When a child has cow’s milk allergy, food can start to feel taboo or dangerous. Here’s how to help your child learn to have a healthy, not fearful, relationship with food.

Parents of a child allergic to cow’s milk may try to find ways to have fun without food, such as centring birthday parties on an activity or creating holiday traditions that don’t revolve around eating. But there’s no escaping the fact that important memories and social connections can be built while sharing or preparing special foods. And since your child is likely to get return to a normal diet by the time they are in primary school,  you don’t want them to become fearful of foods that they may one day be able to enjoy. So how do you help your little one find their inner foodie?

Go on a supermarket treasure hunt

Finding smart food choices for a child with a cow’s milk allergy can feel like an uphill battle ... or an adventure. It’s all in your attitude. Take your child with you to the supermarket. If they old enough to know some letters, get them to look for the word ‘milk’ on food labels.

Make your kitchen a safe zone

It’s easier to have fun with food, and to reduce your parenting stress, if you know your home is a safe place to prepare allergy-friendly recipes with your child. Here are some suggestions:

  • Store dairy products in separate areas of cupboards and fridges
  • Set up separate zones in the kitchen for food preparation
  • Wash chopping boards, utensils and hands before and after food preparation
  • Keep lids on pans
  • Use a separate stirring spoon for each pan
  • Clear up spills immediately and with a disposable cloth
  • Have special colour-coded plates and bowls for serving milk-free foods
  • Store food in a container with a lid until service

Focus on fresh

Whether you take your child to an apple orchard, a strawberry field, or your own garden, they’ll enjoy picking fruits, vegetables and herbs and sampling them once you get home. Allow your child to help rinse your freshly picked produce — it’s a great excuse for a little splashing fun in the sink.

Create milk-free versions of favourites

Thanks to milk and cheese substitutes — and lots of creative chefs — there are plenty of kid-favourite allergy-friendly recipes available by searching online or by downloading our Parents guide to cow’s milk allergy. Or you could try your own makeovers of family recipes using milk substitutes. In many dishes, you can simply replace milk with an equal amount of water or Nutramigen.

Encourage food play

Give your little one permission to dive in with clean fingers. Help your toddler use cookie cutters to slice milk-free bread into fun shapes for sandwiches. Challenge an older child to arrange snacks in the shape of an animal or letter of the alphabet.

Most food activities for kids without cow’s milk allergy can be adapted for a child allergic to milk. Before you know it, your toddler will likely return to a normal diet —saying goodbye to your cow’s milk allergy worries — and they’ll be left with only happy memories of playing in the kitchen with you.