According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, "food used in lesson plans for math or science, crafts, and cooking classes may need to be substituted depending on the allergies of the students".
Below is a list of some unexpected places you can encounter common food allergens, along with alternatives and precautions that can be used. Please note that this is not an exhaustive list; it is a general guide only and is not inclusive of every potential food allergen. Please verify all ingredients yourself by contacting the manufacturers as ingredients may change.
|Activity/Materials ||Allergen(s) ||Potentially Safe Alternatives and |
|Play-Doh® (commercial or wheat-based homemade)||Wheat ||Crayola® Model Magic® |
Modeling clay (NOT modeling dough)
Wheat-free, gluten-free dough from www.lakeshorelearning.com
Homemade rice- or buckwheat-based play dough
Other sensory materials such as goop, slime, and ooblick
Use a safe homemade playdough or ooblick:
- Rice playdough (free recipe)
- Cornstarch playdough (requires membership)
- Edible playdough (requires membership)
- Ooblick recipe: 1 1/2 cups corn starch, 1 cup water, food color (optional). Mix the ingredients together; as children play with the mixture it will be solid when they squeeze it and liquid when they release it.
|Macaroni art (wheat) ||Wheat, egg ||Rice macaroni |
|Counting/sorting beans, grains, pasta, M&Ms® or other small foods ||Potentially all ||Counting/sorting foam, wood or plastic beads, or other small non-food items. Read ingredient labels to choose food items with safe ingredients. |
|Sensory tables that use grains, pasta, candies or other small foods ||Potentially all ||Use non-food items or read ingredients to choose food items with safe ingredients |
|Tempera paint (homemade and some very high-end commercial) ||Egg ||Commercial finger paint Crayola® Kids Paint |
Most commercial paints suitable for children
|Finger paint ||Pudding finger paint may contain milk. Laundry soap or laundry starch mixed in with finger paints to make them thicker. Laundry starch may contain corn, laundry soap may contain allergens. ||Read ingredients to find milk-free finger paints. Laundry starch or soap can be omitted if avoiding corn. Read ingredients to find a safe laundry soap. |
|Crayons ||May contain soy ||Read ingredients to find soy-free crayons |
|Crayola® Wonder ||Soy ||Use a non-soy based ink |
|Craft paste ||May contain wheat starch ||Elmer's® Glue sticks |
Read labels to determine if wheat starch is present.
|Shaving cream ||May contain milk ||Read ingredients to find a milk free shaving cream |
|Ooblick, oobleck, goop, slime ||May contain corn ||Create mixture using tapioca starch instead of corn starch, or read ingredients to find a safe version |
|Bird feeders ||Peanut butter |
Wheat in birdseed mix
Nut oils in seed mix
|Consider making a hummingbird or butterfly feeder instead, using sugar, water and food coloring. |
Use soy nut butter or sunflower butter
Regular Crisco ® (contains soy oil) or other safe hard shortening
Seeds or seed mix without wheat seeds or nut oils
|Planting seeds ||Legume seeds (such as beans, peas or peanut) |
Egg shells or egg containers that are sometimes used as "pots" to germinate seeds
|Any other seeds |
Use other safe pots to grow seeds
|Baking projects ||Potentially all ||You can share lots of safe recipes and request to participate in any baking activities. |
|Paper mache (Papier-mâché) ||Wheat ||Elmer's ® glue solution |
Buckwheat flour solution
|Birthday and holiday celebrations ||Potentially all ||Non-food celebration (songs, goodie bags, stickers) |
You can provide safe cake or cupcakes for the class.
|Making butter ||Dairy ||None |
|Making maracas or shakers ||Some legumes ||Fill maracas or shakers with rice, popcorn, or sand. |
|Projects using empty egg cartons, milk cartons, yogurt containers, etc. ||Egg |
|You can provide safe empty containers for the class. |
One place to purchase new egg cartons is www.eggcartons.com
|Hand-washing (teachers and children) ||Soaps, liquid soaps, hand wipes, diaper wipes and hand lotion may contain many allergens including wheat, dairy, soy and/or nut extracts including shea nut. |
Cloth towels may contain food residue.
|Read soap, liquid soap, wipe and lotion labels to determine if allergens are present and choose a safe brand. |
Use paper towels to dry hands.
Use safe wipes to clean hands.
|Musical instruments ||Allergens will be present on mouth-blown musical instruments. ||Remove mouth-blown musical instruments from classroom. |
Provide a designated set of mouth-blown instruments for your child's use only.
|Play kitchen ||Empty "real" egg cartons, cereal boxes, etc. will contain allergens. ||If used, you can provide safe "real" containers to replace allergenic ones. |
Originally published August 2007. Updated August 2008.