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Tips to Stay Gluten Free at Summer Camp


Summer camp is starting soon and just like you prepared for school, it’s important to remember to do the same for camp. I’ve compiled a list of the top five things you should do to prepare in advance so your child can be safe and focus on having fun, which is what camp is all about!

Top 5 Things To Do Before Camp Starts

1. Talk to the staff

Even if you sent your child to the same camp last year, counselors often change from year to year. Be sure to speak with the program director, primary counselor and nurse(s) in advance via phone or in-person. It’s not enough to speak to one and assume they will be able to inform the rest. First of all, they have hundreds of children they’re preparing for; and second, they don’t understand your child’s needs the way you do and things get lost in translation. I like to give them physical handouts about celiac disease and any restrictions so that they can refer back to it. I also include my contact information and encourage them to call any time they have a question stating that I’m here to help so that my child can have a safe and fun summer camp experience.

2. Review Crafting Projects & Art Supplies

Some art supplies can contain gluten, like finger paints, play doughs, and paper mache. Additionally, crafts can involve food so remember to ask about all of the types of crafts they do. For example, I just called the camp my daughter is going to and discovered that two of the craft projects involved food. The first is an adorable corn on the cob that they make out of paper and then glue cereal to the top of it. The second is no bake sheep graham crackers that are made from graham crackers, frosting and marshmallows. Now that I know this information in advance, I can pack my daughter gluten free supplies so that she can participate in these activities safely. For a list of gluten free arts and craft alternatives, please see the gluten free art supply post which includes a downloadable handout at the bottom.

3. Pack Gluten Free Sunscreen

The sun is shining all summer long, and many sunscreens contain gluten. While there is debate over whether gluten in sunscreen and lotions is absorbed through skin, there is no doubt that sunscreen remains on your hands after you apply it. Most people don’t wash their hands after applying sunscreen, and can ingest the gluten if eating with their hands. So, pack gluten free sunscreen for your kids.

4. Safe Snacks & Lunch

More than likely you’ll be packing your child’s lunch, but be sure to discuss what your child can and can’t eat ahead of time. Additionally, it’s a good idea to store extra gluten free snacks and treats at camp so that your child has something safe to eat during unexpected snack times or celebrations. I usually leave pretzels or crackers, and also store cupcakes in the freezer.

5. Hand Washing Policy

Many schools and camps have adopted hand sanitizer instead of hand washing as a time saver. Hand sanitizer does not remove gluten, so you need to make the staff aware of that and that your child needs to wash their hands prior to eating.

Following these tips will help prepare the camp for a positive, safe experience for your child, and it will help you feel more confident in the camp’s ability to keep your child safe so that he or she can be a “happy camper.”