Living With Food Allergies

Potential Food Allergens in Preschool, School, Camp Crafts, and Activities

Sometimes, common arts and crafts supplies and activities can contain unexpected food allergens. If the supplies include an ingredient your child is allergic to, they might be at risk for an allergic reaction due to cross-contact. Cross-contact happens when a food allergen comes in contact with food or an item not intended to contain that allergen.

Students in art class image

Fortunately, there are ways to make many popular kids’ crafts safer for kids with food allergies. The chart below contains a list of some unexpected places you may find common food allergens, along with other options and precautions.

At the bottom of this page, you can download the chart to print and share.

This is only a general guide and is does not include every possible food allergen. Double-check all ingredients to make sure they are safe for your child or student.

Recipes | PDF Download




Counting/sorting beans, grains, pasta, M&Ms® or other small foods
Potentially all*
  • Read labels to choose food items with safe ingredients
  • Remember that different-sized packages can have different ingredients issues

Sensory tables that use grains, pasta, candies or other small foods
Potentially all*
  • Read labels to choose food items with safe ingredients
  • Use non-food items

Baking projects
Potentially all*
  • Share safe recipes
  • Request to participate in any baking activities

Projects using empty egg cartons, milk cartons, beverage cartons, yogurt containers, food jars, etc.
Potentially all*
  • Provide safe empty containers

Birthday and holiday celebrations
Potentially all*
  • Provide a non-food celebration (i.e., songs, goodie bags, stickers)
  • Provide safe cake or cupcakes for the class

Play kitchen
Potentially all*
  • Empty egg cartons, milk cartons, cereal boxes, and baby food jars may contain remnants of food allergens. Use empty containers from "real" products that didn't use common food allergens or use "fake" food containers made with cardboard or plastic.

Musical instruments – Allergens may be present on mouth-blown musical instruments
Potentially all*
  • Remove mouth-blown musical instruments from classrooms
  • Provide a designated set of mouth-blown instruments for each child or for children with food allergies.

Handwashing (teachers and children)
Potentially all*
  • Read soap, liquid soap, wipe and lotion labels to determine if allergens are present
  • Use paper towels to dry hands, since cloth towels may contain food residue

Finger paint
  • Read labels to find milk-free finger paints
  • Read labels to find a safe laundry soap
  • Laundry starch or soap can be omitted if avoiding corn

Bird feeders
Peanut butter
  • Consider making a hummingbird or butterfly feeder instead using sugar, water and food coloring
  • Use soy butter, sunflower butter or honey
  • Use safe seeds or seed mix without wheat seeds or nuts

Planting seeds
Legumes (such as beans, peas
or peanuts)
  • Provide safe empty containers to grow seeds
  • Use any other seeds

Potting soil


  • Read labels to find safe potting soil

  • Elmer’s® Glue solution
  • Buckwheat flour solution

Play-Doh® (commercial or wheat-based homemade)
  • Kinetic Sand
  • Homemade rice- or buckwheat-based play dough
  • Other sensory materials such as goop, slime or Oobleck
  • Homemade playdough or Oobleck (see recipe section below)
  • There are commercial gluten-free play doughs available at

Craft paste
  • Read labels to choose food items with safe ingredients
  • Elmer’s® Glue stick

Macaroni art
Legumes (such as beans, peas
or peanuts)
  •  Rice macaroni
  •  Quinoa macaroni
  •  Corn macaroni

Tempera paint (homemade and some high-end commercial products)
  • Crayola® Kids Paint
  • Read labels to find egg-free paint, since some high-end versions contain egg
  • Most commercial tempera paints are suitable for children

  • Read labels to find soy-free crayon
  • This is only a concern for younger aged children who may still put items in their mouths and eat the crayons

Shaving cream
  • Read labels to find dairy-free shaving cream

Making butter
  • Use a dairy-free recipe to make a coconut and/or olive oil based alternative

Dustless chalk
Casein (milk)
  • Use dry erasers or smartboard

Oobleck, goop, slime
  • Read labels to choose items with safe ingredients
  • Create mixture using tapioca starch instead of cornstarch (use less water when using tapioca starch)

Making maracas or shakers
(such as beans, peas
or peanuts)
  • Fill maracas or shakers with rice, popcorn or sand


* “Potentially all” means that all allergens are possible. For example, an empty egg carton may not just pose an egg risk. If the empty carton was used to store nuts, it could pose a nut risk. It would be safest to take extra precautions to avoid food allergens, such as buying new, unused egg cartons.


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Here are some alternative recipes for Play-Doh® and Oobleck. Choose the recipe below that’s best for your child based on their allergies.

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/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 and store in an 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 (optional)


  • 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.

Sweet 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.
  • You can shape this and eat it, assuming your child is not allergic to any of the ingredients. Do not make this in advance. Make this when you are going to play with it. It will get hard and become inedible.



1 1/2 cups cornstarch

1 cup water

Food coloring (optional)


  • Mix the ingredients together. When children play with the mixture, it will be solid when they squeeze it and liquid when they release it.


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Updated August 2021