Did you know that 32 million + Americans manage life-threatening food allergies? Or that two children in every classroom manage a food allergy? With the rate of food allergies in the US exponentially increasing each year, it’s essential that we create safe, inclusive spaces for all. If your child doesn’t have food allergies, one of their little friends likely does. Hosting an awesome allergy-friendly birthday party doesn’t have to be a challenge, but it does require some thought. Things like location, food, and activities must be planned intentionally to ensure everyone is safe and has fun!
Turning five years old is a big deal, and we wanted to show Emory how special it was by throwing her a fun party. We invited her entire class and her family to celebrate with her this past weekend.
Planning an allergy-friendly gathering takes a lot of thought and effort. We don’t have the luxury of simply reserving a time at our local indoor play facility or trampoline park. We intentionally sought out places that checked all of our allergy-safe boxes; honestly, there weren’t many.
Over these past five years, I have realized how important it is to think differently. The ability to pivot at a second’s notice to ensure our child’s safety has become our superpower. If you should be looking for guidance or suggestions on hosting an allergy-friendly birthday party that’s fun, check out these tips.
Five Tips for Hosting an Allergy-Friendly Birthday Party
Party Venue & Theme
Party location and theme are possibly two of the most critical part of any celebration. For us, the theme party was a no-brainer. Emory is in love with all things slime. So our initial party planning research led toward a STEM-themed party.
I decided it best to find a venue with a flexible catering policy. One that did not offer catering (no kitchen onsite) or a place that allows you to bring in your own food without forcing you to purchase something from one of their packages. We stumbled across Mad Science Houston and instantly knew it was the place for us. They have no kitchen, provided no food (with the exception of their cotton candy-making experiment), and the kids got to make their own little personal cups of slime!
Time of Day
Hosting a party for small children around peak eating hours like lunch or dinner time is a big no-no. If you are hosting an allergy-friendly birthday party, avoid these times at all costs. Aim for mid-afternoon or “snack time,” as we call it, in our home. Usually, around 2 pm is when our kiddos are looking for something to snack on.
Keeping party guests engaged is key. Any parent will tell you that the not skipping nap time is essential.
My children require naps to be successful. Lol
I was bouncing ideas off of my mother about where to host Emory’s party and shared that catering was one of my biggest challenges. Most places couldn’t guarantee that there would be no cross-contamination in the kitchen. I specifically remember her suggesting that I simply order something different for Emory and allow the other children to eat something from the provided menu! My response was, “Absolutely, not.”
Everyone at Emory’s party will only consume the items she can eat.
We lined our snack tables with her favorite snack-sized sweet treats, chips, cupcakes, and sensory toys. One of the science experiments was all about cotton candy. So, in addition to the snacks we provided, all of our guests could over-indulge in huge, fluffy, pink clouds of spun sugar.
Gifting is another very important element when hosting an allergy-friendly birthday party, as we are very particular about the gifts our child receives. We allowed her to curate her own Amazon Birthday Wish List. If you’ve never used this Amazon feature, I definitely recommend you look into it. It makes gifting a breeze. Emory simply picked out as many items as she wanted, and we added the link to her birthday party invitations.
In addition to her party guests, we sent invites to out-of-town family members who inquired about what she wanted for her birthday. Most, if not all, of Emory’s personally selected gifts, arrived right at our doorstep. We removed all the guesswork for our guests while ensuring Emory received what she wanted and needed.
I pride myself on my ability to overcommunicate. I tend to lean into that ability when it comes to hosting events. Managing guest expectations is another key element when hosting allergy-friendly gatherings, mainly because they’re different. Not better, or worse, just different.
On the back of Emory’s birthday invitations (yes, I printed and mailed formal, hard copy invitations. Turing five is a big deal!) I added all that the guests were to expect. All details were included, from the types of snacks and gifts to the time the kids needed to be there to participate in the science activities. I also communicated these details via text to all that RSVP’d the week before as a means to confirm those details.
Emory’s guests arrived on time, appropriately dressed, and were ready to snack, play, and learn! I try to create spaces that I would want to be in myself. We had so much fun, and not once did I worry about Emory coming in contact with an allergen. Watching her dance, laugh, and carelessly snack with her friends was the best gift of all.