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May 2018

Food Allergy Awareness In Child Care Settings


  1. Milk, egg, and peanut account for the vast majority of allergic reactions in young children
  2. A child with a peanut-allergic sibling has a 7% risk of also having a peanut allergy 

Food allergies are becoming increasingly common in young children, affecting an estimated 6-8% of children less than 3 years of age. 

Allergy awareness is a powerful tool: when individuals involved in allergy management are appropriately informed and trained, we can reduce the risk of potentially life-threatening reactions in children.  

As part of this risk reduction, child care providers and educators can begin to teach children to be their own advocates so that they can help keep themselves safe. As they grow up, children with food allergies must learn how to safely navigate a table of food. Using age-appropriate methods to explain food allergies and the risks is so important when developing this awareness and understanding. 

Here are some ideas to get you started:

Keep it simple! All children can be taught certain basic rules related to managing food allergies. 

  • Teach them to…
  1. Wash their hands well before and after eating. Singing ‘Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star’ helps to wash for a full 20 seconds.
  2. Use only the dishes, utensils, and cups that are meant for them. 
  3. Eat only the foods that have been provided to them by a trusted adult. 

These rules overlap with general hygiene & safety practices!

Get older children more involved!

  • Encourage them to…
  1. Practice asking what is in their food.
  2. Recite which restricted foods they are looking out for so that it becomes second nature to them.
  3. Talk about their food allergy with their friends. Remove any stigma or embarrassment and support learning!

Reassure children that they should always feel comfortable to tell an adult if they might have accidentally eaten something they are allergic to, or if they are feeling sick or different than usual, as these may be signs of an allergic reaction. They should know that while they are learning to keep themselves safe, you are always there to support and care for them.

Helpful Resources:

  • Print allergy booklets suitable for preschool aged children from 
  • Download program materials from Food Allergy Canada’s food allergy awareness challenge for school aged children
  • Print classroom resources from Food Allergy Canada
  • Download an asthma and allergy activity booklet from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America

At Food for Tots, our goal is to put your minds at ease by taking the stress out of allergy management. We are managing over 90 food allergies and restrictions to ensure that all children can dig into our Healthylicious food every day!

For more detailed information about our food, please refer to our allergy guides, which are updated each menu cycle.

Author: Melissa Frankel, Registered Dietitian