Children’s parties

Learn how to navigate play dates, parties, and other activities for children with food allergy.

Play dates, parties & other activities

Social activities are important for your child’s happiness and self-esteem. Your child will be around other kids and adults at play dates, birthday parties and other activities. Other families may not understand what practices to follow to keep your child safe or how serious an allergic reaction can be.

You can take steps to make sure your child is not left out because of their food allergies. The key is to plan ahead by informing your host and letting your child know what to expect. With your help, you will find that others are often willing to support your child.

Call the host several days before a play date or party

  • Ask what food will be served and whether an adult will be supervising meal and snack times. Offer to send along a safe meal and treat for your child if needed. Freeze snacks, such as cookies, for parties. They are easy to defrost when you need them.
  • If the host is responsible for preparing food for your child, ask them if they know how to ensure the food is free of your child’s allergens. If they are unsure and willing to learn, take the time to teach them. See the avoiding cross-contamination page.
  • If you are leaving your child in the care of others, give the host your child’s auto-injector and emergency plan, and be sure that they know how to use them. Set up a time to teach them or another adult who will be present at the event how to recognize an allergic reaction, use your child’s auto-injector, and contact emergency services. Find a time when you have the host’s full attention (the day of a party will likely be too busy), and use an auto-injector training device to help them learn and build their comfort level.
  • Provide your host with your contact information and ask them to contact you if they have questions or in case of an emergency.
  • If you sense that the host is not comfortable being responsible for your child, offer to stay at the party with your child. Do not force this responsibility upon them. Gradually, other parents will start to feel more confident about caring for your child. Give them time.

Teaching children

  • Include your child in preparations for social activities. This way, they will understand what rules they must follow and the reasons why. When kids are included in planning, they will feel more confident and be more likely to follow the rules.
  • Let your child make some decisions, which will help them feel more in control. For example, ask them if they prefer to take cookies or a cupcake to the party. Birthday cake has many common food allergens and is often unsafe for kids with food allergies. Remind your child to only eat foods that you have approved, whether it is food that you have bought or made or food prepared by the host.
  • Prepare your child so they understand that they may not be able to eat what other children are eating. Keep them focused on what they can do and can have. For example, they may not be able to eat all of the food being served at a party, or have treats from loot or goody bags but they will have fun with their friends!
  • For activities where a large group is eating together, involve your child in thinking about which solution is the best one for them. For example, your child can eat before attending a team celebration, bring their own food or choose safe food items at the event with your help.