Earlier I talked about how difficult it will be when my 5 y/o daughter begins Kindergarten…Children often play with such fun stuff at that age— gluing arts and crafts, molding clay, making Masterpieces with finger paint. It’s already difficult to teach my child that many foods contain gluten and she needs to avoid them– cupcakes, candy, pretzels, crackers, etc. These are fun foods that are often used in classroom parties. It’s not uncommon for children to share their lunches with their classmates. Now, to add the fun activities to the equation, being a child with Celiac Disease can be depressing!
Fortunately, my child is very aware of the consequences after consuming gluten. The experience is so painful that she very much tries to avoid gluten. She has become her own advocate. It also helps to have a big sister who also understands the consequences of what happens to her little sister. Her big sis, Meg, has also become a great watchful eye and advocate.
Talking to both children about what contains gluten is so important and just as important is educating them that there are always alternatives to items that do contain gluten. For example, Kait said to me once, “Mommy, you know who is Sweet and who is Sassy?” (referring to her and her sister). She explained, “Meg is Sweet and I am Sassy, because Sweet has gluten.” When she said this, I knew she was understanding, to an extent, what contains gluten. I thought this was rather an informed observation for only 5 years of age.
I’ve talked about the challenges at summer camp. I’ve since provided gf gummy worms so that she can enjoy with the rest of her camp buddies. Today, however, Kait was given some juice (Of course, it still troubles me that the camp is continuing to provide my child with food despite my pleads not to do so!). Being cautious, she approached her sister, Meg, with the juice and asked her to check to see if it has gluten. Another suggestion from a parent of children with Celiacs- review the food labels and ingredients with the children and identify ingredients or labels that suggest gluten or gluten free. Since Meg can read, she was able to tell her sister that the juice did not contain any gluten ingredients.
When Kait enters Kindergarten this Fall, she will not be able to have her sister with her to look out for gluten-laden items. I need to provide some protection for my child (hence the 504 plan), but I know there will be instances that the potential of exposure will be there. So, what do I do?
I’ve discussed before that being aware of classroom parties ahead of time is important. I can provide comparable GF foods without Kait feeling isolated. I need to continue educating my child and reminding her that her best bet is to only eat what mommy provides. For any temptation from friends in the lunch room, she will learn the hard way.
What about the playful fun in the classroom? Using Cheerios for counting lessons, play-doh for fine motor skills, etc. Counting manipulates do not need to be a food item, so informing the teacher of this is a simple solution. Also, there are gf glues out there— Elmer’s glue is known to be gf. So, providing gf glue and ensuring that she is the only one who touches it (important note there, “only one”— very easy for cross-contamination with little hands!). There is GF “play-doh”, or modeling clay. There are at least two brands that I’m aware are gf– Aroma Dough and Colorations. You can also make your own gf modeling dough. Here’s a simple recipe:
- 1/2 cup rice flour
- 1/2 cup corn starch (or arrowroot)
- 1/2 cup salt
- 2 tsp cream of tarter
- 1 cup water
- 1 tsp cooking oil
- Food coloring, if desired
We may be making our own “Play-Doh” since my Kait loves cooking in the kitchen!! If we make it, I’m sure it will be yellow (Kait’s favorite color)!