Part 1- Mother Baby/Toddler Groups and Soft Play Centres
By Marina and her Allergic Explorers (with help from Allergy Mama)
As a relatively sociable person (or at least one who experiences cabin fever relatively quickly if unable to go out!), finding allergy friendly activities has been one of my biggest allergy parent challenges. With two kids under the age of 4 who are ninjas at stealing food off the floor (and if I’m honest, right out of the hands of other unsuspecting children), preparing outings and activities can be a headache.
My personal approach centres around my perception of risk versus benefit. The benefits of social interaction, exposure to the seasonal viruses (needed to build a healthy immune system) and the essential not having a stir crazy Mama have to be weighed against the risk of an allergic reaction.
Activities such as Mother Baby and Mother Toddler Groups, for example, have simply proved impossible for us. The popular snacks; biscuits, cakes and toast all contain dairy, soya or egg. The children invariably run around with the food and don’t wash their hands with warm soapy water after snack time. The logistics of intercepting the allergens for 2 fast moving toddlers/preschoolers involves more risk than benefit. Perhaps others would ask parents to stop their children running off with food? I, however, don’t sleep enough to make such a request without inadvertently offending or irritating (more likely) a parent who just wanted 5 minutes of peace. Often run by volunteers and on a shoe string budget, these types of groups aren’t in a position to start shopping in the free from section and I personally would be loathed to ask them to do so. So we just give this scene a miss.
Soft play activities are a firm maybe for us. We have three in our area who offer varying degrees of allergy assurance. The first, offers allergy free food but doesn’t actively intercept children entering the play area. They have confirmed that equipment is cleaned every evening after closure and that their quietest times are Monday and Tuesday mornings. If we are wanting a local soft play, we will risk this soft play first thing in the morning on their quiet days.
The second soft play centre is our favourite. They don’t serve any allergy friendly food but have waived their All food consumed must be bought on the premises rule and are happy for us to bring our own food and drinks. When physically possible (not peak times in school holidays for example) they successfully intercept children with food entering the play area. They also politely remind the parents of the reason behind the rule which I find reassuring. We use this soft play at most flexibly, providing it’s not a peak time.
The third soft play centre is larger and the most unpredictable. They serve allergy friendly foods in their cafe but their level of cleanliness varies wildly due to high staff turn over and inconsistent management. We only risk this soft play if we’re already in the area and can make a visual inspection before committing to play.
Which activities do you use with your allergy babies/toddlers? Do you find activity providers willing and able to help?
Coming soon: Part 2- Forest School and Messy Play
Xx Allergy Mama