Tuesday, March 24, 2015

How To Have An Allergy Safe Easter

Easter is only two weeks away. This should be a fun and exciting time, it means Spring has finally arrived and warmer days are here. It means more time spent outside and less indoors on tablets. Most of all though, it means the Easter Bunny will bring you lots of candy and treats.

While most families relish in the idea of trying to find the biggest chocolate bunny to put in their kids baskets or jellybeans and various shaped chocolates to hide in colorful plastic eggs around the yard, those of us dealing with food allergies find ourselves staving off anxiety and stress. I can't tell you how many times I have passed the "holiday" aisle while doing my everyday grocery shopping and either wanted to bawl my eyes out or go all ninja on the displays in a fit of anger. I struggle with wanting to give my kids all the traditional holiday experiences while at the same time knowing with these new limits they are no longer consuming so much junk. And that's a good thing. It's a constant battle. Traditions that were once safe are now potentially life threatening, and while I may feel that a part of their childhood, especially my daughter since she is the one who suffers from food allergies, is being ripped away from them, I try to remember that they don't know about these "traditions" that I am holding onto and therefore are not missing out.

Not that Easter was ever a big event in my childhood anyway. Of course, I have memories of sitting in the kitchen, an overpowering smell of vinegar filling my nostrils as we dyed our hard boiled eggs. I've seen the pictures, basket in one hand and holding up the egg I just found in the other. I can even remember how I would slowly savor each bite of chocolate from my bunny before returning what was left to the fridge for later. As we got older, my dad would leave bags of jellybeans and a card before he left for work. I would separate them by color and eat them in order of my least favorite flavor to the best. I would hoard the black licorice ones which was fine because no one else seems to like them but me.

Sure, we have dabbled with traditions in the past. The kids and I dyed eggs. It was messy, the kids got bored, and no one wanted to consume that many hard boiled eggs when it was all over. Lesson learned, I got over it, and we've stuck to plastic eggs ever since. If I am being truly honest with myself I will admit that my kids don't even remember it being any other way then how we do it now. So what's my point you may ask?  That I shouldn't be focusing on what traditions my daughter can't have because of her food allergies, but instead embrace the new ways in which we celebrate these holidays.

I did find a new brand (Gimbal's) of completely peanut and tree nut free jellybeans (yay!) and plan to pick up a bag at my local Walmart sometime this week. If you aren't a food allergy parent, you can't imagine the complete excitement we feel upon finding a new food to add to our "safe" list. I can only describe it as euphoric when I find just one item that is traditional to a holiday, like candy canes for Christmas, that is completely safe for Sophie.

Other than the jellybeans, all the other items in my kids baskets will be non-food related and that's OK. I have gathered fifteen ideas that I have either used in the past, or plan to do this year to fill their Easter eggs as well as a few items to put in the basket itself.  If you are new to food allergies and have no idea where to start, or you just don't want your kids consuming any more sugar for yet one more holiday, this list is for you. So here we go! Fifteen ideas for you to stuff into those pastel plastic eggs.

1. I am insane over little tiny figurines. Really, I tend to gravitate towards anything mini and they are just perfect for filling those plastic Easter eggs. Find something that your children like to collect. My kids used to collect the tops to commercial hangers that stated the size of the clothing. They called them tick tocks, I have no idea why, but something like that would be perfect. Some more ideas would be: mini lego men (the one pictured below is from World of Warcraft, a video game my son loves to play, and they happened to make lego sets based off this game),  My Little Pony mini series, Minecraft or Hello Kitty blind bag figures, mini animals, etc. You get the point.
2. Little notes. You can handwrite a little note of "I love you" or "Happy Easter" to your child, or you could stamp an image like I did with the dog and cat. You could even write a small message and fold it up. Whatever you desire, as long as it is heartfelt and cute. 
3. Small toys. This can be just about anything. A few ideas are: spin tops, silly putty, key chains, punch balloons (these area favorite in our house), matchbox cars, play dough, and mini bubbles. Other ideas, pictured below, can be: bouncy balls, stickers, tattoos, erasers (novelty erasers are such a hit with kids these days and they are functional too), and pom poms (which we call warm fuzzes thanks to their Kindergarten teacher. She hands these out each Friday with a hug before they get on the bus. Mason loved collecting them and now so does Sophie).
4. Money. You can never go wrong putting money in an Easter egg. Whether it be a few quarters or a folded up dollar bill this one is sure to be a hit!
5. Small game cartridges. If your child has a LeapPad from Leap Frog the game cartridges fit perfectly in the plastic eggs.
6. Movie tickets. You can get cheap prepaid movie tickets at Costco and use them to take your kids out to see the latest Disney film, or let your kids use them to go by themselves with a group of friends.

