How to navigate a party with a Coeliac Child

Parties, how do you navigate a party with a coeliac child? It’s tricky but with a bit of planning it is absolutely possible.

Parties for children are part of growing up.  Fun, noise and goodie bags! 

To get dressed up, play party games, having fun, dancing.  Eating their body weight in sugar!!

But what if you’ve a coeliac child?  How are you going to manage keeping them safe?

You want them included, be involved, have fun but how do you ensure they don’t run the risk of getting glutened?

managing a party with a gluten free child

So how can you manage it?

First, speak to the party host.  It’s not an easy conversation to start, you feel you are causing a fuss, being difficult, but it needs to be done.  And the earlier the better.  People are more likely to be adaptable, make the changes to include your coeliac child if they know early.

Keep it clear and simple.  Your child can’t eat gluten.  It makes them ill.  That you’d be happy to supply their party tea on a separate plate or in a lunch box to keep your child safe.  What are they having so that you can arrange to have the same similar foods.

But what if they are at a venue?  Does the venue cater for your child?  Do they understand about cross contamination?

I had this for one party not long after her diagnosis. It was a roller-skating party.  One she really wanted to go to.  How would I negotiate it?  I chatted to the mum when we got the invite as she had to choose what she’d eat – fish fingers or nuggets & chips.  I said I’d have to send her with a packed lunch as I didn’t know if the venue could cater for her.  But I knew she wouldn’t like sitting there eating a packed lunch when everyone around her was having nuggets & chips.

Contact the party venue

I got the details from the mum & gave the venue a call. I had a surprise.  They knew about the disease.  They understood and catered for various allergies. GF nuggets, fish fingers and chips were on the menu.  They’d need to cook it in the oven as their fryer was used for other gluten items but would serve hers on a separate platter.

They skated their hearts out for an hour or so and then time for tea. Her little face lit up so bright seeing she was having the same as everyone else. Don’t underestimate the difference it makes.  Watching her sit round the table chatting to everyone, whilst munching on her chips was fabulous to watch.

Now obviously they can’t have the cake, something that lots of children look forward to so go prepared.  I often made cupcakes & would supply one in advance to come out with her party bag, or for to have when she came home.

My Top Ten Party Survival Tips

  1. State that you’d love for your child to come but that they have a special gluten free diet.
  2. Keep it simple.  That they can’t eat gluten that’s in wheat/barley in food/drinks (cheap cola)/some sweets/cakes etc.
  3. That they can’t share due to the risk of contamination – fingers that have been holding a gluten sandwich dipping into the crisps/cucumber sticks etc
  4. Is the party at their home or a venue?
  5. If at a venue – give the venue a call so you speak to them direct. 
    • Ask questions: Do they cater for a gluten free diet. 
    • Do they know about the disease, about cross contamination. 
    • Have they a separate fryer for chips, gf nuggets, fish fingers or can they provide oven cooked ones?
    • Do their responses make you feel ok about the venue itself?
  6. Is it at the parents home? Ask what is the theme, what are they planning food wise?  Is it a typical party spread, pizza or a BBQ?  By finding out what they are having, you can plan. 
  7. Can you find similar suitably safe gluten free alternatives?  Or do they offer to supply them? You’ll need to explain to them about cross contamination.  It’s probably easier to send your child to the party with a lunchbag or plate covered in clingfilm & named, to be unwrapped when sat at the table.  If your child understands and gets the risks about not eating gluten, that’s great.  If not, you may have to stay at the party and watch them like a hawk.
  8. Cake – who doesn’t like a slice of birthday cake.  But that’s no longer an option for your coeliac child.  So source an alternative. Either shop bought cupcakes or homemade ones – pop in a bag tied with ribbon or a cupcake box/tuppaware & give it to the party host to give out to your child instead. Then they aren’t left out.
  9. Party bags.  Now they are a mine field.  Most party cones are out, but I’ve had parents make special ones for my child based on the sweets she likes.  Ask them to leave the sweets in wrapping for them.  Easier for you to trust, and you can read the ingredients if needed!  Have a swap box at home too – just in case. Helps avoid disappointment
  10. Always be prepared.  Have snacks in your bag, gf biscuits, gf oat bars etc and ALWAYS send them with a named water bottle.  Something they know is theirs so they can go back to it when needed.  Drinks bottles/cups are always getting muddled up & they always seem to end up all drinking from one cup!! 

Need more help?

Need more help? I’d to find my way, just like you. I didn’t want other parents to struggle at the beginning. I’m just a regular mum like you who happens to have a coeliac child. It is overwhelming in the beginning. It’s hard I won’t lie and it’s lonely. Friends and family don’t get it. I do as I’ve been there & it will be part of our life forever. It’s second nature now, and it will be for you too in a short while. If you need extra info, help and a gentle guide to getting it right from the beginning, here’s a link to the ebook download I wrote to get you on the right path – Coeliac Disease & What you need to know. It’s coming soon in printed form…. so exciting.