a peek inside the fishbowl

14 May, 2009

How to plan a nut-free birthday party

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Easy ways to make kids happy|Recipes and Food

Emma’s tenth birthday is on Friday and she’s invited three friends for a sleepover. We’ve deemed this one a “favourite things” party. We’ll be serving spaghetti for dinner (with Nana’s special sauce of course) and root beer floats, followed by popcorn and a special movie (she chose Howl’s Moving Castle). And then of course, there’s the cake (golden) and ice cream (vanilla).

When I found out one of the little girls has a serious nut allergy I had a bit of a freak out. I have been so busy this week. Did I even have time to ensure the kitchen was nut free? What could I do to minimize the risks?

Well, this is what I’ve done.

1) Spoke to the mother. In fact, she came over this afternoon and gave me a tutorial on how to use an epi-pen. The odds of the girl having an allergic reaction are very slim, but now I feel good knowing I know what to do in case of emergency. The child will have an epi-pen and the mother is on my speed dial if I need her.

2) I’ve checked the ingredients on the cake mix and the frosting and ran them by the mother for her approval. In the past I’ve used candy from the bulk store as cake decoration but this time I’m steering away from anything bulk. Bulk food bins and scoops can be contaminated with nuts/nut residue. I’m buying prepackaged candies to decorate the cake and I’m …

3) … paying close attention to the labels. i.e. Is the Chapman’s ice-cream nut free? Check!

4) I’ll give the kitchen and dining room table a good wipe-down.

5) We’ll refrain from eating anything nutty the day before.

6) I’ll unwrap a fresh block of butter for the next day’s pancakes. (I’m worried about PB residue.)

7) I’ll try not to hover and freak anyone out.

I hope I have my bases covered. Any additional tips would be most appreciated!

11 Responses to "How to plan a nut-free birthday party"

1 | Tammy

May 14th, 2009 at 1:41 pm


I recently hosted my sons 5th birthday party and one of his guests was allergic to nuts as well. I ordered the cake from The Cake Shop on Greenbank Road. Their whole shop is 100% nut free. I realize you plan on making the cake but maybe this would be helpful info for someone else. Have fun!!

2 | Erica

May 14th, 2009 at 1:56 pm


As a nut-allergy sufferer (not nearly as serious as your guest’s), I just wanted to thank you for taking this girl’s allergy so seriously and being proactive. You would be absolutely horrified at how often nuts turn up in places you wouldn’t expect — not just desserts and stuff, but in salads, breads, muffins, chips or fries cooked in peanut oil, and even boozy drinks (err, not such a problem in this case). I’m very lucky that an accidental nut ingestion only gives me hives and swollen, itchy lips. I can’t imagine having to be so careful.

I’m so, so impressed at the steps you’re already taking. Thank you for being such a conscientious host.

3 | carrie

May 14th, 2009 at 3:27 pm


My daughter’s one day a week daycare is also nut free – we are lucky that on the day she attends. none of her classmates have nut allergies. On the other days of the week though, there are kids with nut allergies. I make a point of making sure her lunch box dishes are sanitized in the dishwasher the night before, and we give her a bath as well, just to make sure nothing, including our Peanut! (Her nickname), has peanut residue on it.

I don’t have to worry about allergies, but I consider it my job as a parent to make sure no one has to worry about us contaminating areas for kids that DO have the allergies. We can take simple steps to keep things safe. Sounds like your daughter’s friend is in good hands. Hope they have a fun party!

4 | Miss Vicky

May 14th, 2009 at 6:06 pm


Sounds like you are being very diligent. Are you worried about any midnight snacking? Might want to make sure that any granola bars or other possible nutty snacks are out of kid reachability.

Also switch out any dish cloths or towels that may have been used to clean nutty items or hands/faces. My nephew had a pretty serious reaction that way.

And thanks from another parent of a nut-allergic kid. Hope the party is a smashing success!

5 | Gwen

May 14th, 2009 at 10:33 pm


My oldest has a nut allergy. A good tip is to read the labels of all things you will be serving. Just because the product does not contain nuts, it may have been manufactured in a factory that produces other nut products. You will find this info under the ingredients, it usually says something like “May contain peanuts or tree nuts” or “processed in a plant that contains nut ingredients” things like that.

6 | DaniGirl

May 15th, 2009 at 10:39 am


Happy birthday, Emma! You have a sweet and caring mom, you know? (Of course you do!)

7 | Loukia

May 15th, 2009 at 10:49 am


Sounds like you have taken all the right steps, Andrea! I hope your daughter has a wonderful birthday party… sounds like a lot of fun.

Happy long weekend to you!

8 | Pamela

May 15th, 2009 at 11:38 am


You have done a great job in reducing the risk for your guest! I am sure that the parents of this child are very grateful for your time and consideration. So often allergic children are left out of celebrations and it can be heart breaking.My tip would be that perhaps it would be a good idea to have 2 Epi-pens available to you while the child is in your home. Stressful situations don’t always bring out the best in people. You could have a “missfire” and/or the epi-pen could be defective….these things have happened. Having the back-up Epi available is reassuring. My daughter always has hers with her and if we are not with her(with the other Epi)she has a second Epi-pen in her pouch. As you have said,(and I agree) the chances are slim but I think that this is just an extra safe guard or information you can use for other situations in the future.

9 | twinmomplusone

May 15th, 2009 at 11:54 am


Wishing you a great party celebration Emma!

As a mom of two kids with nut alleriges, all I can say is Bravo on being so proactive! Sounds like you have all bases covered. I’m sure taht mom must be so grateful to you, I know I would. And taht child too, as they ae often shunned away from celebrations because ofr teh risks involved.

have fun

10 | LO

May 15th, 2009 at 3:17 pm


Sounds good! You’ve really covered a lot of bases-especially the fresh butter! We do that too and were told we get extra points from thankful moms!

11 | Psychgrad

May 19th, 2009 at 7:43 am


A guest at my wedding has a severe nut allergy (along with other allergies). He is going to get his own meal and is used to that. But, I’m also trying to put together baskets for out-of-town guests. I asked the mother what food are acceptable and she said that there are some chocolate bars that are nut free — check here.

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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