Can Playgroups Be Food Allergy Safe?


For toddlers with food allergies, playgroups can be a challenging and deadly place. Playgroups are a gathering of children around the similar age and their parents. In these get-togethers, there tend to be food that could put toddlers with food allergies in danger. However, playgroups are important to practice social skills and create lasting friendships for your child.

If normal playgroups aren’t typically safe for kids with food allergies, what can be done?

An Exeter mom quit her job after she discovered her daughter had dairy allergies to set up a play group. The playgroup sessions run like a normal playgroup, but with no food or drink and all the second-hand equipment is sterilized. Beth Caygill, the mother running the playgroup, said: “The danger when you have a child with food allergies is that you don’t interact socially… Setting up something like this means children can meet other children in a similar situation to theirs. They don’t feel alone or isolated anymore and they can play freely and safely.”

Setting up a playgroup that’s allergy friendly is possible for anyone. Running a playgroup is time consuming, but a valuable experience for your and your child. Here are the steps of setting up a playgroup that's food allergy safe!

Step 1: Recruit Members

To start a playgroup, getting parents to sign up is the first step. You need at least three or four interested parents to start up a playgroup. When talking with the parents, ask about their child’s food allergies and inform them that this playgroup will be allergen free. If you want to have a specific age range of children in the playgroup, you will need to decide it in this step. Setting up a Facebook group would also be a good way of finding new parents to join. Once you have a small group of parents, organize a meeting with all of them to start planning the playgroup together.

Step 2: Set Time, Dates, and Location

After finding the starting group of families for the playgroup, picking the time and location of the playgroup is the next important discussion. Find what times work for yourself and other families. Playgroups typically meet once a week for a few hours. Good places for a playgroup are member’s homes, kindergartens, parks, and community centers. The location should have toilets, play spaces, storage, car parking, and affordable rent.

Step 3: Set Up Guidelines

Setting guidelines on roles and responsibilities is very important when running a playgroup. Playgroups should be for everyone and parents should share the work load together. When it comes to food allergies, it is very important to set up guidelines for food and cleaning second-hand equipment. These guidelines should also apply to how children should act in the group, such as no bullying or hurting other children. These guidelines should be something all members agree on and be carefully thought over before officially starting the playgroup.

Step 4: Plan Activities Ahead

Playgroups are more than just having children and parents collecting at once place. Planning activities before hand will keep playgroups fun for everyone. Activities like painting, play dough, crafts, or games are some ideas playgroups can do. Keep in mind to decontaminate any items parents bring into a playgroup to avoid any allergic reactions.

A typical playgroup session may include: setting up, time for children to play and parents to talk, snacks, stories and music as a group, clean up and pack up. Be sure when planning snacks that they are all allergy friendly snacks to avoid cross-contamination of toys and protecting kids with food allergies.  

Step 5: Remember the Cost

Playgroups can be run at a fairly low cost, but they do have potential to become very expensive. Talk with the parents in your playgroup to see how much money they are comfortable spending for this playgroup. Cost of food, locations, and toys are important costs to consider. Being inclusive to all parents, regardless of cost.

Step 6: Have Fun and Be Safe

The most important thing about playgroups is having fun and being safe. Making sure everyone has a good time will keep the playgroup going. Be sure to settle any drama with the parents before the next playgroup session to ensure everyone will have a good time.


Are you going to set up a playgroup in your community? If you are already in a playgroup, how do you tend for kids with food allergies? Comment below and share your stories with us!

Stef PenrodComment