Summer’s just about here. Do you know what your kids are doing this year? Planning summer activities can be especially challenging if your child has Celiac Disease or is otherwise gluten intolerant. Whether you’re looking to send your kid to summer camp, take ‘em on a trip or edu-tain them with arts and crafts, we’re here to show you how to make it fun and safe!
As I child I went to summer camp every year and I loved it! You may be worried about your child’s dietary needs, but did you know there are summer camps specifically for kids with Celiac and other gluten intolerances? Some of them are even backed by organizations such as the Celiac Disease Foundation. These camps are great because your child won’t feel left out because they can’t eat what everyone else is eating. These camps also offer you piece of mind – neither you nor your child will have to worry about what they’re eating. These camps are also great if your child is new to eating gluten-free – they’re educational and provide a great support community. Check out this list of gluten-free summer camps from gfreekid.com.
Let’s say you don’t want to send your child to a gluten-free camp or you can’t find one near you. Mainstream summer camps will often work around your child’s dietary needs. Be sure to know exactly how sensitive your child is to gluten so you can assess the risks of cross-contamination. Speak with the camp director and/or kitchen staff. I recommend this only for older kids that have a handle on their gluten intolerance – they’ll be surrounded by gluten day-in and day-out.
Day camps are another great alternative. You’ll feed your kids breakfast and dinner a home, where it’s safe. Pack them a gluten-free lunch – make sure they know what they can share and what foods they can accept from their friends. Talk to camp director about what snacks they hand out during the day.
If you just can’t trust your child’s diet to anyone, consider making a DIY day camp with your friends and neighbors. Divide up the weekdays among the parents – you’ll each host a day at your house. Plan activities like arts & crafts, team sports and field trips. Discuss your child’s dietary needs with the other parents – make sure you can trust them to feed your child properly. If you can find other gluten-free families to make a DIY camp, even better!
Arts & Crafts
Making a family tree is a great learning experience for your child! Encourage your kids to talk to grandma and grandpa to learn about their family history. Once they’ve mapped out all the members of the family, have them trace Celiac Disease and gluten intolerance through the generations. This will help them understand the hereditary nature of Celiac and where it comes from in their family.
Now that you have more time to spend with your children, summer may be the best opportunity to teach them what foods they can and can’t eat. Take them to the grocery store and show them how to read packages and what to look for. Print and cut out a bunch of pictures of foods good and bad and use them to make a Chutes & Ladders board game with your child! If they land on a gluten-containing food it’s a chute; if they land on a gluten-free food it’s a ladder. Decorate the board so it looks like a grocery store – first one to check out wins!
Planning a trip around a gluten intolerance can make you want to pull your hair out. You may feel comfortable finding gluten-free food on-the-fly in your hometown, but don’t expect it to be as easy everywhere. Avoid uncertainty by planning out most meals. Whether you’re on a road trip or visiting grandma, make sure you have a list of gluten-free restaurants and grocery stores at each stop along the way. The best resource I’ve found is Gluten Free Registry. They’ve got a database with over 26,000 gluten-free friendly businesses across the country. You can access this database on their website – they’ve also got an app for your Android or iPhone.
Camping is a summer tradition in my family. With limited water it will be difficult to clean cooking equipment and utensils so the risk of cross-contamination will be high. It’s best to not risk it, especially considering how far you’ll be from the nearest medical center. For these reasons I recommend you bring only gluten-free food on your camping trip.