Planning and communication are the keys to a successful childcare partnership if your little one has a food allergy.
The first day of nursery or child care can be an anxious time for parents; after all, there's a lot to consider and arrange to make sure everything goes smoothly. Add a food allergy to the mix, and it’s easy to see how it can all seem quite daunting!
The good news is that with a bit of careful planning, it doesn’t have to be so hard. Here are some useful tips to help make this new start easier for everyone.
Before the first day
It's a good idea to meet with your new childminder/s to tell them about your child’s allergy. This allows both you and them to ask any questions you might have.
You may want to ask:
- Are the staff/childminders trained in dealing with allergies (and/or using adrenaline if needed)?
- Who is in charge of what your child will be eating, and can changes be made to this if needed?
- Can you provide your child with foods from home? Do other children bring in foods from home (which might contain allergens)?
- Do the children handle food as part of play or learning? If so, how can this be kept safe for your child?
- If your child needs to go to hospital, do they have a procedure to follow, and what is it?
You also may want to provide the nursery or childminder with some information about your child and their allergy so that they can prepare. This might include:
- A photo of your child so that it can be put with their medical records; if your child is attending a large nursery, this will help make sure staff can put a face to the name and avoid mixups.
- Details of what symptoms your child might show if he or she is exposed to an allergen, and instructions on how to deal with these symptoms, including what medication should be given (if needed).
- Up-to-date contact information in case of an emergency.
The first day – and thereafter
Try not to be too nervous; nearly all nurseries and childminders will have had previous experience caring for children with food allergies, and they will know what to do.
It may help to take along a list of foods/drinks your child can and can’t eat, and hand this to the childminder or kitchen staff so that you can be sure they know what to avoid. If the nursery has a weekly meal plan, you may be able to look through it and see if the recipes can be easily adapted. If not, it may be easier for you to bring in food from home, if this is allowed.
If you are allowed to bring in food from home, try to keep this as varied and interesting as possible, so that your child doesn’t feel tempted to share someone else's snack!
Staying in touch
It's worth keeping in touch regularly with your child's main carer, so that they can let you know about any contact with an allergen, and you can let them know about any medication or changes in your child's symptoms. With good planning, there's no reason for a food allergy to keep your child from enjoying all the new and exciting experiences child care has to offer!