Teaching Children About Food Allergies Through Story Time
A few months back I introduced you to the adorable My Food Allergy Friends book series. Jackie Nevard, the author, was recently telling me about how they’ve been really successful in teaching children about food allergies by reading from her books and discussing the characters during a story time event. I wanted to share her experience with you in hopes that you may be inspired to start a story time event in your area – perhaps it could be at the library, your child’s school, or your child’s extracurricular activities. Any time would be appropriate to help educate more children about the dangers of food allergies. You can use the My Food Allergy Friends books series or another food allergy children’s book. The important thing is just to get out there and teach these brilliant young minds to be aware!
Allergy Story Time with My Food Allergy Friends
By Jackie Nevard (Bio below)
We recently returned from Sydney where we enjoyed our first ‘Allergy Story Time’. It was a great success! The children not only enjoyed hearing the stories but also participated by shouting out “No! Danger Food!” when I asked if the character, Thai, could eat certain foods in the stories. I was a little nervous about how captivated children without allergies would be, even though, childcare centers had told me the story was proving popular with ALL children. I need not have worried!
We had 88 children and over 30 parents and teachers attending our “Allergy Story Time” and all were keen to learn about Food Allergies. We started by briefly touching on what a food allergy is and discussed how a child may feel if they were having an allergic reaction. We also did “show and tell” with my son’s medicine bag including his Action Plan and EpiPen.
Reading the stories created a wonderful interaction between the children and the story, and made it interesting for everyone. We had a lovely rendition of the Happy Birthday song that the kids sang to Ethan in Thai Goes To A Birthday Party book. In the book Thai’s Big Adventure In The City, the kids had the added game of spotting Rabbie, who hides on every page.
It was a family affair with both of my children helping to turn the pages of the book so all of the audience could see the illustrations. Visual images play such a big part in learning at this age. My husband, the illustrator, was also there ready to work his magic with his drawing board but Thai, our little Picasso, hijacked it!
We finished “Allergy Story Time” off with coloring pages inspired by the books that can be downloaded from our website and mask making of the loveable character Thai! This offered the perfect opportunity for childcare staff and parents to come and have a chat with us. Five of the children that joined had allergies and we enjoyed exchanging allergy stories with them. One little boy was very proud to show me his EpiPen! We also met a grateful mother. She loved the teaching point in the book Thai’s Big Adventure in the City about checking with chefs that clean chopping boards and knives are used in allergy-free food preparation. Her son had a reaction from eating a fruit salad where a dirty knife had been used even after the cafe had been informed of his kiwi fruit allergy.
Children identify with the characters in the books and it will draw young children back again and again. When a child can empathize with the characters or see themselves in those characters it’s a great platform for learning. One poor mother had read Thai’s Big Adventure in the City, 10 nights in a row! Very young children can learn from these books through the bright, simple illustrations. Just by talking about the pictures they can start learning simple lessons like carrying medicine and not sharing food. We have planned more ‘Allergy Story Times’ and soon Thai and Rabbie will be known to the world as the loveable characters with food allergies!
Jackie Nevard is the mother of Thai who is allergic to eggs, nuts, dairy, soy, shrimp and strawberries. She and her husband have created My Food Allergy Friends Books to help raise awareness about food allergies. As many reactions occur in preschoolers the books are fun and interactive. They help young children understand their allergies and teach them simple skills to stay safe. You can find Jackie on YouTube and Facebook