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Food Allergy Resources

Potential Food Allergens in Preschool and School Activities

May 2013

Unexpected sources of allergens in school

Food used in lesson plans may need to be substituted depending on student food allergies

child painting

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.”¹


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.

Download a copy of this table

Potential Food Allergens in Preschool and School Activities and Crafts





Potentially Safe Alternatives and Appropriate Precautions



(commercial or





- Modeling clay (NOT modeling dough)

- Moon Sand or Moon Dough

- Homemade rice- or buckwheat-based play dough

- Other sensory materials such as goop, slime, and ooblick

- Use a homemade playdough or ooblick that is safe for your child: (see recipes, p. 5)

  • Cornstarch playdough
  • Edible playdough
  • Rice playdough

- 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

- Quinoa macaroni

- Corn macaroni

Counting/sorting beans, grains, pasta, M&Ms® or other small




Potentially all

- Read ingredient labels to choose food items with safe ingredients.  Be sure to read ingredients and also be aware that different size packages can have different ingredients or cross contact issues.


Sensory tables that use grains, pasta, candies or other small


Potentially all

- Use non-food items or read ingredients to choose food items with safe ingredients


Tempera paint


and some very high-end



- 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.

- Elmer’s finger paints contain wheat and oat

- 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.




May contain soy

- Read ingredients to find soy-free crayons


Crayola® Wonder



- Use a non-soy based ink

Craft paste

May contain wheat



- 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 and palm oil) or other safe hard shortening

- Honey

- Seeds or seed mix without wheat seeds or nut oils


Planting seeds

- Legume seeds (such as beans, peas or peanut)

- Corn kernels

- Egg shells or egg containers that are sometimes used as “pots” to germinate seeds

- Nut shells

- Any other seeds

- Use other safe pots to grow seeds

- Use potting soil free of nut shells and soy (check ingredients)


Potting Soil

- Nut shells, soy

- Use other safe potting soil


Baking projects

Potentially all

- You can share lots of safe recipes and request to participate in any baking activities.


Paper mache


- Elmer’s® glue solution

- Buckwheat flour solution

Birthday and holiday



Potentially all

- Non-food celebration (songs, goodie bags, stickers)

- You can provide safe cake or cupcakes for the class.


Making butter




Making maracas or shakers


Some legumes

- Fill maracas or shakers with rice, popcorn, or sand.


Projects using empty egg cartons, milk cartons, beverage cartons, yogurt containers, food jars, etc.


Potentially all


- You can provide safe empty containers for the class. One place to purchase new egg cartons is



(teachers and



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



- 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.


Dustless Chalk


- Dry Erasers or Smartboards


Musical instruments

Allergens may 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, milk cartons, cereal boxes,  baby food jars, etc. will contain allergens.


- If used, you can provide safe “real” containers to replace allergenic ones.




Rice Play Dough



1 1/4  cups  rice flour

1/2  cup  salt

2  tsp  cream of tartar

1  cup  water

1  Tbsp  oil

1/4  tsp  vanilla extract

Food coloring or sparkles (optional)



Mix flour, salt, and cream of tartar in a large pot. Add water and oil.


Cook over medium heat until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the pan (about 5 minutes), stirring constantly.


Add vanilla extract (for smell, not taste). Mix thoroughly. Put play dough on a clean surface. When cool enough to handle, knead lightly.


Store in airtight container.


Add food coloring to the water to make colored play dough. Add sparkles during the hand mixing time for sparkly play dough.


Cornstarch Play Dough



1  cup  cornstarch

1  lb  baking soda

1  cup  water

1/8  tsp  oil

Food coloring



In a large pot, combine ingredients. Cook over medium heat until "mealy." Allow to cool on a plate, covered by a damp cloth. Knead well and store in an airtight container.


Edible Play Dough



3  cups  powdered sugar

1/4  cup  corn syrup

1/2  cup  margarine, melted

splash  vanilla

sprinkle  salt

5  drops  food coloring


Mix all ingredients, except coloring, until mixture is blended and all one color. Then mix in coloring.


Then play. You can shape this and eat it. Do not make this in advance. Make this when you are going to play with it. It will get hard and then you can't eat it.



¹ American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (1998). Anaphylaxis in schools and other child-care settings . Accessed May 2013,


Download a copy of this article here:
Potential food allergens in preschool and school activities

Thanks to KFA members Lara A., Elyse H., Lynn K., Jen B. and Star H. for providing their assistance in developing this document.

Originally approved by KFA's Medical Advisory Team and published August 2007. Updated August 2008 and May 2013.


Kids With Food Allergies is a nonprofit charity. More than 80% of KFA's financial support comes from donors like you. If KFA has helped you in some way, please make a donation to support our work.

Page last updated 7/29/2012

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