Two weeks ago during Sunday School, I spied a class of preschoolers making their way into the kitchen for a special project. My mom radar followed along behind to make sure that Caleb was safe, but my worry turned out to be unwarranted. Caleb had already informed the teachers that he couldn't be by wheat flour. They had brought along some model magic and had him nearby with one an aide, well away from any potential contamination. Since then, though, I have been thinking about Caleb learning more about his disease and his restrictions.
Before I could plan what direction to take, I needed to know where he is now. I brought out food pictures (mine came from Discount School Supply and we have used them for language activities in the past, you could also make your own) and 3 sheets of construction paper- Green, Yellow, Red. Green foods are foods that we know are safe (fruits, vegetables, plain rice, plain meat, eggs, etc). Yellow foods are foods that we need to check with a grown up or ask more questions. This includes foods like butter, jelly, & peanut butter that are often contaminated and also meats with sauces and processed meats. Many dairy products also fall in this category since yogurt and ice cream often have additives in them. The final foods, the Red foods, are not safe.
It is really in the Red foods that Caleb impressed me the most. The picture of cheese had a cracker in the picture and he put it in the Red right away. I actually missed the cracker until he pointed it out! He also put the ice cream cone in the Red because of the cone, with the note that it would be a Yellow food if it was served in a bowl. He also noticed the oats on top of one of the loaves of bread.
Other than me realizing just how much Caleb understands his restrictions, the thing that Caleb got out of this activity is how much he CAN eat. There were more Green foods than other foods. Of course, that is partially because the deck was weighted towards fruits and vegetables, but sometimes it is really easy to see what he can't eat and he forgets how much he can have.
This was only a first step. As he learns to read more, we will be teaching him how to read food labels and we will also be teaching him more about how the gluten affects his body. Some day, he will go out into the world on his own and I want him to be prepared with a full understanding of his disease.