Food Allergies in the Kindergarten Classroom
As a kindergarten teacher, in a center with a developmentally appropriate teaching philosophy, I build a warm and inviting classroom community whose door is always open to visitors. I love children’s books, and each year I pick a theme, based on a years’ worth of high-interest level stories. Using literature as our launching pad, I build a socially responsible and cohesive classroom through cooking, experimenting, building and creating.
Last year, my classroom was filled with children who had an array of allergies. *Rachel was allergic to pineapple, but only fresh; Sam couldn’t touch kiwi; Ida was allergic to sesame seeds; Justine and Justin (twins) were allergic to soy; and Joe and Ira were allergic to peanuts and tree nuts respectfully. Working with this class began as a daunting challenge but served as inspiration for the year’s literature theme. Instead of picking a standard theme such as fairy tales, or adventures around the world, this year’s theme became the food itself! Instead of ignoring and "dealing" with a tough situation, I decided to embrace and help the kids learn about our differences and how to incorporate different allergies and friends with allergies into their lives!
To my surprise, many child-friendly books had already been written addressing the subject of food allergies. “Patty’s Secret,” by Leslie Mann served as a fantastic launching point to help the kids open up about their allergies. “Can I have Some Cake too?” has humorous illustrations and taught the importance of confirming ingredients before eating something. What was especially awesome about choosing this theme was that our community of parents felt supported and comforted by the sensitivity and awareness that was shown to their children with allergies.
Food Inspired Children’s Books
Now that all the allergies were out in the open, it was time to tackle our favorite weekly activity – Food. We never just “ate” food. We played with our food, grew food in our school’s garden, cooked, cut experimented, donated and interacted with every morsel we consumed. So now it was time to find 10 books (one for each month) that would help guide our year’s curriculum.
If you’re a home-schooling parent, or just interested in hands-on experiences linked to great books about food, I’ve decided to share a few of our favored titles, and I’ve also included some great menus and extension activities that go along with each. Enjoy!
Stone Soup. Although there are so many versions, I happen to love Jess Stockham’s version with its whimsical illustrations and its pull tabs. While the process of gathering and preparing the ingredients to make the soup may seem the obvious menu item for this book, it’s so much more than that! Adding and subtracting items, weighing and measuring are great math tie-ins for this book. Learning about stones and rock formations also serve as great connections to Stone Stoup. Community service and compassion are wonderful character traits that also can be cultivated.
If you haven’t read Mitchell Sharmat’s book, Gregory the Terrible Eater, now’s the time! A great book for picky eaters, it’s valuable message can translate to encouraging improved healthy eating habits. Swiss chard, persimmon and li-chi fruit were just some of the new and novel foods we tried while reading this book. Some amazing extension activities can include comparing and contrasting the foods humans eat versus foods that animals eat. I loved teaching the kids about the importance of hand washing and safe food handling – especially for kids with allergies – with this unit.
Finally, to round out my top picks, chose any book by Tommy DePaola about food, like Pancakes for Breakfast, the Popcorn Book and Strega Nona. Some of his books are set in Italy which serve as perfect provocations into discovering and trying foods from other countries, and cultures. His charming illustrations and witty tales serve as a backdrop to teaching about elder kindness and respect.
To culminate the year, each child was presented with their own cookbook that illustrated and described the year’s menus. It was so rewarding to bring kids into the process of food preparation, but remember….it’s not only about peeling cucumbers!
Written by Lisa (Kalb) Parshan. Lisa is a born and bred Torontonian who raised her children in Michigan before deciding to move to Israel. She has made a concerted effort to retain her Canadian politeness, yet rid herself of the Canadian accent. A mother of four, Lisa holds a Master's degree in Education and a diploma as a technical writer. She was the director of a preschool in Southfield, Michigan, taught high school, and is now working as a freelance blogger and graphic designer. http://lisaparshan.wix.com/graphicdesigner