Childcare Centres: A Guide for Parents
Teachers and Child Care workers: Please see our Educators Resources page.
- It is natural to have concerns when your child is starting childcare. Becoming informed will help you to keep your child safe.
- Food Allergy Canada has many resources to help your family make the transition to childcare.
Food Allergy Canada’s Newly Diagnosed Support Centre has a wealth of information to help you in educating your child’s teachers and care providers – as well as how to be safe at events like birthday parties and sleepovers.
Food Allergy Canada has a downloadable Anaphylaxis Emergency Plan that you can share with the childcare centre, which includes your child’s name, photograph, and specific allergy or allergies. It should be posted at the childcare or school, where everyone can see it.
Talking to Childcare Workers
Before you choose a childcare centre, arrange a meeting with the childcare centre or centres to discuss your child’s food allergies. Talking to childcare workers about your child’s food allergies is a balancing act. You will need to get the seriousness of the allergies across to them, ensuring that they understand. You will also need to let them know that you’re a partner, willing to help and educate along the way.
Some questions to ask, before your child starts childcare:
- Is the staff trained how to use an auto-injector such as EpiPen®? Do they understand that it is important to use it promptly in an emergency?
- Do the staff understand the signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis?
- What is the childcare centre’s policy around food? What foods are served and how is food prepared? What rules do they have about food allergies (such as rules against sharing food)?
Allergy Aware in Childcare
There are a number of strategies to help keep your child safe. Many are covered in depth in our Newly Diagnosed Support Centre’s section on Childcare. Here are some basics:
- Create an Anaphylaxis Emergency Plan for your child and share it with the childcare centre.
- Discuss the plan and practice using the auto-injector with the staff. (training devices can be ordered from epipen.ca).
- Arrange to meet with the staff well before the year starts. Choose a day and time where things are quiet at the childcare centre and you can have their full attention.
- Talk with staff about preventing reactions in a childcare setting. See our Resources for Educators page for more information.
- Teach your young child to tell an adult if they are not feeling well, using words they understand.
A Note on Food Preparation
Childcare centres and schools where food is prepared must take special precautions in the kitchen and in the serving of food. Some things to look for when choosing a child care centre:
- Do staff ensure that children have washed hands before and after eating? Is there a policy about this?
- Do they keep foods that do not contain a child’s allergens away from those that do (for example, a special shelf in the cupboard and refrigerator)?
- Do they clean surfaces before and after eating?
- Will they prepare allergen-free food before food that contains your child’s allergens, and set your child’s dish aside, covered, to prevent cross-contamination?
- Does the centre take proper precautions in serving food, such as using separate serving utensils?
Staff should understand how to read labels, to ensure that your child is not exposed to his or her allergens. Ask them to read the label and do The Triple Check:
- At the store or with the supplier when purchasing the food
- When they return to the centre and put the food on the shelf
- Once again before preparing and serving the food.
In your initial meetings with the childcare centre, discuss what to do in an emergency. Make sure that staff understand the signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis, and how to respond. Bring an auto-injector training device with you and let each staffer practice using it. If there are staff that cannot be present at your initial meeting (for example, if it is just the Director present), arrange a follow-up meeting to go over the details of your child’s Emergency Anaphylaxis Plan and other information with all staff.
Auto-injector training devices can be ordered free from EpiPen®.
Involve Your Child
Young children attending school or childcare for the first time may benefit from meeting with the teacher and visiting the classroom before school is in session, to familiarize with the new setting. While they should not be expected to understand or manage their allergies on their own, your child can be taught some basic rules, such as:
- Wash their hands before and after eating.
- Only eat food that is approved by a trusted adult (or only food from home, if applicable).
- Use dishware, utensils (spoons, forks, etc.), cups and bottles meant for them. They should not share with others.