Guest post by Suzy Brophy, preschool teacher and author.
Two years ago, I was blessed to have a little girl named Macy come into my classroom. Her mother requested a meeting before the beginning of the school year to discuss Macy’s food allergies with me.
To be frank, even after teaching for many years, I knew very little about food allergies and restrictions.
Macy’s mother, Mary Beth, patiently explained the complexity of her allergies. She explained that Macy has severe allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, sunflower seeds, and dairy products.
She described how her husband had recently come home from eating at a Chinese buffet and gave Macy a kiss on the cheek, which caused her to have an allergic reaction.
There was also a time after someone ate peanuts and then picked up Macy, causing her whole body to swell and break out in hives.
Even now, Macy can’t attend baseball games because the fresh cracked peanut dust may cause anaphylaxis.
To say I was a little nervous would be a HUGE understatement!
I teach 3-year-olds and love teaching in a very play based atmosphere. I have lots of sensory tables with acorns, nuts and corn for shucking. I also make my own playdoh and we perform many crafts using food items such as peanut butter on bagels rolled in birdseed.
My first reaction was, “What am I going to do?” and “How am I going to teach this class?”.
The panic was setting in and I needed to get a grip and figure it out.
I had to really start paying attention to ALL labels and if I had any doubts to make sure I double-checked with her mom.
I actually began to think OUTSIDE the box even more and tried new and different sensory bins and crafts.
All in all it didn’t change the way I teach.
Fortunately, our school was very proactive.
We became “peanut free” and enforced hand washing before entering the classrooms in the morning.
We distributed updated lists of safe snacks to our parents every couple of months to keep them in the loop.
We also no longer allowed outside food to be brought in for class birthdays and parties unless it was sealed and labeled.
One of my favorite crafts takes place in October when I have my children plant “MAGIC” pumpkin seeds around a big tree behind the school.
We return a few hours later to discover that with soil, water, sun and a little “MAGIC” they are full grown. The children excitedly take the pumpkins inside to paint.
Macy’s mom asked if I had ever heard of the Teal Pumpkin Project where you paint a pumpkin teal and set it outside on Halloween night with trinkets instead of candy for children to enjoy.
I had not heard of the concept but thought it was a wonderful idea and a great way to honor Macy as well as the other children with food allergies.
After my students mixed their paints to make teal, they painted their pumpkins and added LOTS OF GLITTER!!
I looked for a children’s book to share with the class explaining why we were painting the pumpkins teal and was unable to discover one.
That began my personal journey of writing Macy’s Teal Pumpkin, which is a book about a little girl who LOVES Halloween but can’t go trick-or-treating because of her food allergies. She visits her grandparent’s farm and discovers a way to go after all.
I believe that ALL children have a right to celebrate and enjoy holidays and that it’s important for both parents and teachers to find ways to make that happen.
Suzy Brophy has been a preschool teacher for the last 10 years and absolutely loves her profession. She and her husband will be celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary in December and have 15-year-old twins, Samantha & Chase.
Suzy published Macy’s Teal Pumpkin and has written an Easter book titled, Macy’s Teal Easter Egg to be published in Spring 2018 and intends to write a series of books based on little Macy.
This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. If you make a purchase through the link, FoodASC will earn a small percentage commission which helps keep the site free for users. Thank you for your support.
Donna DeCosta, Founder FoodASC.com
On Facebook? Join our supportive and inspiring FoodASC Inner Circle FB Group!
New to FoodASC?
Don’t miss out on future articles! Join us today!