The important thing to remember about planning a party is that it is should be fun for everyone. An individual with celiac disease can enjoy any party situation with a little careful planning.
Attending a party
Call ahead. Speak to the host to get the details about the party. Will it include a meal, snack or just an activity? If it is just snacks, it is fairly easy to maneuver around the questionable foods and select juices, sodas or even plain chips. If a meal is involved, a few more details will be necessary–for example, what is being served and where is it being prepared? If the party is in the person’s home, offer to bring your own to avoid any trouble for your host (and any contamination for you). If the party is out, call the site directly and give detailed information on which party, what day, time, and the host’s name. Then request a gluten-free alternative. If none is available, find out how you can provide a gluten-free meal for your child. A practical approach would be a gluten-free pizza or a melted cheese sandwich wrapped in foil so it can be heated (but kept separate) and served with the other party foods safely.
Make sure your child has a snack or mini meal before the event. You want to make sure your child will not be starving in case things do not go as planned. A snack bag of gluten-free crackers, nuts and raisins, or other favorite gluten-free snack ready in a purse or backpack is always a good idea.
Take time to talk to your child to explain that the party is a celebration of an event, birthday, or holiday. They are there to enjoy the activity and be with their friends. The food part is really secondary.
Many parents send a note to the parents in their child’s class at the beginning of the year explaining celiac disease. They also explain that they are happy to supply special food for any and all party situations so that their child will not be excluded from the fun, only the cake. There may still be parents who do not “want to bother” with a special eating situation. As CD becomes more widely known–and public awareness is rapidly growing–this too will change.
Hosting a party
There are two approaches one can take here. The first is let the entire party be gluten-free. If you do not make a fuss about it, the chances are none of the kids will even realize that what they have eaten is gluten-free.
The second approach is to provide “regular wheat based foods” for the others and gluten-free for your child. Since your child is the center of attention, different plates, cupcake wrappers, etc. would only seem like it is a distinction of honor. Let them be festive and fun.
Treats do not necessarily have to be food. There are, however, a lot of gluten-free goodies. Depending upon the age of the children, treats like bubbles, small pocket games, trading cards, and fancy pens or pencils are fun. If the children are older, mini books, crossword puzzles, nail polish, paper airplane kits, bubble bath, or soaps are definite hits.
Do not forget to relax and enjoy the party yourself!