Many early childhood programs assign children days for taking turns sharing snacks for snack time by bringing them in from home. One February, we wanted to get really creative and send a snack in to commemorate American Dental Health month.
They are made by slicing red apples, spreading peanut butter on the slices and attaching mini marshmallows as teeth. But alas! We remembered that a note home earlier in the year warned that one child in the class had a peanut allergy. Darn. And it was such a cute idea. But wait! Why not substitute cream cheese for the peanut butter! Better yet we could use strawberry cream cheese to represent pink healthy gums!
The apple smiles snacks turned out great and were a big hit with students and teacher.We are sharing some ideas for good snack sharing in case your child has a classmate with peanut allergy. They are very easy to assemble and children can easily help. The only task the parent should do alone is slicing the apples.
Please read the background information on peanut allergies first.
Incidence of Nut Allergies on the Rise
There appears to be no clear reason for a dramatic increase in peanut allergies in recent years. One theory is that the rise is due to more consumption of dry roasted peanuts rather than boiled. The drying process may alter the peanut protein in some way.
Other Nut Allergies:
Botanically speaking peanuts are actually legumes like beans, however, studies indicate that children who are allergic to peanuts are at increased risk for being allergic to at least one other tree nut (pecans, walnuts almonds, chestnuts, macadamias and more). Most doctors of children with peanut allergies advise parents to eliminate all tree nuts from the home if a child has a peanut allergy.Introducing tree nuts into the home should be managed by the individual’s allergy specialist.
Symptoms and Dangers of Nut Allergies
The medical condition caused by a peanut allergy, anaphylaxis, causes cells in the body to release a massive amount of histamines. Symptoms will include itching, hives, sneezing, coughing and wheezing. Gastronomical distress may also be present. Upon constriction of airways, an extreme drop in blood pressure may occur. Without a shot of adrenaline, death is likely. There have been cases reported where a child ate cookies or other foods with “hidden” peanut products and tragically did not survive.
Parents of peanut-allergic children have real and understandable fear. A study conducted by the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) found that food allergy families suffer greater emotional distress than even those with epilepsy or asthma. This is probably due to food sharing at school, children’s parties and play dates at other’s homes.
Replacing Peanut Butter When Cooking With Kids
Peanut butter is a popular food for cooking with kids. It can be a sort of natural food glue for all those cute creations we like to make. Kids love eating foods that resemble animals or other familiar objects. This is a great motivator to encourage young children to try new foods. Due to the extreme danger of anaphylaxis, we should refrain from using peanut butter or any nut product for food sharing with other children. Try substituting cream cheese for the “food glue” properties of peanut butter in snacks!
Edible Flowers and Ants on a Log
Children can spread cream cheese on a round, whole wheat cracker and press in golden raisins for the “seeds” in the middle of the flower. Use a few thin slices of the apples to form the “petals.” Add a celery stalk “stem.” Be sure to talk about ways to use the apple scraps; eat them, make cooked apples or even use in composting.
Ants on a log are popular and healthy children’s snack. Substitute cream cheese for the usual peanut butter in ants on a log. For a really cool variation use dried cranberries for some of the ants (they can be fire ants) as well as raisins. Cranberries are an antioxidant-rich super food and they taste great with plain cream cheese.
Apple smile snacks will make everyone smile! Be sure to have an adult cut the slices. They should be about one-half to three-quarters of an inch thick. Blot the apple slices well with paper toweling. We found that if they are too moist the cream cheese doesn’t stick well. Add mini-marshmallows and enjoy!
Cute Food Crafts
Make healthy snacks that look like sailboats and other objects.