Kids learn by hearing. Kids learn even more by hearing and seeing. Kids really learn best by hearing, seeing, and DOING! Teachers of preschoolers and children will be most successful when offering kids learning EXPERIENCES, not just lectures with visuals. So, we seek to offer experiential learning by encouraging all five senses in the classroom (seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, and smelling).
Most of you would agree with everything I’ve said in the first paragraph. The problem becomes how do we pull off this “experiential learning” in a classroom where 1 in 13 kids (according to FARE, the Food Allergy Research & Education) have some sort of food allergy that when encountered can result in mild to severe reaction.
I’ve been working in kid’s ministry for over 20 years and I’ve watched food allergies go from “I don’t know a kid who suffers with food allergies” to “1 in 13 children suffer from food allergies.” Recently, I read a statistic from the Centers for Decease Control (the CDC) that stated a 50% increase in food allergies from 1997 to 2011.
So what do we do?
BE SMART! Know the kids in you classroom and know if they have a food allergy! Don’t assume they don’t but rather assume they do until you can verify. Do the research, ask the parents, and keep the records.
BE READY! What if? I hate that question, but it needs to be asked. What if we have a child who is allergic and some how encounters at church that to which she is allergic? Do you have a system in place and do your teachers know the system. Do you keep epinephrine (epi-pen) on-site? Being ready is better than being remorseful.
BE ON ALERT! I’m not ready to completely remove any and all of the “big eight” foods that account for 90% of all food allergies (eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, milk, soy, wheat, fish, and shellfish), especially since I don’t know of any kids in my current ministry with allergies, but I do believe that I need to be on alert! When making the decision to taste, touch, or smell, I need to consistently post for parents (especially for preschoolers and young kids) exactly what we’ll be experiencing so they can alert me to any unknown or recently discovered issues. I would rather prevent an issue than deal with one.
Here are 5 different allergy alert posters that have been included in Lifeway Kids’ preschool Bible study resources. Each of our on-going Bible study curriculums lines (Bible Studies for Life; Explore the Bible; The Gospel Project for Kids) provides these posters reminding teachers of their responsibility to be alert. Feel free to reproduce them and use them in your ministry. Click on each poster you want in order to download the PDF.