are all gluten-free.
Brownies are another treat that are just as good gluten-free. Brownie mix can be baked into baking papers and frosted to look just like cupcakes.
Not all children have a sophisticated palate to appreciate a good gluten-free cake. Save the gluten-free cake for your family celebration where everyone will enjoy a slice.
Don’t forget to have fun
Kids need to have fun, socialize and interact. Birthdays are a great way of doing so. Don’t let the fear of food keep you or your child from all the fun!
About the Author
A teacher by profession and passion Pooja has a newfound love for writing. When not researching on gluten-free products across the island you can find her indulging in a good book with a coffee!