Gain a Friend Through Gluten Free Play Dough—Good Parenting


Dear Dr. Debbie,

My son has befriended a child who is gluten intolerant.

The other mom and I have met up with the kids a couple of times and she brings food she happily shares with my son, but has clearly stated she cannot take a chance with any food she hasn’t personally prepared.

I’d like to invite them over to our house, especially when the weather gets too cold to meet at parks and playgrounds. I am hoping to develop enough trust between us that one of us can run a few errands while the other has them both. In which case, she would have to trust me to give her child acceptable snacks.

Not Just Any Cracker

Dear N.J.A.C.,

Yes, trust is key for a parent to be able to leave a child who has special health needs. Allergies and sensitivities are usually discovered in early childhood after there is a bad reaction. Depending on the severity of the child’s reaction, this may have included a trip to the emergency room. This mom may have experienced feelings of panic and guilt which make her extremely cautious about preventing a reoccurrence.

Take baby steps to earn her trust. Continue to meet up and accept her snacks, learning about brand names, specific ingredients, and preparation precautions that she uses. For example, she may wash off the skins of bananas and tangerines to eliminate any chance for contamination from handling.

Ask questions to learn what she has learned. Help her vent her feelings about the difficulties of looking out for her son’s health. Make the investment of attention to the details of her experience for the return of a friendship that will benefit both of you and your children.

Here’s a tip that may help in your efforts to gain her trust. Commercially produced play dough is made with bleached wheat flour. The ingredients are typically harmless unless your child happens to be gluten intolerant (or sensitive to the artificial dye!). Because a young child’s hands, and the play dough itself, can end up in his mouth, alternative ingredients must be used to prevent exposure. By the way, ingredients also can be ingested through the skin, so even just playing with commercially made play dough, without tasting it, is not advisable.
The answer is to make your own!

Here are 2 gluten-free recipes:

White Rice Flour Version
1 cup rice flour
1 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup salt
4 tsps cream of tartar
2 cups water and 2 tbs veg oil

Baking Soda Version
1 cup baking soda
1/2 cup cornstarch
3/4 cup water

Combine the dry ingredients in a saucepan. Add water (and oil for Baking Soda Version) and stir continuously over medium high heat until the dough thickens completely. Coloring is optional. If you want to steer clear of commercial dyes, replace some of the water with beet juice! Scrape the cooked dough onto the table and let it cool. Knead to finish blending. Store in a well-sealed plastic container in the refrigerator.

Over time, you should be able to convince this mom of the sincerity of your wish to be a trustable caregiver.

Dr. Debbie

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