7. Jewlery and hair accessories. My daughter can't get enough of these cute hair clips and pony tail holders. She also loves the novelty rings you can find in the dollar bins at Target. If you have an AC Moore they sell these adorable rings like the one pictured below that would be perfect for an older girl or teen to add a little bling. Necklaces like the Sophia the First pictured below work perfect. Even the mardi gras type beads work, just throw a few various colors into one egg and voila! Jelly bracelets or those silicone bracelets that are popular nowadays fit very well in here as well. Better yet, dump a package of rainbow loom rubber bands into one or make a bracelet on the loom and put that in. I could go on for days giving you examples for this category.
8. Nail polish or lip gloss goes over real well with any girl. Opi is my go to brand, but we have also used Bon Bons and Tweets. For little ones you will want to go the non-toxic route. For those you can use Hopscotch Kids, Piggy Paint, Play Laugh Love, or Crayola mini which comes 8 in a set.
9. Washi tape is all the rage right now. Even I am obsessed with the stuff. It comes in various colors, sizes, themes for you to decorate just about anything. If you have a Monster High fan you can get a set of 30 decorative tapes they call tapefetti for only about $13. They come in their own mini holders. Aren't they totes adorbs?
10. Ribbon bookmarks. If you have a child who loves to read, I recommend making or purchasing a few of these to put in their eggs. (I apologize for the photo quality, these were hastily taken with my phone.)
11. Confetti! Simple and easy to make. I just punched out a bunch of various shapes such as hearts, circles, stars, etc. from colored paper and filled a bunch of eggs with it. My kids had so much fun opening each egg, wondering if would be a small toy or full of confetti.

12. A pair of Earbuds would be great too. Not just for everyday use but for your little athlete as well. Yurbuds are my go to brand.

13. Shoelaces. My son goes through shoelaces like crazy. I don't know what he does but he manages to tear them to shreds on a regular basis. If your kid is like mine this may be a good choice. You can get all kinds of shoelaces, such as: camoflauge, glow in the dark, Pete the Cat, or to show support for your favorite cause. Buy one in every color in you want. They can change to match their mood, clothes, or shoes.
14. Stamps. For those crafty kids, getting stamps will make them smile. You can choose between the foam version, the wooden block, or the clear acrylic. A good place to start would be Michaels or AC Moore. They usually have some kid themed ones in their clearance section.
15. Lastly, we have infinity scarves. These are also all the rage right now, especially with teens. You can make one by cutting up an old t-shirt or just buy one at the store, scrunch it up, and shove it in the egg.

As for filling up my kids baskets, I like to give them one kinda big gift each year. This year Mason will be getting a joke book for kids and Sophie will get a new pair of headphones. If you would like to go this route as well, I recommend thinking of things your kids like to do the most. A new Skylanders character would be great for your video game enthusiast. To go along with the bookmark for your book worm or emerging reader, give them a book in their favorite series or one you think they might enjoy. A new purse or a rainbow loom would be good choices for girls. I would even consider a DVD of their latest movie obsession or TV show.

Included in the basket along with these big ticket items I like to sprinkle in a few smaller ones, maybe some educational and maybe something personal. These items could be any of the following that are just as fabulous as any chocolate bunny, and last a lot longer.

I like to make my kids personal certificates for things. For example, I made a certificate for my son that entailed him to 3 hours of uninterrupted Wizard 101 playtime with me. He loved it! You could make ones for the following:  staying up 20 minutes passed bedtime, kids choice for dinner,  get out of chores for a day, one download from iTunes or Google Play store for an app they want but limit the dollar amount, a day out with mom/dad doing whatever they want, dessert or candy pass, extra time on tablet/computer/video game play, movie night, trip to the dollar store, bake cookies/cupcakes or make homemade ice cream and the enjoy a sampling, etc. You can get real creative with these.

My kids love to help me bake in the kitchen. If you have a fellow baker you can purchase some baking tools designed just for kids. Curious Chef is a brand I see all the time at our local Wegmans, or you can just mix and match on your own and make it a "theme" basket. In it I would include an apron, mixing and measuring spoons, spatulas and whisks, cupcake liners, sprinkles, a box of safe mix or a recipe card, and oven mits. Place into a pastel colored mixing bowl and be sure to fill with Easter grass to make it complete.

Those EOS lip balms are already shaped like eggs so they are perfect for Easter. Hint: they even sell mini ones that you could use to fill the eggs as well. If your kids love little stuffed animals like mine, those TY Beanie Boos are super cute. Last year I got Sophie Carrots the Bunny and Mason Spells the Snowy Owl.

If you have an artist or crafter, I recommend getting them a set of watercolors with a pad of watercolor paper, or a coloring book with a pack of crayons. You could also include the egg-shaped sidewalk chalk and some Mandela stencils. A journal or notebook would be ideal for the budding writer or even those just learning to spell. If you have a teen scrapbooker, I recommend a Smashbook for them to collect memorabilia, stories, and whatever they want from their school year or summer vacation.

For some family fun, you can include card games like Slamwich, Go Fish, or Uno. Other games such as Jenga, Boggle, or Spot It are also good choices and still small enough to fit into the basket. Anything that encourages family togetherness is top notch in my opinion and this is a good way to increase your inventory for family game night.

I hope these ideas gave you some starting off points while at the same time proving that you don't need to stuff your kids full of candy and junk to have a happy, fun, and memorable Easter.

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1 comment:

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