28 Apr 2016
Allergens in the classroom: where to find them and how to get rid of them
Posted: 28 Apr 2016
You might not think that creative play could be hazardous, but allergens lurk in weird places. And while your child's teacher might be vigilant at lunch/break/snack time, their allergen radar might not be switched on during lessons.
So as part of Allergy Awareness Week (25th April - 1st May), I'm raising awareness about allergens found in everyday classroom activities. It's all part of my mission to make schools a safer environment and inclusive for children with allergies. I've highlighted some craft activities above which are known to involve allergens (see images) and I've included a few others below. To help, I've also created a fact sheet of the common classroom allergens and safe alternatives listed in one handy sheet, so you can print it off and give it to your child's teacher.
Classroom culprit 1: Lentils / beans / peas
Sandpits are for sand, right? Hmmm. I once saw a sandpit play table filled with red lentils instead of sand. It was certainly a first for me, maybe the teacher thought lentils would make less mess? But those less-messy lentils are part of the legume family and can trigger an allergic reaction (children allergic to peanut may also be allergic to other legumes). Swap with: It's worth clarifying with the nursery staff/teacher that they'll be sticking with sand.
Legumes can also crop up in other classroom activities. 'Make-your-own' musical 'shakers'/mini bean bags/hacky sacks are sometimes filled with beans, and peas. Swap with: buttons, beads, pebbles.
And making creative collages by gluing dried pasta, peas, beans, and lentils to sheets of paper. Swap with: buttons, beads, fabric, tissue paper, card.
Classroom culprit 2: Potting soil
Kids love to grow stuff. But some potting soils have been known to use tree-nut shells and peanut shells to aerate the soil. Not so good for kids with nut allergies. Swap with: a brand that uses polystyrene balls instead.
Classroom culprit 3: Junk modelling
Pinterest boards are peppered with making monsters out of egg boxes, and cars from milk cartons. But while teachers may ban toilet rolls for junk modelling (for hygiene reasons), they might miss the yoghurt pot or cereal box that someone's brought in with crumbs or sticky residue still left on it. Swap with: non-food containers or ensure the item is washed thoroughly with soap and hot water.
Classroom culprit 4: Playdough
It's a classroom staple, but often loaded with wheat flour. And although there are many recipes out there for gluten-free playdough - yes, I've even whipped up one myself - most (including mine) don't offer that bright, intensity of colour. Until now that is… Swap with: Skwooski who make bright, stretchy, wheat and gluten free playdough and it's currently on Groupon at half price. Bonus.
Classroom culprit 5: Hand soap
The craft activity is over and all good teachers encourage kids to wash their hands. But those soaps could contain milk, nut oils or wheat. Always check the label and (sorry for the blatantly obvious option) Swap with: brands that don't contain allergens.
Hunting for a good supplier of allergy friendly craft materials? Brian Clegg have a large range of arts and crafts products, and are able to supply schools.
If you'd like to know more about my food allergy workshop for schools. Click on the link to find out more and you can also watch a short video of the workshop in action.
Finally, do you live in Bristol, Edinburgh or Birmingham?
If so, there's an opportunity I'll be able to come to your school to teach the Allergy Adventures' Workshop for free. If you'd like to find out more, email me with your school address and name of the best person to contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hope you've found this list useful.
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