I had the honor of speaking to the delightful children at Elena’s preschool yesterday for food allergy awareness week. The kids were excited and energetic and they participated in every aspect of the presentation. What a blessing to be able to interact with this age group. By this I mean, thank goodness they were not middle schoolers.
These kids were so smart and fun. One of them even got my goat when I asked who knew what hives are. He answered confidently, “They are where bees live.” Talk about smart. I had to concede that he was indeed correct, but there is at least one more meaning to the word. I also loved it when one kiddo told me he was allergic to all yucky food. Well played, little one.
We began by talking about what allergies are and what kinds of things people can be allergic to. The kids came up with quite a list, including cats, dogs, pollen, bees, grass, poison ivy, smoke, and of course, germs. We talked about what can happen if someone eats a food they are allergic to, which of course spurred a discussion about not eating dogs and cats if you are allergic. Seriously, if you haven’t ever held audience with a group of preschoolers, you are missing out on something special.
We read ‘Cody The Allergic Cow’, which opened up to conversation about medical alert bracelets and Epipens, both of which Cody has. The book is absolutely perfect for this age group and there are others in the series, which I will be getting my hands on soon.
One thing I found interesting was the kids response to the idea of talking about allergies with their allergic friends. When I held up the bracelet, they were very interested. I asked what they could do if they saw a bracelet like this on a friend. Should they maybe ask their friend about it? Both groups I spoke to said, “NOOOOOOO”. I’m not sure if they thought it would be rude or unkind, but the initial response was that they should not talk about it. I let them know it was OK to talk about it and that they should always ask questions if they are wondering about a food allergy. I asked the children who had announced they have allergies if they would mind their friends asking questions and, of course, they said they would not mind. What better way to learn how to help out your friends than to ask them what is safe and unsafe for them? I hope that giving them “permission” to talk about it will open up the doors for better understanding. Although, I must say, these kids were pretty well informed already.
Next we played a little game of, find the hidden allergen. The allergens I chose were not so well hidden, but keep in mind the age group. I held up groups of three foods and the kids identified each food. The sweet potato and rice cakes gave them the most trouble. Then I asked them, which of these foods is hiding milk/nuts/wheat/etc. They did really well with this and it was fun to see them so engaged.
Since all of the allergies in the school are within the top 8, I was able to do a little taste test. We talked about safe alternatives to common foods. Just because your friend can’t eat your “bread”, does not mean they can’t eat any “bread”. I showed them a bag of Enjoy Life chocolate chips and told them they are made with food allergies in mind to be safe for people with certain allergies. Then they each tasted a few and I asked them if they tasted the same as the ones they are used to eating or different. Most said the same and a few said different, but they all wanted more.
I left them with a mission for the day. Each of their teachers got a stack of helping hands. I challenged each student to earn a helping hand by doing something to help keep their classroom safe for friends with food allergies. Together, we came up with this list of things they could do…
-Wash hands after eating.
-Keep food in food areas.
-Clean up food areas after eating.
-Never share food.
-Do not touch other people’s food.
and my favorite…
-Don’t feed your friend something they’re allergic to.
I hope they all earned their helping hands. I enjoyed the talks so much and the enthusiasm of these wonderful students is infectious. A great big thank you to CIC Preschool for letting me share this important information with them and for keeping our children safe every single day.